An annoying conversation has reared up in one of my professional circles, and what it amounts to is the constant need for some (read: IT leaders) to determine what is best for others (read: users). In other words, some kind of delusional professional choke hold on what is and isn’t appropriate for usage in the businesses they support. The old guard of IT still holds fast to ideas of control and restriction, of doling out resources and access to their businesses like a parent guarding Halloween candy from diabetic offspring. Those involved in this conversation are my peers and colleagues in the province, and many of them support some of the largest divisions here.
The argument is for a province-wide list of cloud services that are acceptable for use in the classroom. A list approved by IT leaders, signed off by boards who are listening to these IT leaders, and then put out there to further govern what teachers can and can’t offer in the classroom. There is some merit to this I suppose; the jury quite literally is still out on the ramifications of storing private student data in the USA, this litany produced by privacy lawyers and theorists is extensive. I suppose, if I were a parent I could maybe be slightly concerned about my kid’s data getting into the hands of Homeland Security or some nefarious uber-power, but it’s unlikely.
Think back to not too long ago when firewall appliances were encumbered by whitelisted URL lists and blacklisted URL lists. Think back to when some underling in IT sat in a server closet at headend literally typing in these URL’s or importing them from CSV files. Think back to the not too long ago when users weren’t allowed to install their own software for fear of licensing breaches or virus outbreaks. Think back to the not too long ago when a software install required a support ticket and the begging, pleading and hoping the request would be granted. Oh wait, this is still happening! It’s insanity.
Our schools are charged with the task of building better citizens. Of producing people who can think for themselves and solve complex problems and work out ethical issues all on their own. But still, IT tries to cripple the effort by determining in advance how this should be done. Do you see it? We’re asking teachers to teach kids, but don’t trust them to determine which tools to use. Do we really need to tell staff what’s good and safe on the internet?
Rather than spending resources on telling staff what is safe, allow them freedom of movement and thought and stand behind them if their choices do in fact bring the house down.
I’m blaming IT for this, but really the entire argument is the spawn of privacy and litigation lawyers. Still, it’s the IT leaders who are picking up the torch and burning down the village. The work of classrooms rarely contains trade secrets; rather it contains the ingenuity and creativity of youth that should be shared with the world. There is nothing sacred going on here that necessitates lock and key and the fear – oh, that fear – that student ideas and assessments are going to get into the wrong hands.
Sue Gardner recently did a keynote I was fortunate enough to attend. In that keynote she stated quite simply this: We can neither predict nor control what somebody will do with our stuff, so get over it. Amen. Let’s give the key to the safe to teachers and students. Let’s allow them the creative space to do what they need to do to prosper and do well. All IT needs to do is provide access to this great big, wonderful “OPEN” Internet of Things, and then get the hell out of the way so the actual business IT is supporting can do their jobs.
I’m a simpleton, this I know and yes this could very well end up with me getting sued or yarded up in front of the public someday to defend my leniency and wild-west style of management, but I just can’t subscribe to thinly veiled censorship. We’re not helping people by holding their hands and doing the thinking for them. Someday, somebody you don’t know or like WILL get hold of your stuff, so get over it.