Friday, July 13, 2012

NetHui Part 7 - Fornication

Given the title of this post, it's probably not what you're thinking. Instead, I'm going to write this post with what I was really thinking and then just do a search - replace. If you're in any doubt as to what I mean by the words "fornicating" or "fornication" stop reading now. This post isn't for you. Why am I choosing to go down this path? While I respect Kurt Vonnegut's view that cursing is an excuse for others to stop listening, I believe it provides an emotive device to, for the most part, describe frustration.

The education stream at NetHui left me with wondering what hope does education really have in this country?

A bold statement. Not unjustified given today's sessions.

I was tired today. Like, horribly fundamentally tired. I missed a session because my sense of timing had completely died. I almost missed a second one due to the same reasoning. I think if I had attended all of the sessions today I would have burst.

So the background. Tired - not surprising. My buzzword for today was "empowerment". I think this is the word that encompasses my frustration from yesterday. i.e. we don't give the kids netbooks. We empower their family's to invest in their kid's futures. The sense of ownership is, not only important, but fundamental to a project of this type.

So I went to a Netsafe presentation where the aim was to build a policy around the idea of cyber safety. I didn't repeat my dislike of the branding. Safe - just not cool. The geeks also pointed out that cyber isn't a great word and besides - cyber, in urban dictionary, is almost exclusively defined as "cybersex". Instead I pointed out that last year, where the focus was on kids, that the big take home message was that the kids are the solution. I applied this to a wider audience and said that any policy around this has to center on the idea of "empowerment".

This lack of empowerment as a theme had me frustrated for the rest of the day.

I went into a session late where they were talking about the idea of collective power to negotiate deals on buying computers. Just a hint - this isn't where the cost is. You can buy computers dirt cheap. The real cost is in support. This was pointed out. I was being very careful not to try and push solutions at people. They need to own those ideas.

Is there really a real cost in getting cross-school co-operation in things like hiring support? Or even, purchasing Internet? If schools were to start working together on small things like negotiating support and Internet deals, perhaps they may even start thinking collectively about other solutions....

In terms of these collective deals, it is something that's happened in the Manaiakalani cluster.

What really worried me is that a fornicating load of the collaboration, at NetHui, went into coming up with problems. One of the sessions had me feeling completely alienated while I was thinking to myself "This isn't a problem. It's a self imposed barrier". i.e. why the fornication would you think that sharing information is illegal and why do you think the only solution is to go to the extreme? The default position on copyright in schools is that it is owned by "The Board". The solution proposed is that schools (and by extension, the board) need to adopt a creative commons framework by default and only reserve full rights on those works that may present a potential risk. I can see why boards might be hesitant to make such a move. If you were to say "I have created x, y and z content and want to share it", I believe that most boards, if not all, would be quite happy for teachers to do so. Hell, flood the board with requests to share information. They'll probably give you permission to use any of the work you've generated with other schools. Remember, copyright doesn't instantly make copying material illegal - you can still seek out permission from the copyright holder to replicate that material.

Is there really competition between schools? i.e. a school's funding is based upon "bums on seats".

I would counter that with another question - "Is your concern around funding or do you acknowledge a higher mandate to educate children?". There's a question around scope here. Does a school only have responsibility to it's own students? Should not all children be included in this mandate? i.e the default position being inclusion.

But what really frustrated me - "why can the government not help with....?". Are you fornicating with me!? Any really good project comes from the grass roots up. Those at the top have absolutely no idea what's needed at the grass roots. Just take the National politician yesterday. He was quite happy to strut around talking about the how the Manaiakalani project is happening but, despite having seen him taken around for a bit of a tour of one of the schools, he seems to have absolutely no interest in understanding what's going on or the scope of it. It's a political point to be able to say that this is happening. If you're going to change the culture around schools, then you have to do it from the bottom up.

During all of this, I'm telling myself not to be the smug person in the corner. I've been noticing things on mailing lists that I participate with. I'll say something and then someone will counter with something that I consider the only logical conclusion of what I've just said. I consider it condescending for me to lead people down the garden path and so have this really bad tendency to point out that path but not to go down it with them.

So - to those in schools who are moaning that the government or Ministry of Education aren't meeting a particular need: fornicating get off your donkeys and start doing something! You're perfectly capable of implementing solutions. Stop looking for others to solve your problems. And for fornication's sake, quit moaning about it as if you're all helpless. Consider how this kind of "woe is me - I can't do anything" attitude looks to your kids. Are you empowering them or are you taking something fundamental away?

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