One of the assignments for Session One of EDTECH 554 – Managing Technology Integration, was to create an introduction using Inspritation 9 software (free 30-day trial). As a first time user of this software I found it to be quite intuitive. Many common keyboard shortcuts (cut, paste, bold, etc.) can be used and menus are easy to navigate. The help menu and tutorials contain clear instructions and there are a number of new features for version 9. Complex maps are easily broken down by hiding branches, and notes can be added which provide additional detail viewable by clicking the notes icon next to branch text. Presentation view is quite similar in layout to PowerPoint and Keynote, with a notes viewer at the bottom of the window.

Documents created using Inspiration use an “.isf” extension and can be saved as a word document, image, presentation, PDF, or Web page. For the purposes of this assignment I saved my project three ways. In the word document you will find an image of the complete map and the outline view with live links. The PDF is a print version of the presentation which includes the notes. In lieu of viewing the presentation in Inspiration, the presentation was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

Ferdon Introduction – Word Document
Ferdon Introduction – PDF


Now it’s officially summer. Boise classes started before my school year ended so now my summer vacation really begins. I start setting up my classroom next week, so I will enjoy it while it lasts!

I know that a few of you are teachers of younger children – if you would like to use my Thematic Unit in any way, you are certainly welcome to. A few of the activities relate specifically to the community I teach in, but most are applicable to any community. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll create a generic version. But not today. Or tomorrow.

Kindergarten Thematic Unit: Communities

Thanks for a great class, everyone!

Using the Blog rubric, http://edtech.mrooms.org/mod/resource/view.php?id=6395, discuss to what degree you met each of the criteria and then propose a final numerical grade. (If you are uncomfortable putting this in your blog, you can email me your personal assessment.)

Below you will find the performance descriptors from the rubric, that I believe most closely match my blog posts for this course. I have included some comments as well, with further details and number scores e-mailed to Dr. Gerstein.


  • Outstanding: “Rich in content, full of thought, insight and synthesis with clear connections to previous or current content and/or to real life situations made with depth and detail.”
  • If you’ve read every word of every post, you should probably get extra credit. I really enjoy writing and tend to go into greater detail than is required.

Reading and Resources

  • Outstanding: “Readings and other resource materials are used to support blog comments. APA style is used to cite references.”
  • I used at least two readings or resources on each blog post; usually more than two, many were outside resources, and all had APA references.

Timeliness (in the cracks here)

  • Outstanding: “All required postings are made early in the module to give others time to comment.”
  • Proficient: “All required postings are made but not in time for others to read and respond.”
  • I guess it depends on what you consider “early in the module” and “in time for others to respond.” Some of my other courses have had specific due dates for posts and replies (original post by Sunday night with comments/replies before the end of the module). That was my goal going into this class and I made it for three of the first four posts/weeks (the video blog took longer because my daughter wanted more time to practice her lines). More recently, life has complicated my homework plans and blog posts were published later. This one is more of a gray area.

Responses to Other Students

  • Outstanding: “Two or more substantial posts with at least one detailed response made to address another students’ post.”
  • Two or more replies each week; at least two were detailed.

For the final blog posting of the semester, students were asked to answer the following questions:

What you have learned?

This is my seventh course in the MET program at Boise and each one has offered so much. Wide-ranging topics and practical applications are wonderful features of this course and they helped me to learn a lot. I think I can boil down much of what I’ve learned to three areas: tools, equipment, and applications.

I learned to use a lot of tech tools, but the focus wasn’t just on tools, it was on what can be achieved as a result of using them. Not only did I learn to use lots of tools, which will benefit my own students in the future, but I got a strong feel for how they can be used for a variety of purposes. The “Relative Advantages” assignments encourage careful consideration of classroom technologies, and counter the temptation to jump onto the next New Toy Bandwagon that comes along.

