Our conversation began by discussing what types of filtering was in place around the country (and the world). A few teachers/administrators said that their school or district was open to the idea of Social Media and relaxed their filters. But there were others who said that their IT departments would not even listen to the idea of 0pening any Social Media tools. And a small few said blogs were forbidden. (One teacher said their administration interpreted CIPA in such a way that all communications with students had to be outlawed.)
Our conversation evolved into a discussion of what teachers could do to help stubborn administrations and school boards understand the need for relaxed filtering. Let me be clear. No one advocated for no filtering or using tools such as proxies for circumventing the filters. We want more conversations like the one during edchat to take place in districts around the country.
Here are a few summarizing comments from participants:
- Though filtering is necessary to keep out undesirable content, it should be flexible so that quality educational tools and sites are not blocked.
- We recently expanded teacher access. Teachers should take responsibility for modeling and monitoring internet use and be vocal about what they need for quality teaching with the internet. Their support of responsible use is the key to expanding access.
- My district "does not support wikis, blogs, or social networking." Sigh. This is what I was directed when I signed on as an administrator a few years ago. Mind you, this is all due to one teacher, who, two years ago, set up a classroom blog, but did not know how to screen it. The result was a complete bashing of the district, its teachers, and the superintendent. My take: If you give kids no perameters, they are bound to create havoc; they're kids who question authority at every turn. Kids are naturally bred to push and question the boundaries that adults set for them, but if there are no boundaries in place to begin, well...I've seen the result and it has hindered the learning of teachers and students for years to come.
- I think there need to be more conversations that are open concerning the true benefits for each district. The legal and financial details need to be drawn up prior to meetings so that people aren't operating on assumptions. From there, what's best for kids should be the top priority. If those simple steps are taken, tech can be more usefully integrated into any school with teacher and admin buy-in.
- Filtering is too strict. Even teachers can't search and find resources necessary to assist students because the filters in the district are so tight...All searching must be done from home. Lift the filters and allow teachers to do what they do best...teach.
- Filtering has become a real issue - but it is not working. Students know how to get around these if they really want to. My push has been to filter less and get the teachers more active in teaching students how to use technology effectively - filtering is not the answer when it comes to social networking.
- Five years ago, I thought filtering was the way to protect our students. But now I believe that educating students on ethical behavior shifts the responsibility to the students for their safety, and in the long run, will be better for them.
I think you can see that the theme that keeps coming up over and over again is the need for less restrictive filtering and more education. I could not agree more. Through the use of restrictive filtering we are creating a generation of Internet users who do not how to use the tool responsibly. All they know how to do is use other tools like proxies to get to what they want. Instead we need to start educating our students as to what is responsible Internet behavior and what is not.
My final thought is this, why block? Why not provide students the opportunity to extend learning beyond the school day through commenting on a blog or adding to a wiki? Why not provide students the opportunity to learn beyond the walls of their classroom and talk to other students halfway around the world through Skype? I thought we were trying to educate and prepare 21st Century students? Why are we refusing to use 21st Century tools?