Mission Statements

I'm not big on mission statements. I know that they are not going anywhere anytime soon, that any organization I work for will have these statements somewhere in a school/company handbook, and that i should be familiar with both statements so I am familiar with the purpose of the organization. My problem is not with the multitude of people who spend copious amounts of time on drafting the perfect one or two sentence statement that encompasses all the beliefs and values of the organization, no, my problem is with what happens (or more often what doesn't happen) once a mission statement is adopted. Reading Viki Davis' latest post on her frustration with school not allowing technologies like skype and videoconferencing into the classroom struck a chord. Currently we are having similar discussions at Carol Morgan School that many other schools are having, specifically how long can we keep out Web 2.0 applications from our classrooms. Things like youtube and skype are not permitted for students to use, actually, teachers cannot use them either. I find this quite contrary to our schools mission statement and here is the rub. A mission statement that reads something like "...to educate students by integrating technology to produce students with a multicultural world view..." flies in the face of reality when students are denied access to experiences in technology that transcend the walls and halls of the school they live and work in. I bet, most of the international school community have mission statements very similar to this.

Vicki make s a good point when she discusses tools and their uses. She writes...

"This is proof that it is not the tools that are inherently good or evil but rather the use of the tools.

    • A hammer can kill someone but it can also build a house.
    • A nail can be driven through a hand but it can also hold the roof over your head.
    • A fist can hit but a fist can also be clasped in your hand in love.

We do not outlaw hammers, nails, or fists -- we teach people to use them properly. "

I like this. It seems to parallel my argument as of late that how do we practice what we preach in our mission statement if we cannot skype directly from our classrooms to meet other teachers, to get involved in cross-cultural tech. integration projects that are happening out there if we are not given the tools by which to do so. How do we expect to broaden our kids world view when wee do not give them the "window" to see out of? And, lastly, and this one is my biggest issue, how do we teach tech. responsibility when we do not give the kids the opportunity to be responsible. I will be the first to admit that the Internet is a scary place especially when you teach elementary tech. and need to keep kids safe, but it is my opinion that i would rather have kids exposed to the Internet, skype, what have you in a controlled environment where they are supervised and where conversations can take place within a group setting about what responsible use really is; what is looks like. Otherwise we are simply putting blinders on to the fact that our kids will go home to their computers, possibly their own computer in their bedroom, and will be exposed to all the Internet has to offer-the good the bad and the ugly, with no idea of what responsibility is when it comes to being online, and to exploring the Internet with little to no adult supervision. How long can we continue to say that we do not want to be the place where sometimes kids screw up and access an inappropriate page or website so that we can displace our role of teaching responsibility to someone else. It is time like to admit like Brian Crosby says, "Learning is messy". Teaching with technology will change how we educate our students, we are seeing it now. Look at Brian's Blog and what he is doing right now with skype in his inclusion video. This was never possible to us as educators before today, and who knows what will be possible tomorrow. One thing is for certain, if we do not take that big step and admit that it is our responsibility to instill responsible use of technology in our students then we cannot fairly expect someone else to do it either.

Multicultural world views do not come about by isolationist practices in the classroom or school. They come about when we as educators empower our students with responsibility and the correct tools and guidance with which to explore our mission statements.

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