Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Blocking Communication Tools in Schools

Over the course of the last 24 hours I was asked (over Google+ and Twitter) the following questions:

1. Does your school allow or block Google Hangouts for student use?
2. How can you convince a school district to stop blocking YouTube?

Both questions are about limiting or restricting the student use of communication and information tools, and the irony is that these questions were asked using online communication tools. If I were to answer these questions with questions I would ask:

1.  Why would a learning institution block tools that allow students to communicate, to connect with experts, to globally collaborate and ask questions and get answers?

 It seems to me that schools should be in the business of teaching communication and providing increased access to information. While the YouTube question requires more time and will be the subject of a future blog post, I've done my best to answer the Hangouts question here.

Does your school allow or block Google Hangouts for student use?

At my school, students K-12 have a Google (GSuite) account with everything turned on. Starting in grade 5 students take the devices home each day. We have high expectations for our students around digital citizenship and when our students go outside the bounds of those, our counselors and principals would get involved and work with those students.

Specifically to Hangouts, it is a video conferencing and chat software. Video conferencing and chat are relevant tools that are important for our students to have access to and training in. Hangouts enable global communication and collaboration which are two of our desired student learning outcomes. Additionally, without practice in those areas, our students would be at a disadvantage as far as college and career readiness. Now the truth is, I don't know how much our 3rd graders are using Hangouts, but I know that in Middle School and High School our students are connecting with peers and experts around the world whether with a mentor on a passion project or through language classes where they practice communicating with native speakers.

In a nutshell, since communication and collaboration are so important to what we do in learning institutions today, we wouldn't consider blocking or disabling the tools that enable those practices. In fact, we want to engage our students in using these tools so that we can coach and guide and help them to learn appropriate use.