Don’t Be a B.L.O.B. – Support Responsible Use of Technology with BYOT!

What is a BLOB?

Think of the 1958 horror/science-fiction film, The Blob, that portrayed two young teenagers struggling to battle a giant mass of an alien that attempted to swallow up their small town in Pennsylvania.  The movie poster described the Blob as “Indescribable…Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It!”  Without hesitation, this amoeba-like creature indiscriminately consumed everything in its path until the teenage heroes managed to utilize their available resources to render it useless.

In today’s schools, a BLOB acquires a completely new meaning – a Banner – Locker – Or – Blocker.  BLOBs are the people who keep students from using their personal technology devices to facilitate their learning.  They ban technology devices because they assume that students will use their devices inappropriately, and/or they prefer to maintain the status quo of teacher directed instruction with passive student involvement.  “Lecture all week and test on Friday” is the mantra of many BLOB schools in order to prepare students for the standardized tests toward the end of the year that are supposed to document the how effective the teacher and students were throughout the year.

A BLOB may also be guilty of indiscriminately interpreting the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) to over filter websites and social media throughout the school day, even to the detriment of learning opportunities of students.  To qualify for E-Rate funding, schools must show that they are following the requirements of CIPA.  These funds come from the Universal Service fee that you can find on your bills from telecommunications providers (phone, cable, and Internet), and they are used to supplement the telecommunications charges to schools and libraries across the country.  Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education addressed some of the requirements and misinterpretations of CIPA in this interview by Tina Barseghian on the MindShift.org blog – Dispelling Myths About Blocked Sites.

What Is Responsible Use?

Schools that encourage their students to Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) can work within the framework of responsible use by acknowledging that students have the freedom to make choices, and they expect that students will make the right choices to benefit themselves and their instruction.  Starting with the expectation that students want to make good choices creates a noticeable difference in the culture of learning within a school as opposed to assuming that students want to break rules and use technology inappropriately.  The responsible use of technology tools is empowering to students rather than following an acceptable use policy that dictates how and when technology should be used.  The following attributes are some specific hallmarks of responsible use: trust; high expectations; open access; sense of community; practice; and persistence.  In these schools, administrators and teachers acknowledge that students may sometimes make mistakes with their technology tools, and they immediately guide students in the appropriate use of technology and reinforce the importance of personal responsibility in digital age learning.  They believe that students want to learn and understand that developing authentic connections among students, teachers, and the content are necessary for developing supportive communities of learners.

What Can I Do to Avoid Becoming a BLOB?

Michelle Luhtala (@mluhtala) from New Canaan High School brought to my attention that on October 3, The American Association of School Librarians will mark Banned Websites Awareness Day to raise awareness of how legitimate academic websites and social media tools are being blocked in many schools and libraries.  Some issues addressed by this event are how students do not fully develop their skills as digital citizens to evaluate information from all types of sources, including the Internet, and how teachers are not able to utilize the social media tools for learning that their students find relevant in their everyday lives.  Learn more about Banned Websites Awareness Day and how overly restrictive filtering affects student learning.

Also, become familiar with the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in order to provide students a safe learning environment without becoming a BLOB!

Resources

“Banned Websites Awareness Day.” American Library Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad&gt;.

Barseghian, T. (2011, September 20). Dispelling myths about blocked websites in schools. Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2011/09/dispelling-myths-about-blocked-websites-in-schools/

Federal Communications Commission. “Children’s Internet Protection Act.” Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. <http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act&gt;.

Wikipedia. (28/0). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blob

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