I also learned a lot about networks. Of all the topics we have covered this semester, this is the one in which I had the least prior experience. Hardware and connectivity is what provides the means for integrating integration and what I’ve learned about networks, though just a starting point, makes me feel more confident about the nuts and bolts of the equipment needed for technology integration to happen.

The most valuable thing I learned, though, is how to integrate technology into a wide range of content areas for all learners. Having the opportunity to learn about, and apply, technology integration strategies that are more widely applicable than to just my current teaching situation, really stretched me as a learner and I expect it will prove advantageous as I move forward on my career path.

How has theory guided development of the projects and assignments you created?

I found myself drawing on theories and research-based guidelines that I learned in Boise core courses: Intro to Educational Technology, Instructional Design, Theoretical Foundations of Educational Technology, Evaluation for Educational Technologists, and Instructional Message Design. Though not related to theories, my experience learning Dreamweaver and Fireworks were a boon when developing materials and lessons for course assignments. What I learned in those classes helped me to envision my thematic unit and influenced my mind set as I worked on various assignments. Though it was more informal than in the core courses, the theories I found myself utilizing the most were those related to instructional design, learning theories, and evaluation:

  • Needs Assessment – I met with my kindergarten-teaching colleagues before school was out in June.
  • Goal Analysis and Instructional Objectives – I used the district kindergarten curriculum and Illinois Learning Standards to help identify goals/objectives to address and used that as the foundation for the learning activities I developed for the thematic unit.
  • Learning Theories – I included a mixture of teacher-directed instruction and guided discovery learning, both of which are appropriate for novice learners.
  • Learner Assessment – Experience teaching kindergarteners in music class helped me determine appropriateness of content and the Illinois School Report Card provided data to support impressions I had regarding demographics.
  • Evaluation – Planning for evaluation and assessment, from the start, was a key point in other Boise classes. My district promotes backwards design, so I came at the project from that perspective.
  • Best Practice – Utilizing tech tools to accomplish what would otherwise not be possible, and NETS.

How has course work demonstrated mastery of the AECT standards?

As it is to be expected, one course will not address all five domains and twenty sub-domains within AECT standards. Course work in EDTECH 541 relates primarily to the first three of the five domains:

Learning activities and the thematic unit encompass all sections, and most subsections, within Standard 1: Design. Instructional Systems Design (1.1) is a large part of assignments relating to the thematic unit. Of the subsections, only 1.1.4 (Implementing) and 1.1.5 (Evaluating) do not apply, as the newly developed instruction has not been used in the classroom. Though Message Design (1.2) is not implicitly taught, it is interwoven in the development of the thematic unit. Instructional Strategies (1.3) are part of Learning Activities assignments and are emphasized in the Module 7 assignment on accommodations. Learner Characteristics (1.4) are expressly included in the planning of the thematic unity and are also apply to the Software Budget and Relative Advantages of Technology assignments.

Of the four components of the Development Standard, course assignments demonstrate proficiency (I don’t know if I would use the word “mastery” for myself yet, as I am only part-way through my degree program) in three of them: Print Technologies (2.1), Computer-Based Technologies (2.3), and Integrated Technologies (2.4). Though housed online, some lesson materials developed are appropriate for print and print-versions of planning materials may aid teachers in using these resources with their students. Computer-Based and Integrated Technologies, however, are the foundation of all course work for EDTECH 541, particularly as it relates to high levels of interaction, hypermedia authoring and telecommunications.

Standard 3, Utilization, is best exemplified by our Blog Post Assignments, Relative Advantages, and Software Budget assignments. Media Utilization (3.1) and Policies and Regulations (3.4) related directly to the Walled Garden discussion and were intertwined throughout numerous other assignments. Further, Media Utilization is inherent is every step of the design and development of the thematic unit.

Standard 4, Management, is a component of several course assignments but is not emphasized as strongly as in other classes in the MET program. Resource Management (4.2) is part of the Software Budget assignment and Delivery System Management (4.3) and Information Management (4.4), though an introduction only, are in the heart of the Networks Project. Though not considered at great length, these domains are addressed as they relate to technology integration strategies.

