Simulblogged @ TechLearning

The session that kicked off EduBloggerCon for many of us has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Essentially, Will asked the room “What should we, as a community, really be trying to accomplish. And how do we go about doing so?” I don’t believe we found any answers in those 45 minutes, but I do think we started to see which direction the yellow brick road was leading.

We live in incredibly unique times. Much like when the paper press was invented, or when the telegraph and telephone were developed, or when we entered the industrial age, the world has taken an unexpected turn. Perhaps it has started spinning a little faster. The days and nights certainly seem a little shorter to me lately. But in my opinion, what makes this age unique is that it’s the first time that virtually every possible piece of information has A) become publicly and uniformly available to every individual with connectivity and B) available instantly.

The amount of information available and the speed with which we can access it fundamentally change the playing field. They are what make the world flat. They are what permit Wikinomics to exist. And they make collaborative networks easier to form and maintain than ever before, so easy that people don’t even need to meet, talk or even email directly to have a significant impact upon each other.

It sounds like a pretty radical shift, doesn’t it? And yet, let’s be honest, the vast majority of the world hasn’t changed a bit. Schools are the same. Politics is the same. Parents raise their children the same. We still bike, drive, jog, eat and sleep the same. As they say, the more things change the more they stay the same.

However, there are a very small minority of educators that feel the world of education can and should be different than it was even 5 years ago. Who recognize that work environments are changing. Not necessarily across all walks of life, but if one wants to be what we largely call ‘successful’, the skill set one needs to have is shifting. Tools are evolving quickly, information is moving quickly, and schools are slow to react. It is frustrating, but many teachers are used to frustration. It comes with the territory.

And then somebody drops a stone like DOPA into the water. Schools are forced to react quickly or be washed over by the tsunami like waves that ripple outward from it. While DOPA may not have passed, it served as a warning to educators that if we don’t take action proactively, we’ll be left to react when somebody else does.

Which brings us to the golden question: How does one enact positive change within the educational community? As people have been quick to point out, preaching to the converted does little to further the cause. And converting the uninformed, while worthwhile, is a poor way to enact systemic change.

So far as I can see, the key is going to be to follow in the footsteps of DOPA. No, I don’t mean try to shield our students from the very tools they need to master in order to succeed in today’s workplace. I mean that we need to draft formal legislation, get it introduced to a legislator and try to see it passed at the National level.

That may sound daunting, but it happens everyday. While the tools the EduBlogging community are so fond of raving about may serve for developing the initial plan, the best route to seeing it through is going to be traditional politics. The structures for doing so are in place. Essentially, we need a plan, we need funding, and we need lobbyists.

Regarding the plan, I recommend reading Illinois Senator Dan Kotowski’s Internet Safety Education Act. It may not be perfect, but it’s at least a positive place to start. The summary is as follows

Creates the Internet Safety Education Act to inform and protect students from inappropriate or illegal communications and solicitation and to require school districts to provide education about Internet threats and risks. Creates the Internet Safety Education Alliance under the authority of the Office of the Attorney General. Amends the State Finance Act to create the Internet Safety Education Fund. Amends the School Code to mandate the provision by every public school of instruction and discussion on effective methods by which students may recognize and report inappropriate, illegal, or threatening communications on the Internet on or before the start of the 2008-2009 school year.

Once we have created a bill to propose, the next step would be getting it in the hands of a representative. Pure and simple, it’s going to cost money. However, there are plenty of organizations that would be willing to champion such a cause. Personally, I know I would be willing to make a donation to ensure we do not need to worry about an offspring of DOPA being passed, or more importantly, to see school’s empowered to teach students the skills students need to know to succeed in today’s workplace.

Will’s rallying cry of “One more NECC before the elections” has resonated with me. I am determined this year to spend my time doing more than just writing, talking and dreaming. The key to effecting change is action, and I believe that as a community we can make a difference.

Are you up for the challenge?