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Building on… [UPDATED]

November 16, 2006

The latest installment in the Curriculum for Excellence story is now in the open. Building the Curriculum 1 is the first of the guides to appear that ties in the curriculum areas to the four capacities.

I haven’t had time to do more than give it a quick skim read, and it’s a document that demands some serious study, but one phrase jumped out at me almost immediately and it’s this one:

The use of new technologies opens up exciting opportunities for children and young people to express themselves and acquire new skills…

On the one hand, the powers that are planning and directing the future course of Scottish Education are saying we should be embracing the new tools that we can use to effect in the classroom, but on the other hand, we have Authorities throwing obstacles in our way. The Argyll and Bute experience is surprising because I’ve always considered it as one of the more enlightened Authorities. [UPDATE: Ewan has pointed out that the problem has been fixed! So I’m glad to hear that A&B are fine!] Indeed, I seem to have a disproportionate number of A&B bloggers in my feedreader. However, I am also aware that their decision to block blogging is not unique.

What I find frustrating in my own authority is the lack of consistency. I can access and comment on WordPress blogs… I can read Typepad blogs, but not comment on them. Some other services, like Blogger, are completely hit-or-miss. The situation is further compounded by the different attitudes in different branches of the council. Having recently given a training session on how to use blogs and wikis, I discovered that the council’s training centre is subject to the council’s IT policy which is not the same as the schools policy. In the schools, I can access blogs (with the exceptions noted above), but in the council, they are all blocked. In the council, I can access online email services, in the schools, they are blocked…

If someone, somewhere says I can’t access a particular site or online tool, then I end up accepting it… but it galls because what I am really beginning to see and appreciate is that across Scotland there is no real joined up thinking going on. We need a debate to start airing the issue. I have read so many Scottish blogs that, at some point or another, have mentioned the limitations and idiosyncrasies of filtering/blocking censorial software, that it is no longer funny.

Something needs to be done. Someone needs to take the lead and come up with a list of educationally relevant and useful sites and tools that we could all benefit from having access to. There are just too many opportunities for good learning experiences going to waste under the present system…

What do you think? Am I being too unrealistic in thinking we could expect Local Authorities to listen to and act on the suggestions of the people that would end up using these tools? Does their constant filtering undermine the professional standing of teachers?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2006 10:08 am

    What we need, Neil, is an explicit set of ‘encouragements’ within the Curriculum for Excellence for teaching and learning in the future to involve the use of social networking and social software (and lots more besides: gaming, flash, etc). If this was an explicit and overt part of national policy it would be harder for the sentinels to tie educational networks down to the extent that they can no longer do what they were set up to do.

  2. November 16, 2006 4:31 pm

    John, I agree completely. The big question comes down to who will be the body or agency with the wherewithal and clout to write the ‘encouragements’?

    I’m just back from the PKC ACE launch where I had some very useful discussions with some of the powers that be, and I am hopeful that I may be seeing a slight sea-change in opinion here in PKC… but that doesn’t help A&B or any other Authority… We do need some joined up thinking from someone… are you doing anything at the moment? ;0)

  3. November 16, 2006 7:22 pm

    I think we should get rid of censorship within the school’s network. If someone’s stupid enough to access a pornographic or otherwise unsuitable website in school then they should face the conciquences, but if I want to go onto a forum that’s designed to help programmers then I see no reason why I should be disabled from accessing it. The whole thing infuriates me D: .

  4. November 16, 2006 11:54 pm

    D – “if someone’s stupid enough to access a pornographic or otherwise unsuitable website in school then they should face the consequences” – you say……and yet you have doubts about using blogs etc in the classroom in case students leave themselves open to predatory behaviour? Where’s the consistency in your argument?

    Rather than let people simply ‘face the consequences’, and rather than curb the use of Web 2.0 for the reasons you state, would it not be better to educate pupils (or anyone else) about the dangers of personal transparency online, and about the consequences of accessing porn or anything else deemed unsuitable?

    Despite your misgivings about Mr W’s encouragement to use blogs, it’s good to see you making such good use of yours. I hope you keep it going – maybe some of your classmates will even follow your example eventually 🙂

  5. November 17, 2006 2:14 pm

    I’ve just learned from Ewan that the loss of A&B’s blogging was temporary and accidental!

    If only it was as simple across Scotland!

  6. November 17, 2006 7:15 pm

    John Connell: Well I didn’t mean just throw the pupils at the internet without any filtering software without educating them. I think it needs to be a gradual thing, as the months go by less and less sites should be blocked.

    “it’s good to see you making such good use of yours”
    Thanks, feedback is allways welcome 😉

  7. Liz O'Neill permalink
    November 18, 2006 11:50 am


    I agree that the current situation regarding access isn’t working. I think you’ve put your finger on one of the most obvious problems with it:it’s inconsistent.

    Does it undermine our professional standing as teachers? I think it does.

    I also wonder if authorities aren’t getting themselves into a corner with what they have done regarding blocking sites etc. I don’t mind my pupils seeing me make mistakes, notice them and then correct them. I think it provides a good model for them of how we learn. I think we need to approach the issue with this spirit, rather than contentiousness.

    Maybe we need to encourage those people who are working in this area to enter more into dialogue with teachers about taking it forward.

    In other words, should we be lobbying for a new central security policy which would accommodate all users needs? It would have to be set up in consultation with all the users of IT services. It would have to be an ‘enabling’ rather than ‘restricting’ policy. And it would need to be flexible as new technologies and facilities become available.

    Can you guess I’ve been hanging about with an information security professional 😉

  8. November 21, 2006 5:58 pm

    Hi Neil,
    Just for the record, A&B were not blocking Blogger, and it was a temporary isolated incident that caused the big debate! Thanks for the comments though.

  9. November 26, 2006 1:19 pm

    Neil et al,

    I think the level of anger and frustration vented on the argyll posts is just marvellous and a little scary. I know that people will get their bluster up in a staff-room or over a drink, but to see such things committed to type is unnerving. Perhaps the answer is to feed a few of these links to the local press and even the luddites who try to shut down access (when has such a policy every worked?).

    Having said that there is one, and only one, very simple solution to getting these things done. We need people at the top (at a local authority level), who understand and who have the charisma and clout to overrule the naysayers. After my seven years in Perth and Kinross we now, finally, have that situation. I hesitate about getting carried away, I’ve seen too many false dawns, but at last things may be changing for PKC.

  10. November 26, 2006 3:00 pm

    Thanks for this Mark! I too hope that we’ll start to see some changes in PKC… because I honestly and pasionately believe that we need to start adpting and adopting the potential of the internet.

    I think we can safely assume that the internet is not going to go away, so rather than being scared of it, we need to start using it…

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