By Clarence Fisher

Just about every school (and office) for that matter that I’ve been in has had some sort of system for filtering the content that comes in from the internet. Now, I don’t want to debate the pros and cons of these filters (believe me, I REALLY don’t want to do that), but I do want to take some time to think about the decision making process.

In the PLP cohort of the archdiocese of Philadelphia, there has been some discussion about implementation. For example, Bonnie Gowen, a technology instructor in the cohort has been thinking about filters:

“All the web filter we can set up don’t really give the students a chance to make choices regarding appropriateness (is that a word). I have asked my 5th and 6th graders to consider whether or not I should unblock Flickr for them. We are using a blog and their comments are very interesting.”

Including students in making decisions about the filters that are in place in their schools. A simple, but really, rather revolutionary idea. Asking them to judge based on their level of maturity, their information needs and based on the culture of the school is a much higher level exercise than simply blocking something off from them.

The same is true for the discussions around Moodle that have bloomed in our cohort. Sister Mary Ellen Tennity has weighed in over and over again in discussions, giving advice that parents and students be included openly and honestly in discussions and implementation plans around the use of a new tool such as this. Teacher Mary Gratton includes quotes from blog posts written by students who post about the power of being included in the implementation process, about being given a chance to contribute to what happens in their building.

Finally, Melissa Dow brings this important piece of advice:

“My biggest advice is to take it slowly and keep the big picture in mind. We are in year 3 of using Moodle and it is now part of our school culture, but this didn’t happen overnight.”

Changing school culture; that is what PLP is about. There are myriads of new tools and new tools to try out. Some of them are useful, while others are not. Tools will come and go, but the skills of communication and the ability to change the culture of your building to support student learning more effectively is the cornerstone of what PLP is about.

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Clarence Fisher

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