Come August, filters will squelch summer enlightenment

First off, I want to send a shout out to Michelle Luthala, presenter for the Using Emerging Technologies to Advance Your School Library Program webinar series. After virtually “meeting” Michelle and seeing the incredible things she is doing with students in her New Canaan High School library , I now count her among my EduHeroes like Buffy Hamilton, Shannon Miller, and Gwyneth Jones . The webinar series, sponsored by Follett and edWeb, provides free professional development to anyone who registers with edWeb. This was my third”virtual” learning experience of the summer, and I can’t stop thinking about how fortunate today’s learners are to have access to free, high-quality learning, sharing and networking via Web 2.o tools!

Wait a minute. I jumped the gun on my excitement about such opportunities. Sadly, when I return to school in August, the mind-boggling tragedy  is that when my students and I cross the threshold into the school, the tools that fuel our lives and learning outside of school will be inaccessible. I will not be able to access the numerous educational videos that Michelle and others have posted on YouTube and Vimeo. I won’t be able to call up Twitter feeds to share with students. Nor will I be able to let my students connect with experts, authors and others through blogs or Skype.

It is absurd that schools will shell out fees and travel expenses for in-house “motivational” speakers or purchase big-budget textbooks with teacher’s guides and student “reproducibles” , while turning their backs on the plethora of FREE , global, professional, expert, learning opportunities afforded us via Social Media tools like Twitter, Skype, GoogleDocs, Facebook, and Blogs.  It’s not just absurd. At this point, it’s unconscionable.

Consider this editorial by Shelly Blake-Plock in the Baltimore Sun that illustrates new aspects of the Digital Divide.

According to Blake-Plock, “The “access divide” is marked by the blocking of access to the very heart of what resources are available on the Internet, including YouTube, blogs, new media and anywhere a student might actually read a comment … A gap will emerge between those schools that can offer the capacity for network building — represented by their own network of connected teachers and administrators — and those that will not make the connection. “

“In the same way social media has changed the face of journalism, politics and entertainment, it will change the face of schools. Just as no business can afford to ignore social media, no school will be able to ignore it. For our students, the value of social media will prove not to be how many followers one has but with how many leaders one engages.”

While my students are prevented from accessing the learning and resources available through Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo, Blogs, and Facebook while they are in school,  I relish the fact that I am able to stay connected with them in the summer via the tools that are deemed unfit during the school year. Consider these interactions on the Library Facebook page, where I post pictures, videos, and links to tools, reviews and apps. Supports include students, former students, and community members. Students are trusted to post content. And guess what? We’re all more enlightened because of it.

Meaningful summer interactions