Yesterday we had the opening-of-the-school-year mini conference with our school-based trainers, which due to the budget, only ran half a day. Even so, still a lot of fun.

Continuing our efforts to chop off the talking heads approach to training (often accompanied by the deadly verbose slide shows), we structured the breakout sessions as discussions rather than lectures.

Our theme was collaboration with colleagues, with the conversations centered around using a variety of web-based tools to connect the staff at their schools and for them to connect with educators and others beyond those walls.

Of course, almost all the same tools and sites could also be used to help students connect with their colleagues and others.

Except that most of them don’t fit neatly into the restrictive regulations for student use here in the overly-large school district.

Web 2.0 applications have this annoying tendency to live outside of the direct control of our IT department. They allow kids to communicate in ways that aren’t completely controlled by teachers and administrators.

However, that doesn’t mean rules and attitudes of absolute control can’t be altered.

By getting the teachers hooked on using Google Docs, wikis, social bookmarking and the rest, some of them will realize that their students could actually benefit from having an authentic audience outside the walled garden.

And, as teachers often do, begin using them without bothering to ask permission.

But there’s really nothing really subversive or insubordinate going on here.

We’re just playing off similar messages presented by Alan November to the assembled masses of school administrators a few days ago. Someone who was asked by the superintendent to offer his ideas on changing education.

We only want to make sure that those ideas don’t get forgotten in the rush to roll out the big “curriculum assessment tool”.

This is going to be a fun school year.