While assessment is a key component of the thematic unit, Formative and Summative Evaluation (5.3) (i.e., program evaluation) is not explicitly included in coursework. However, problem analysis and informal evaluations (not systematic) are part of the development of the thematic unit and critical analysis of software and technology tools, is part of the Relative Advantages and Software Budget assignments.

How you have grown professionally?

Along with what I’ve learned about technology integration in general, developing the thematic unit provided for more professional growth than any other single assignment I have worked on. Developing materials and lesson plans for a classroom that I don’t teach in (my unit is for kindergarten classroom teachers/students) is exactly what technology specialists and managers of technology integration do on a daily basis. Effectively integrating technology in our own classrooms is exactly the foundation we need to learn how to help others to do the same. But even more valuable, in my view, is practical experience integrating technology into subject areas and grade levels we don’t teach. It is an essential proficiency for those who seek a leadership role in educational technology.

How has your own teaching practice, or your thoughts about teaching, been impacted by what you have learned or accomplished in this course?

Even though technology use in schools is growing by leaps and bounds, there remains a need to beat the drum and spread the word in our schools, about technology can be used most effectively and efficiently in our schools, along with research to support our views. Readings and research, related to blog post topics, helped solidify my thoughts on issues that are an important part of day-to-day tech integration in schools (special education apps and filtering, for example). As educational technologists we need to know more than how to use technology to enhance instruction and learning, we need to be cheerleaders and trainers, keeping our eyes open to new ways we can integrate technology in our own classrooms and encourage others to do the same. I read a blog post by Carol Broos (2010), a local music teacher who is active in technology, and one thing she talked about is the divide – not the digital divide between those who have access to technology and those who don’t, but the divide between available technologies and “non-techies.” As Carol said, reforms “don’t start with those who ‘get it,’ it starts with those who ‘don’t.’”

When I go back to my classroom in a few short weeks, I will be bringing back a much larger technology tool kit than I brought home with me at summer break. I’m extremely excited about its positive impact on my own teaching, and being able to share those tools – particularly with my kindergarten-teaching colleagues, who will be the prime recipients of my Communities Thematic Unit!


Broos, C. (2010, July 10). Finding a balance and creating a movement [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.beatechie.com/archives/1210

Earle, R.S. & Persichitte, K.A. (Eds). (2000, rev. 2005). Standards for the accreditation of school media specialist and educational technology programs. Bloomington, IN: Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Retrieved June 5, 2010, from http://www.ncate.org/ProgramStandards/AECT/AECTstandardsREV2005.doc

What universal design in architecture has done to improve accessibility for individuals with and without physical disabilities, universal design for learning has the potential to achieve in education. According to Ron Mace, the visionary architect who coined the term, universal design in architecture considers the needs of the broadest range of users from the beginning, as opposed to making reactive structural alterations at a later date. A polio victim himself, Mace worked throughout his career to improve accessibility and modern building codes reflect that universal design in architecture has become the industry standard (Ostroff, Limont & Hunter, Chapter 1). In education, universal design for learning has, as its primary goal, the development of curriculum and materials that “is shaped from the outset to meet the needs of the greatest number of users, making costly, time-consuming, and after-the-fact changes to the curriculum unnecessary” (UDL Guidelines). Though Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is gaining ground in the field of education, unlike its architectural counterpart, there are no standards in place that require educational content to be created in a manner that makes it accessible to a broad spectrum of learners. Defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, districts may use IDEA funds for professional development, but only Maryland has passed (May, 2010) legislation related to UDL (see link). Though Maryland has established a task force to complete a one-year study the feasibility of incorporating UDL in state educational institutions, widespread and consistent implementation of UDL Guidelines appears to be a long way off.

