Encourage Some Risk-Taking!

by Jean Tower

If you think you have to fully understand everything about a technology before you allow it to be used in your district, you’ll never try anything new. You’ll spend all your time trying to anticipate problems, control small risks, and trying to configure things so that the genie doesn’t get out of the bottle.

My own goal is to make informed choices that encourage risks and trying new things. We do spend a little time anticipating undesired outcomes, but we weigh them against the outcomes we do want to see. We plan, set up guidelines for students, get parental permission when it seems warranted, and set it up as a pilot.

Here’s a small but exciting example. A high school teacher proposed using twitter as a way to communicate daily homework assignments. I supported his idea, so we decided to pursue the idea further. He ran it by his principal, who bought into the idea as a pilot, and then asked parents to grant permission for their child to sign up for twitter and follow the teacher. So far so good – the principal supports the idea and parents overwhelmingly approved. Now we’re implementing and will eventually assess the results.

My guess is that lots of our teachers, in all of our school districts, have ideas that will push the envelope. I say let’s find those educators and encourage them to take risks. Let’s make sure our policies facilitate such cutting edge projects and our support structures are flexible enough to accommodate them as well.

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