My goal is to have a question posted to the forum each day in order to stimulate conversation here in the Global Education Collaborative ning. I am going to "tag" a person to add a question for tomorrow, and in turn, they should tag another community member. If no one posts, I'll add a question myself!
Today's question (it's 5/2 here in the US) is:
Does your school or institution use Internet filters to prevent students from encountering objectionable content?
I ask this because here in the U.S, many sites are blocked in schools in the name of protecting children, and to me at least, the practice is almost bordering on censorship because many school districts seem to be blocking sites that seems relatively harmless. For instance, I did a workshop at a school where Bloglines and Blogger were blocked.
Your thoughts? Feel free to jump into this conversation at any time!
I tag Sylvia Martinez.... if she reads this, she needs to come up with a Question of the Day for tomorrow hopefully!
Yes, our school absolutely uses internet filtering. Because we teach the youngest children (ages five through ten) as well as older children, we bear some responsibility for shielding those children from what they cannot yet understand. We absolutely believe in helping children to process what they see when they do come across inappropriate materials and we even purposively show them some offensive sites (www.martinlutherking.org for example). Additionally, our parent community DEMANDS filtering and hold us responsible if their children view inappropriate material. But then, our parents demand responsibility for all kinds of things that aren't really our responsibility.
Yes, our district is filtering everything now. I am attempting to start 3 summer digital storytelling camps.We are blocked from googling images of our sea creatures. I think teaching digital social skills is the answer instaed of blocking content.
Lucy, definitely, my school district DOES use filters. In fact, as a result of Google's extensive search capabilities, Google itself is filtered...image search is outlawed. But is filtering bad, or evil? I only worry about filtering when the following occurs:
1) The process for unblocking sites is in the hands of a few tech-elites, not classroom teachers.
2) Filtering is either ON or OFF for a web site. There is no gradation of access based on instructional needs.
3) Filtering is a poor substitute for conversations about what we are doing and there is an unwillingness to deal with the consequences of increased access because it raises more questions.
4) Filtering is done to deny the benefits of disruptive effects of communication technologies to students and teachers. My favorite example is blocking MySpace (word ban in addition to URL) last year to prevent students in district from communicating with each other to coordinate a protest walk-out.
I was in the public library in our small town yesterday looking for resources via one of the computer card catalog stations. Looked to my left and a little boy (my guess... age 10 - maybe 4th or 5th grade) was online searching for "naked girls." A reflection of what he sees & hears on TV and hears constantly in the media and/or from his peers, no doubt. I wished I hadn't seen him - nor that he saw me accidentally glance over. He felt guilty and jumped up and left. I felt badly. Mainly because I am conflicted- I wished that he would be searching for something different. He probably was hoping I would not be there at all. :-) Being a former MS educator and having been in the educational setting for 33 years now... I "get it' in terms of adolescent behavior.
We can't shield kids from the constant exposure to that which in my youth was prohibited by protective parents. The world is far more complex in terms of parenting and teaching in the 21st Century.
Filters help and hinder and we are constantly trying to find the "happy medium" which provides access to valuable, quality learning resources, yet keeps the inappropriate out.
We are compelled to protect students from some of the raw, offensive, hated-invoking content found on the Internet -- yet we want them to understand how to evaluate and select web resources in a discriminating manner. We are raising and educating children in the most challenging of times. It may be cliché ... but kids are "growing up way too fast" -- that is what my heart and head tells me.
What do we do? Personally, I would like to be able to go to the public library and not glance over and see what I saw. Yet, I understand intellectual freedom, the right to privacy, AUPs, and open access.
I'm getting on a plane in about 2 hours - so I'll second the answers here already and propose a new topic all at once. I know we get lots of calls from schools (I work at Generation YES) where a teacher has planned (or even started) an activity and one day the site is blocked with no warning and no explanation and no way to change it. The IT department has spoken. That shouldn't happen.
I'm conflicted, like Jan, about the use and misuse on both ends. I have read somewhere that most porn type violations in schools are actually adults. It bugs me when people swear in public and watch DVDs on airplanes that I don't want to see. I don't know what to do about that either.
We have a very complex relationship with children in this society. As my pal Gary Stager said in an article called, Guess Why They Call It MySpace, - "Schools endanger the very students they seek to protect when they bubble-wrap kids and the curriculum."
So here's my topic - Instruction vs. Construction
I think that even though many teachers wish they could teach in a more constructive, open-ended way, ( you might say a more 21st century, 2.0 way) many things conspire against these desires. Some people blame tests, backward admins, tradition, parents, or lack of teacher understanding. I think there is something more personal involved, and I posted about it here. Love to have some comments.
Our school has just started filtering some things - mostly YouTube and anything that would stress our bandwidth. Here in Malaysia we have a solid internet connection, but nothing like most schools in the US.
I personally always like to stress the "filter between our ears" with students and parents anytime the topic comes. If things are filtered at school, but not at home, how will students learn how their "built-in" filter?
I have just a few secs ...
Yes we filter - as Jan pointed out we must inorder to receive erate funding. I agree with Kim, how can you teach children to be responsible contributors and consumers? (MySpace is Lord of the Flies) We had YouTube for a while, but I knew it was a matter of time, now it is gone!
Here our filters treat everyone equally. K-teachers!!! I am lobbying that we filter, since we must, Kindergarteners differently from 8th graders, from 12th graders, from teachers. This is not a huge technical feat - I think I am making some headway.
My old school district did and I believe this school district did. I know that a Federal Grant I applied for with my old district required that we had filtering options in place. I did have a problem with a site blocked, an ESPN site that gave us the salaries of top athletes in each sport which we were using for a spreadsheet project, and was able to get the site unblocked. That's important to me. If a site should be unblocked for educational purposes, then I think the district should be able to unblock it.
I'm not one to censor in the extreme, but I do believe in protecting the children and giving them only age appropriate material to deal with. I also did search studies with my students, teaching them how to read a description of a site to determine if it's appropriate before clicking on it, how to use the link back feature to help find out the reputation of a given site (great for the http://martinlutherking.org site) and what to do when you did click on a site that was not what you thought. I believe those lessons are important. At the same time, I don't want to turn that lesson into a daily lesson because I do not have filters built in. I have limited amount of time and need to keep my students on track, especially with all the standards and mandates I have to cover.
As far as blogs - well many are valuable to education and I think students should also be keeping blogs of their own. However, have you ever been to a blogspot blog and click on the next blog? Did that with my son's teacher the other day, hoping that the next blog would also be an educational blog. Instead it was a sex toy blog. Not something I want to turn into a teachable moment in the first grade classroom I was in. Thankfully students weren't around at that time.