So, what do we do while we wait for accessible curriculum to become widely available? As educators, we have a number of options: 1) When provided the opportunity, select curriculum materials that adhere to UDL Guidelines, 2) Adapt existing materials based on best practice in UDL, and 3) Make use of technology resources to make existing content more accessible to all students.

Regardless of the tack you choose, there are two key ideas that, when taken into consideration, will ease the teaching and learning process and make it more fruitful for all involved. The first key point is flexibility. The primary characteristic of learning materials that follow UDL Guidelines is flexibility and takes the form of multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement (Rose & Meyer, 2002, Chapter 4, page 3). While UDL guidelines can be applied with or without technology, the use of technology makes it easier (see summary of UDL Unplugged). Technology may be viewed, by some, as a time-intensive add-on, but “new technologies offer us the opportunity to respond to the multifaceted individual differences in our student population by providing more varied media, tools, and methods. Because of their inherent flexibility, digital technologies can adjust to learner differences, enabling teachers to (1) differentiate problems a student may have using particular kinds of learning media from more general learning problems and (2) draw upon a student’s other strengths and interests that may be blocked by the exclusive use of printed text” (Rose & Meyer, 2002, Chapter 1, page 3).

The second key point is the use of digital media. Digital media provides the tools with which to create, transform, and access educational content. The barriers to learning that are commonplace with traditional materials and methods – textbooks and speech – are lifted when digital media is used. “New media (digital text, digital images, digital audio, digital video, digital multimedia, hypertext, and hypermedia) are notable for their malleability. While, like print, they can provide a permanent representation, they do not have print’s fixed quality—they are more like raw clay than fired pottery. The malleability of digital media (when the materials are designed well) translates to enormous flexibility for teachers and learners” (Meyer & Rose, 2005, p. 6). Separating content from context means that learning is not limited by the type container that educational content arrives in. Further, teacher time is not needed to modify materials since technology can do that for students through resources like screen readers, speed-to-text software, captioning, and myriad productivity tools available online. While technology can be used to make content more accessible to students with disabilities, there are advantages for typically-abled students as well. For example, video captioning that makes content accessible to students who are hearing impaired will also benefit those who are English Language Learners, struggling readers, or working in a noisy environment.

“Using UDL as a framework, general and special educators, related service providers, and paraprofessionals insure that all students have meaningful access to grade level curriculum; valid, accurate assessments; and opportunities for meaningful participation” (NEA, 2008, p. 2).


UDL guidelines – version 1.0: Introduction. National Center for Universal Design for Learning, at CAST: Wakefield, MA. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/introduction

Ostroff, E., Limont, M., & Daniel G. Hunter, D. G. (2002). Building a world fit for people: Designers with disabilities at work. Adaptive Environments Center: Boston, MA. Retrieved from http://www.adaptenv.org/adp/profiles/1_mace.php

Meyer, A., & Rose, D.H. (revised, 2005). The future is in the margins: The role of technology and disability in education reform. CAST: Wakefield, MA. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/FUTURE%20IS%20IN%20THE%20MARGINS_NCUDL_1.doc

Rose, D.H., Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD): Alexandria, VA. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/index.cfm

National Education Association, (2008). Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Making learning accessible and engaging for all students. NEA Education Policy and Practice Department: Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB_UDL.pdf

Write a Blog entry describing the relative advantage of using technology to make the major content areas (language arts, social studies, math, the arts, science) become more engaging, relevant and authentic.

“Teachers and researchers agree that today’s students need and deserve the skills, strategies, and insights to successfully exploit the rapidly changing information and communication technologies that continually emerge in the world” (Larson, p. 121).

