Moral Obligation

In late March, Vicki Davis posted on whether or not it was school’s responsibility to prepare the students for the outside world. Her post was in response to a quote found on Dangerously Irrelevant made by a school administrator which went something like this:

the school district is legally obligated to protect our students from the outside. It is not legally obligated to prepare them for the outside.

Her stance, one that showed moral obligation to prepare rather than legal obligation, was well echoed in the comments on both her post and on Scott’s. And, in my opinion, it should have been. This idea that just because we block sites in school, and just because we don’t use certain mediums within the classroom, that students will not have access to them and will inherently use them ethically is obscene. We need to create these “teachable moments” in a controlled and observed atmosphere, so that by example we can teach ethical internet conduct.

This is echoed from From Wes Fryer’s post today: Free Speech on MySpace

By inviting students to create and share digital stories about Oklahoma
history with others in our state and around the world, we’re working to
help equip students with the skills they’ll need for the 21st century.
Digital learners don’t just need TECHNICAL skills, however, they also
need to develop (THROUGH PRACTICE, not just theoretical classroom
discussions) ethical decision making skills.

As we design our curriculum to include 2.0 technologies, especially those with collaborative, social, and synthesis-oriented aspects, we have to include some time for the demonstration and discussion of acceptable uses, as well as the implications for unacceptable uses. This case that Wes brings up here is one that would gain immediate traction in any high school American History, government or civics class because of its Constitutional and societal issues. However, when that curriculum was designed, was there ample time given to consideration of these type issues? Probably not. That does not preclude the discussion, but will there be time allotted for it? Going forward, the role of the technology integration specialist, or tech coordinator should increasingly be one of consultant in curriculum planning. Here is where a sizable chunk of the work needs to be done, and the classroom integration can occur with the proper discourse included.

The idea of preparing students for the outside world, for making them contributing members of this democracy, needs to be fleshed out in the philosophy of a district. Very basic questions like “What types of students do we want walking our halls today, tomorrow and in ten years?” do not have simple answers, but they are most definitely the right questions to be asking of your stakeholders.

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