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My Advocacy Plan for Increasing Student Internet Access


Sandy Merz

Previously, I admitted to having little experience in trying to influence policy. But that's going to change in the fall when I try to get my district to adjust its rules on student access to online video.

No doubt unrestricted student access would suck up bandwidth as if it were a five-dollar milkshake. But teachers want to enable students without home Internet access to view instructional videos outside of the school day. Specifically, each teacher needs an additional password with video privileges, but without privileges to his or her files.

The district IT person told me the chain of command to follow, and a recent conference along with some summer reading helped me form my strategy.

At the Arizona K12 Center's Leadership Institute, authors Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley presented their book, The Global Fourth Way. They emphasized leading from the middle instead of an extreme.

In my pitch, I'll emphasize that I'm looking for supervised access for a few students outside of school hours, not the extreme of unlimited access. I'll point out that the other extreme, no student access, deprives about 20 percent of our students much quality online instruction.

In To Sell Is Human, Daniel Pink writes, "To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end." Bandwidth is a limited resource in my district—during the day. But after school, much capacity sits unused. My task will be to demonstrate that with the proposed policy we're getting more product for the same cost.

Nate Silver explains in The Signal and The Noise that, "We can perhaps never know the truth with 100 percent certainty, but making correct predictions is the way to tell if we're getting closer." My prediction is that access to online instruction will improve student achievement. The district predicts that it will bog down the system. If we work together to test the policy we won't necessarily find out who is definitively correct, but we will have empirical data upon which to base the next decision.

Finally, in The Story Factor, Annette Simmons points out that "genuine influence goes deeper than getting people to do what you want them to. It means people pick up where you left off because they believe." Beyond developing a policy granting students limited supervised access to online video, I hope that my colleagues will see that they too can promote a policy that will improve teaching.

And then I can finally claim to have had an influence.

August (Sandy) Merz III, a National Board-certified teacher, teaches engineering and algebra and sponsors MESA at Safford K-8 International Baccalaureate Candidate School in Tucson, Ariz.

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