Though that quote is aimed toward pre-service teacher training in adolescent and adult literacy, it can be easily applied to instruction in any content area. Technology is changing our view of literacy and offers tools and information to enhance and enrich instruction in academic and fine arts instruction alike. Where the idea of literacy has traditionally centered on decoding text, the advent of current technologies has expanded our view of literacy to include information literacy, visual literacy, and technology literacy. Not only are our students expected to read with understanding, but also use technology to locate information and evaluate its merits. Word processing programs alone have revolutionized the writing process. Ease of editing, availability of spell-checking and thesaurus tools are just a few of the “old school” ways in which technology has changed the way we write. Technology also affords our students tools (often free), like e-mail, blogs and wikis, which can be used for authentic communication. “New digital technologies, if used wisely, are believed to have the potential to expose students to a wide range of academic language; provide scaffolding so that students can comprehend challenging and interesting texts; engage students in text-based simulations that spark their interests and motivate their learning; and provide a wide range of tools for analyzing texts, brainstorming their ideas, organizing their thoughts, writing, peer editing, and publishing their work” (Suhr, Hernandez, Grimes, & Warschauer, 2010, p. 7).

Technology has the potential to enhance and enrich all subject areas, not just language arts. The wealth of information that is available online provides a valuable supplement to the textbooks that typically provide the bulk of curricular content in our classrooms. The availability of primary source documents available online, for example, provide information that is not feasible to publish in social studies textbooks. While textbooks provide time-testing information, they also present only one point of view. Carefully selected online content provides our students to opportunity to evaluate multiple viewpoints, especially valuable in the social sciences. Further, technology enables students to interact with content in ways not possible with static information. “The [technology] laboratory setting should be looked upon as a critical learning area in which sound math and science concepts and principles are brought to life” (Bellamy & Mativo, p. 28). In science instruction, in particular, the integration of technology makes learning opportunities possible that are impractical or impossible otherwise. “Simulations also offer students the opportunity to conduct experiments that cannot be easily carried out in real settings” (Papadouris & Constantinou, p. 531). Allowing computers to take over computational tasks enables students to focus more effectively on underlying concepts and “multiple representational formats, such as images, sounds, animations, and graphs, … are combined to describe more effectively a phenomenon of interest” (Papadouris & Constantinou, p. 531).

The advantages of using technology to make the arts more engaging, relevant and authentic is a topic that is, as a music teacher, is close to my heart. The arts have historically been under-supported in many schools (Choi & Piro) and the wealth of resources available through technology can be a revitalizing force. For example, in the music classroom, there were few opportunities for students too see and hear high-quality, authentic musical performances when DVDs and videotapes were the only resources available. Seeing static images of instruments and hearing audio only, is a poor substitute for seeing and hearing a musical performance and, with the advent of YouTube, quality content can be found to support curricular objectives and supplement purchased curriculum materials. Use of open source composition software, like Noteflight and MuseScore, provides a free alternative to industry standards like Sibelius and Finale ($329 and $350 respectively, for educator version) and provide students the opportunity to produce musical content using modern tools and technologies. In the art classroom, digital photography, graphics software, and online graphics/animation manipulation are just a few of the ways technology provides engaging, authentic means of producing artwork. Further, virtual field trips to the world’s art museums provide learning opportunities not otherwise possible. “Digitally based instruction in the arts, including the use of state-of-the-art technology, supports the advancement of free and creative expression as well as reflection, and is essential” (Choi & Piro, p. 32).

Authentic, dynamic, distinctive, interactive, current, effective, worthwhile, and free, are just a few of the adjectives that can describe technology integration in academic and fine arts content areas. While the hardware and infrastructure is costly, in most classrooms Internet-accessible computers are poised and ready to make use of curriculum-related resources and tools that will enhance and enrich instructional content. “Technology can be a means to access content on any topic, a tool for thinking and creating, a connection to peers and experts, and a window into other cultures. Multimedia content can make the curriculum come alive and allow teachers and students to explore content deeply—or in brief, accessible chunks. State-of-the-art scientific instruments can support students’ understanding of science, technology, engineering and math content—and help them master the critical thinking skills of these disciplines. Online, collaborative projects with peers or experts in other states or countries can expose them to different cultures and perspectives” (Maximizing the Impact, p. 6).

The challenge for educators is to make the good use of those technologies that are available to us.


