The idea was, and still is, to develop a knowledge base for other SID/PID teachers to draw from and (hopefully) contribute to. I’m extending the level of collaboration beyond the district mainly because there are so few of us who do what it is I do. And among those who are SID/PID teachers, there are not many with a lot of technical knowledge to produce the content and post it in a place where others can benefit from it.
However, the open nature of the project has caused some concern for people on many levels, or at least so I’ve been told. So I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome my new readers and clarify a few things in a way that will hopefully lower the anxiety level of everyone.
Here is a copy of the permission slip that I used in order to give parents an opportunity to participate in this project. From my standpoint, the parents of my students were partners in the project as far as I was concerned. They were free to opt in and out at will. However, I didn’t seek necessary approval from those in higher authority. I can sympathize and understand where there might be some concern from a liability standpoint. It’s the job of those people in the higher pay grades to worry about such things and I do appreciate the concerns that have worked their way through the system to my level. From where I sit, it looked pretty straight forward: there was some teaching that needed to be done and I was in a position to do it. So I did. I never made what I was doing a secret. In fact, I actively promoted my blog and my video channels in order to get the word out that this resource was available. I invited input and feedback. That’s what this whole web 2.0 medium is all about. It’s about sharing knowledge and then improving on the knowledge that is shared. The accountability of the system is built into the feedback.
Unfortunately, those who are not natives to the new media have some issues with the lack of control over the flow of information. There is a lot of fear concerning the unknown. I can sympathize with that, but I’m also concerned that there are so many educators that hide behind the curtain of ignorance in the name of such fear. Healthy concern is prudent and it does help mitigate recklessness and poor judgment. However we are engaging in a massive act of educational malpractice if we fail to become educated in the new learning mediums afforded to us through technology. We need to know these tools and leverage them in order to better educate others.
I have a blog. I have a Youtube channel. I have a Teachertube channel. I also have a podcasting channel. I have the power to broadcast my views and to editorialize as I please to pretty much anyone in the world. And I do that quite a lot more than many people would like. However, I also have the tools to extend my voice, my views and my knowledge beyond the walls of my classroom. I can teach beyond the boundaries of the school district’s control and supervision. And that could be a very scary thing to someone who is fixed on trying to manage the outflow of information.
This brings up a lot of important issues that have never come up before. How much of what I say is protected speech under the 1st amendment of our constitution? How much of it is protected under civil rights legislation? After all, much of what I’m trying to do falls under the category of advocating for students with disabilities and those who care for them. How much political speech am I allowed?
How should a school district respond to someone who is an employee and also a parent who is acting in both roles as well as a role of a non-sanctioned reporter of sorts? This is a really sticky situation because every teacher (and student!) has the opportunity and technological ability to become his or her own media outlet.
I could do what a lot of other teachers do (and what I started out doing) which is blog anonymously. Of course the risk is then that they would be found out. My choice now is to be as open and transparent as possible in order avoid the risk of being accused of blindsiding my administration within the district. My blog address has been part of my email signature file (and has probably been mostly ignored up until this point) since the beginning of school. I have been very open about it without being obnoxiously promotional.
My thought is that the school district has more control over me, as an employee, than they would have over me as simply an educated parent. With things being out in the open, I have a vested interest in not rocking the boat too much. I’ve always known that administrators could be reading me and just assumed that they probably were. In my profile, I clearly say that my views do not represent those of my employer and probably need to display that more prominently.
I also knew that there were people within the GA DOE who were following my blog. When I began there were very few special education blogs, and not a lot of educational blogs originating from Georgia. It really got obvious when I saw training materials that used pseudonyms that had been lifted directly from some of the ones I used here during my anonymous blogging days. Hey, I’m glad I was inspiring someone there!
I was also being read by people in the U.S. Senate. Yep. I even had a staffer from one VERY prominent U.S. Senator (who is not from Georgia) email me asking for some input on some pending special education/disability legislation. I begged off (politely) because I wanted to stay anonymous. It was that email (and a few others) that made me eventually decide to stop being anonymous because while it afforded me a lot of freedom and safety it also limited me as far as being effective in truly helping others and making a difference. I had to come out and be me instead of a pretend and imaginary person. And I had to risk facing the music within my own community and school. I had to step up and take responsibility for what I was writing and producing.
Plus I wanted to produce more content that would make a bigger impact. Which brings back to the video project. That project had truly given me a new lease on my teaching life. I was really approaching a state of burn out as a SID/PID teacher. That project gave me new purpose and new meaning. It was a marriage of my teaching background and expertise along with my technological knowledge along with my desire to get involved with the new media. I got excited. One of the first things I did was I wrote to the creators of Teachertube and asked them to establish a separate channel for special education. And that is exactly what they did. Since the day it started, I have been in the top 5 contributors of that channel.
I saw adding content that showed actual students as a logical step in the progression of informing and educating outside of my classroom. I even gave my evaluator copies of videos that I had shot in the closing days of the year so she could see me actually teach academic content instead of just watching me work with kids eating at lunch. I shared what I was doing with my special ed director and with some of the folks in the technology department. It is that enthusiasm that has carried me through a lot of the various issues of this year. I was seeing something good happen.
I’ve been too busy to post or shoot much video but I always intended on getting back to it once I got the time. However, I did not get permission from the parents for this year so I hadn’t planned on shooting any new video with students. Now the school district is in the midst of wrestling with what to do about blogs and videos. I removed the videos that contained any student images in the interest of not increasing the level of anxiety any more than already exists. It was tough dropping out of that top 5 spot on Teachertube.
I do intend on producing more content and posting it there eventually but it will be of a much safer nature. If other people want to get on board, they are more than welcome! I’m trying to participate in a larger community of learning, and I’m not particularly interested in getting into some sort of political turf war. Neither am I interested in the paranoid superstitions of people who don’t understand 21st century learning. I’m just a guy who likes to teach using the tools of technology.