Monday, April 4, 2011

Those Darn Eagles

Here is an issue to ponder. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Raptors Resource Project (the "Decorah Eagles" phenomenon), visit here to find out what I'm talking about.  Or… don't:

We would like to ask staff members to be please refrain from watching the streaming video from the Raptor Resource Project's eagle cam. The watching of the video has slowed down our network which is an inconvenience for everyone. Thank you for your cooperation.

I'm using some sample text that came from an internal memo within our agency, but a similar email has now been sent in many of Iowa's school districts.  Basically, when a large portion of teachers have the streaming video up the whole time, even when not at their computer, it does tend to slow things down a bit. Well actually, a lot.

The response from teachers isn't uniform by any means, but what has stood out to me is what I'd call verbal "dress-down" emails.  I've seen such emails now in three different schools, each going to the level of chastisement for IT's taking away of a once-of-a-kind learning opportunity, in perfect alignment with the Iowa Core.

I raise this as an example where things aren't always as they seem.  Sometimes, IT staff have the reputation of being more concerned about their networks than students.  But in this case, I think it is the opposite.  The IT staff is actually protecting student access.  And, I don't think the line is really that "fine" at all.

A webcam or streaming video can be a great educational opportunity.  But only for short segments at a time.  Perhaps checking in once a day to see what's happening.  Usage that is having the effect of slowing down the network means the streaming video is on constantly, on many computers in the same building.  And it demonstrates an ignorance of digital access.  One local tech coordinator mentioned that he walked in on a teacher who had each student streaming the video on their own lab computer.

What is key here is the perception of "access" to education, which is what technology is all about.  In the "dress-down" emails, the teacher was appalled at the taking access away to the learning opportunity.  But what it demonstrated was that the IT staff truly knew what access was.  All of the Decorah Eagle project is being recorded and Youtube'd.  Telling teachers to not stream the video deprives no students of learning opportunities.

The point I found most intriguing is that each email made an appeal to the Iowa Core.  The argument essentially being, how dare you limit what we do on computers, because we've connected it to the Iowa Core, and you can't argue with that.

Is that what "Iowa Core" is becoming?  A buzzword to be thrown in and win a persuasive argument?  Because, this is about as far from aligning with the Iowa Core as you can get.  It puts the resource first and puts the content, assessment, and activity afterwards.  Much like saying, "Wow, I've got this really neat link from CNN news, I'm going to have to find some lesson where I can use it".  And, it screams of inefficiency and depriving other students access to bandwidth, that could be used on other projects.

Besides, as my daughter mentioned... "Wait!  When did the eagle say it was okay to be watched 24/7?  It's like he got stuck in a constant episode of Big Brother without any say."

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