Bellamy, J., & Mativo, J. (2010). A different tngle for Teaching math. Technology Teacher, 69(7), 26-28. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Choi, H., & Piro, J. (2009). Expanding Arts Education in a Digital Age. Arts Education Policy Review, 110(3), 27-34. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Larson, L. (2008). Electronic reading workshop: Beyond books with new literacies and instructional technologies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(2), 121-131. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Maximizing the impact: The pivotal role of technology is a 21st century education system. (2007). State Education Technology Directors AssocInternational Society for Technology in Education, and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Retrieved from http://www.setda.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=191&name=P21Book_complete.pdf

Papadouris, N., & Constantinou, C. (2009). A methodology for integrating computer-based learning tools in science curricula. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 41(4), 521-538. doi:10.1080/00220270802123946.

Suhr, K., Hernandez, D., Grimes, D., & Warschauer, M. (2010). Laptops and fourth-grade literacy: Assisting the jump over the fourth-grade slump. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(5), Retrieved from ERIC database.

The Walled Garden

Many learning institutions block access to social media and social networking within their settings. Provide a rationale for opening up the walled gardens or, if you agree with the importance of learning institutions maintaining a walled garden, then you can take that stance in your Blog entry.

The February, 2010 Pew Report, Social Media and Young Adults, indicates that 73% of online teens use social networking sites and that Facebook is their tool of choice. Further, persons in all demographics are more frequently using mobile devices for non-voice tasks, like Internet access (Smith). Social media is woven into everyday life but determining the positive role it can play in our schools is impacted by concerns for online safety, the perceived educational appropriateness of media use, and the ramifications of filtering practices.

Webopedia defines a walled garden as “a browsing environment that controls the information and Web sites the user is able to access” and goes on to say that “schools are increasingly using the walled garden approach in creating browsing environments in their networks.” Those in education will likely know the walled garden by its other name – filtering. Though the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000 requires schools receiving E-rate funding to filter material that is harmful to minors, administrators, teachers, parents, students, and school technology leaders all have their own perspective on that filtering. Administrators look at garden walls with an awareness of students’ educational needs, federally mandated Internet Safety education requirements (Broadband Data Improvement Act), National Education Technology Standards and the myriad ramifications of policy decisions. Teachers look at garden walls with an awareness of what is, and is not, possible for classroom instruction. Parents look at garden walls with an awareness of hopes and dreams for their child’s education and safety. Students look at garden walls with varying degrees of awareness and interest, depending on age and experience. To cap it off, school technology leaders are placed in the unenviable position of balancing the wants and needs of all parties with practical aspects of recommending and implementing policies within the ever-changing landscape of the Internet.

Federal mandates will keep garden walls in place, but questions remain. How high should the walls be and at what point is it appropriate to chip away at them? When we talk of Internet safety and filtering in general, it is unlikely that you will find anyone who would argue against the filtering of blatantly inappropriate content, but the tighter the filtering of disagreeable content, the greater the likelihood that some of the “good stuff” won’t get through. An analogy that is frequently used compares learning to swim with online safety. You can’t learn to swim if you don’t go into the pool, and you can’t learn to be safe online if you don’t have access to online content. A more “locked-down” approach keeps students safer at school, but is less effective in teaching students how to use technologies safely (OSTWG, p. 23). In their Report to Congress just last month, one of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG) recommendations was full use of “social media – in the form of wikis, video, podcasts, interactive word processing, online discussion, etc. – to teach regular subjects already taught in pre-K-12 classrooms” (p. 33).

