Monday, December 6, 2010

Life moves pretty fast

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."- Ferris Bueller

I was thinking about that great philosopher Ferris Bueller earlier today. I was reflecting on a conversation that I had this past Friday with our school superintendent, associate superintendent, personnel director, and IT administrator. Our school principal was kind enough to join me and support me. The topic of the conversation was the school district's recent decision to block facebook and twitter on all school employee computers. I had requested the meeting and the assembled district staff had been gracious enough to hear me out.
I will spare you all the details of the meeting except to say that I have the utmost respect for everyone there and that our discussion was wide ranging, free flowing, and ultimately concerned with what was best for teachers and students. Every time I talk to the people at the district office I am impressed with how much they want to "push the envelope" when it comes to technology. I am also cognizant of their plight when it comes to managing over 400 employees. We all know that there are people out there who will take advantage of the system and the decision to block facebook and twitter came about because there were teachers in the system who were spending too much time on both of these sites during the school day. I can't defend those teachers and I won't do that here. Suffice to say our conversation was a good one and all realized that there is a compromise solution out there and we are pursuing different avenues to come to a consensus decision that we can all live with.
What really struck me during the conversation though was the use of the term "social media." I don't really know how long this term has been around but I do know that it has been around less time than I have. All of us were throwing the term around and we were using it and terms like tweet and friend throughout the conversation. Prior to the meeting, I had looked up "social media" jobs on Monster.com and had found the term in 15 job descriptions in our geographical area. How many of those jobs would there have been 5 years ago? 10 years ago?
What I'm trying to get at here is that all of this is very new. Who knows what communication is going to look like five years from now? Facebook certainly hopes that people are going to use their message service. Google hopes we keep using their email. Is messaging going to be more like SMS or more like mail in the future?
We don't know. And that was the point I was trying to make in my conversation. None of us knows what the future holds. When I was a kid, a mobile phone meant a really long cord. There was no email. There was no satellite TV.
Why do we limit technology? Why are we limiting these things? The abuse of technology is not the fault of the tool. It is the fault of the people who misuse it. That's where staff development comes in. That's why we have another new word "netiquette." We need to train staff that it probably isn't a good idea to be on facebook all day. We then need staff to impart this "netiquette" to kids. All of us are trying to figure out what this new world looks like and we are trying to find our place in it.
As newer technology enters our world we will deal with these ideas more and more. I don't know what the next big thing is. I just know that we have to be ready for it. We become ready for it by educating ourselves on what's new and what will have an impact on our lives. We do that by stopping to look, to play, to fail, and finally, to learn. Take the time to stop and look around. Life moves pretty fast.