Administrators fear what they can't control. Everyone worries about the consequences of students participating in the open internet in ways that may make them vulnerable.

This is going to be a public opinion battle that we will be in for the decade to come. Please discuss how the debate is transpiring within your school.

Tags: issues, law, legal, policy

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Someone posted this link on an Acceptable Use Policy:
I would like to work with you to chronicle my journey to shift the paradigm of my district.

Antwon Lincoln
Check out my podcast
Hi Antwon, I saw you present at the ILC.

Thanks so much for all your great work!

All the Best,

I disagree with the control issues, unless you are pointing at the supervisors within computer labs.

One component I'd like to see added to a use policy is accountability. Too often, I observe students in labs not being watched. Obviously, the supervisor/teacher is in the lab, but checking email and working on grades, good things. However, we must step up the watch in the lab to squelch any fear that supervision is lacking in the lab.

We need the tools and services of the web unfiltered and being taught to our students in an environment of support and safety.

I worry about our students not learning how to accurately access the web in a productive way.

Our districts use policy is being reviewed this year and I'll use this post to provide some insight. Not everyone agrees with my views that our kids need the kind of access I desire for them. Obviously, safety first, but who will teach them if it is filtered in a safe environment?
I agree totally.... I hope this post comes to have enough good information for you to use!
I think this is going to be a battle that school people wage by standing in a circle and firing at each other while students look on with curiosity (and probably a bit of snickering).
I agree with Adam, that we need to work toward responsible policies with tools and services of the web unfiltered.
A decade ago when many students' access to the net was solely at school, it made sense, but now?? Give me a break. What student do you know who can't access YouTube, for instance, almost anytime they want? Yet we'll be writing policy and arguing about allowing access to it for the next decade while they learn without us.
The real responsibility is not to try to separate them from anything dangerous, the responsibility of adults is to teach the young how to be safe, how to negotiate danger, evaluate risks and make good judgements.
Educators all groan about the "helicopter parents" who hover over their children and often end up depriving their kids of the opportunity to learn how to deal with the consequences of their actions. Aren't we "helicopter netnannies", doing much the same thing?
When I was teaching my children to drive I would have been insane to have just thrown them out on the interstate while I did crossword puzzles in the back seat. Instead, we started in the driveway, and then on small, untravelled roads, but we graduated to the highways, and interstates as their maturity and skill improved. Part of me would like to keep them very, very safe, never driving on highways, but they have grown into mature responsible drivers and they make good decisions on their own, and there is no "governor" on the car to ensure maximum speed never is above the speed limit. And they got into the habit of buckling up from the time they first sat in a car.
Yes, I know there is danger "out there" on the Net, and yes, we have a responsibility to try to keep students safe, but closing down huge portions of the "information superhighway" is not the way to teach them to handle themselves safely on the internet. Besides, they will be out there anywhere they want to be on the Net, whether we are watching or not! We would do better to teach "Responsible Netting" rather than dreaming that we were limiting their access because we drafted a district policy that forbids it.
very thoughtful Tom. "the responsibility of adults is to teach the young how to be safe, how to negotiate danger, evaluate risks and make good judgements." I agree totally.
What about this?
"the responsibility of adults is to teach the young how to be safe, how to negotiate danger, evaluate risks and make good judgements. While exposing them to the least amount of danger required to do so."

Or something like that? Just a thought.
I think that what a lot of people don't realize is that filtering is not only done under the guise of protecting students (and the school district from liability issues), but also to conserve or better utilize bandwidth. To allow the 800+ computers in our school district unfiltered access to the internet, could easily require more than 10 times the bandwidth (and cost) that we currently have (and probably much, much more). While it would be nice to allow unlimited access to the internet, we have to look at what it costs to do so, and must take a reasonable approach. You do not need access to every blog site to teach blogging or the ethics of blogging, the same as you don't need access to every social networking site to teach social networking skills, etc, etc. It would be nice, but the bandwidth costs are something that would prevent most schools from being able to do so, and even if the could afford it, the money could probably be better spent in other areas. The most important thing (IMHO) is that we figure out what we need unfiltered and make sure that we have access to it. After all, would you want the responsibility (and liability) for being the one that unfiltered sites like Playboy. com or for students in your school? Whether we like the idea of filtering, I think most would agree that at some point it is needed, (if not for protection of students, to protect school and teachers from liability issues) and wanted. It is therefore probably more an issue that should be worked out in each school district, and would probably be best served by having a filtering committee that would look at what sites needed to be filtered or unfiltered.

The main thing that is needed is dialog between teachers, administrators and those that take care of the network. With good dialog, I think all things that everyone wants and needs to be accomplished, could be. IMO, anytime lawyers, lawmakers and policy makers get involved, it only makes the matter more complicated. So having things they way they are now, with as vague as they are, can be an advantage. I guess what I am really suggesting is "Responsible Netting" with "Responsible Filtering".
My district implemented a common sense policy to address filtering requests this last fall. If a teacher wants a site unblocked they submit a request to their building administrator who then takes it to a committee. If there is no good reason to not unblock the site then it is whitelisted.

I am a proponent of teaching our students how to navigate the net in a safe manner. How can we do that if everything is blocked or filtered? I am not suggesting that we not use filters, but they need to be used wisely. If I understand correctly CIPA requires that schools block porn. I understand the issue of consuming too much bandwidth, but I wish schools would open up the Internet so teachers can use what is out there!
Sounds like your district is making strides in the right direction (unless they blocked everything, until someone requests it opened). In our district, teachers have almost everything opened (except porn and other "adult" content), this gives them the ability to find things, that before this year were impossible (because of the filtering). We also opened up a lot more for students (in addition to adult content, Internet Radio, movies (from youtube and others)). These sites are filtered to conserve bandwidth, teachers can access all of these sites, and could view or download any of the videos with their students. If we had enough money to buy the bandwidth, we would probably open these for students too. I think in too many cases, teachers here about something new, try to access it and are denied by filtering, and then (in a lot of cases), then complain about the filter. Instead of requesting that the site gets unblocked. In most cases, the IT department, has no idea of what is blocked and what is not, the only way they know is if they stumble upon it, or are made aware by others. I think this is the biggest obstacle, figuring out what everyone wants or needs access to. Most of the sites that everyone is using today, weren't even around a year or two ago. In fact a lot of the time, it is the first time the teacher hears of a site, that they discover it is blocked.

How long does it take your committee to approve or deny requests? If the process takes more than a day or two, then it is too long (IMO, which is usually a problem in education, people and things are slow to change). Personally I think that if the teacher is willing to sign off, that they reviewed the site and found it "appropriate" for education, and the principle or some other party checked it and found no "questionable" content, that it should be approved. In fact if the teacher wants to take "responsibility" for the appropriateness of the site, I see no reason that it shouldn't be opened asap!

No matter how we look at it, accountability has to be considered, whether it is for the sites allowed or denied or the costs involved. I think we need to open up everything that is required to get the objectives done (no different than buying books or supplies for any other class!).
Ideally there should always be an open discussion where the pros and cons of different applications and their practical uses. As a member of the technology committee that makes such decisions, despite the need for such an open forum it will never happen.

As with most unmade decisions of the district, teachers will do what ever they want, and the administrators will simply ignore it till someone complains or something breaks.

To those working at districts of a more enlightened nature, I wish you the the best of luck.



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