So, are these two ideas – filtering and social media – in conflict? I say, not necessarily. Garden walls are a “given” in schools but Web 2.0 technologies, like those recommended in the OSTWG report and this week’s class readings, can thrive within them. Students can learn to develop and use social networks on Togetherville, specifically designed for children ages 6-10, before moving on to Facebook. Students can use NetTrekker (paid subscription service) to browse pre-screened Web sites for research, before moving on to Google. In fact, social media themselves, through their Terms of Use and site design, are building their own garden walls. Sites like Flickr place age restrictions on users and sites like Edmodo and Voicethread require teachers to be administrators and users to be approved. Blogs and wikis are supervised and content can be approved, edited, or deleted. This combination of federally mandated walls, walls erected by social media applications, and the availability of age-appropriate alternatives to “adult” media, means that Walled Gardens have the potential to accommodate student communication, collaboration, and the learning of social and behavioral norms.

Difficulties arise, however, when garden walls impede learning. Even when school districts have different filters in place for adults and students, content that directly supports the curriculum may not be accessible. So what do you do? You can avoid the wall, negotiate with the wall, or circumvent the wall. If a site is blocked, find another – it may be as good, or better, than your initial choice. Barring the discovery of alternate resources, requests can be made to unblock individual URLs. For sites that remain blocked, teachers can choose not to use that information, or they use a tool like Zotero. With Zotero, teachers can bookmark pages at home then access the page snapshot during instruction. The key here is that the teacher is actively monitoring content for educational significance and appropriateness. If page content is interactive and something in the URL won’t make it past the filter, the final option is to find a way to circumvent the filter. While this is almost always a “bad” thing, there can be exceptions. For example, SafeShareTV generates a new URL for YouTube videos and masks all content except the video itself, allowing you to get the all the “good” and none of the “bad.” The reality of filtering, however, is that people find ways to get out of the garden all the time. Do you want to update your status but Facebook is blocked? Forget trying to get around that wall, just get out your cell phone!

So, is the garden wall a good thing or a bad thing? Do we knock it down, build it up, or simply resign ourselves to the inevitability of its existence? I say we start by taking better advantage of the educational opportunities available within the garden. Engage students in global communication using sheltered forums like ePals and iEarn. Allow students to collaborate within the safety of teacher-created blogs and wikis. Guide student research and the evaluation of information that is found. We can teach students how to maintain privacy and safeguard their online reputation while they investigate all the nooks and crannies of the garden. Further, when we find social media outside the walls that will provide valuable educational opportunities not otherwise possible/feasible, thoughtful consideration must be given to allowing student access. Of the six emerging technologies presented in the 2010 Horizon Report, the two on the “near-term horizon” (within the next 12 months) are cloud computing and collaborative environments. Garden walls need to be flexible enough to allow students to take advantage of rich educational opportunities such as these.

Adjusting the height of garden walls is an ongoing campaign and teachers are at the front lines. Any teacher who has previewed online content has raised the wall. Any teacher who has done a WebQuest, instead of turning students loose to research, has raised the wall. Any teacher who has pressed “freeze” on the LCD projector remote, before showing something to the class, has raised the wall. For all our protection of student vulnerabilities within the school environment, however, garden walls are limited or non-existent outside of school. Scaffolding development of 21st century skills within garden, is the best way we can prepare students to navigate the open spaces of the Internet outside the garden because “the best ‘filter’ is not the one that runs on a device but the “software” that runs in our heads” (OSTWG, p. 32).


Broadband Data Improvement Act, Title II: S.1965 – Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. Retrieved from: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/110-s1965/show

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2010). 2010 Horizon report: K-12 edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from: http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2010-Horizon-Report-K12.pdf

Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., & Zickuhr, (February, 2010). Social media and young adults. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Social-Media-and-Young-Adults.aspx

Smith, A. (July, 2010). Mobile access 2010. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP_Mobile_Access_2010.pdf

Youth safety on a living Internet: Report of the online safety and technology working group. Retrieved from: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/reports/2010/OSTWG_Final_Report_060410.pdf

Related Reading:
Willard, N. (2010). Cyber secure schools in a Web 2.0 world. Downloaded from: http://csriu.cerizmo.com/items/6623-cyber-secure-schools-in-a-web-2-0-world-individual-faculty ($14).