Thursday, August 14, 2008

Internet Filters

I just had to post this email I received to get your response. I would love to respond but as I learned from the keynote at NECC, the wisdom of the crowds is greater than the individual. What do you think so I can respond with wisdom and understanding?
Has anyone read the recent article in Network administrator. I
usually throw most magazines (junk mail) away but this front page
caught my eye. It describes how students are getting around filters.
Particularly 8e6.

Google 8e6 and you will be shocked.

Check this out.
To which a coworker responded...
If you want to read that article you will have to read it
from home though as it is classified as a "Web-based Proxies/Anonymizer"
site and will be blocked at schools.
I have left off names to protect the innocent! The the thoughts flow...


Michelle said...

I think it goes back to the issue of "control," and how institutions and most adults over 35 try to maintain control over things they cannot. See Clay Shirky's work for more about that.

Someone (it might have been Lee Kolbert, aka @teachakidd )recently said something to the effect of: Teaching kids web safety/reponsibility/digital citzenry with internet filters is like teaching kids about nutrition by starving them. I've used that quote about 100 times in the last two months.

Someone at NECC (also don't recall who it was... possibly Scott McLeod or Ian Jukes) noted that most schools block 80-90% more web sites than required by CIPA/COPPA (and including those that endanger eRate funding). Most schools block web sites for nuisance issues and expect the filter to be a classroom management tool instead of one for safety.

I have to stop commenting now (sorry so long!), because this is an issue about which I'm very passionate... and I could go on and on.

TJ Shay said...


I have to admit that the response made me laugh out loud. I honestly see all points on the filtering issue. As a classroom teacher, I have the policy, 'trust everyone, but verify.' I think it is SO important for us to really teach kids about responsible Internet use. Most people might be surprised at how many teachers turn kids loose without and talk about safe and ethical use. We are teachers, we must TEACH the kids so they know what to do if they get somewhere they shouldn't be.

On the other side, having a filter of some sort is a safety net. We can't supervise every second of Internet use (at least not in my set up).

But, to the main point of the reply, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to want to get to a resource, in my role as teacher, and not be able to. One example, I tried to go look at a new piano which had the name Essex. I couldn't get there because of the name of the piano. Frustrating.

There is no easy answer...But we must keep trying to work together.

J Allen said...

An internet filter is necessary to enhance learning, but one that is too restrictive will most definitely inhibit learning. While it can be a fine line, someone with common sense and is willing to listen to the curriculum departments will easily stay on the "progressive" side of the line.

Craig said...

I am a supporter of using filtering software in our schools.

Too many instances of students accidentally getting to inappropriate sites. Other instances of students, left without appropriate supervision, intentionally going to inappropriate sites. As students have more access to wireless laptops throughout the school day, it is harder to supervise what they are doing.

Yet we want to make it as easy as we can for teachers to use web resources without unnecessary filtering. Thus I provide any teacher in our district with a filter bypass password that changes weekly.

As far as the posting, it isn't just 8e6 that students can get around using proxy servers. We use 8e6 and are very pleased with it's performance and easy of managing blocked sites. We added a phrase to our AUP stating that inappropriate use includes intentionally bypassing the filter.

We work hard to get teachers to cover the appropriate and safe use of the Internet. But as was mentioned in a previous post, the filter acts as a "safety net."

This past year we changed our AUP, no longer requiring parent approval and no longer punishing a violation by taking away access to the Internet. We treat a violation of our AUP just as we do any other violation of a school rule.

Jenny said...

I read your blog.

Kari said...

I agree with TJ's comment that there are pros and cons. As a teacher trying to research, I have felt like I was being "naughty" when I was researching the holocaust or date rape for books I was teaching, and the firewall came up, saying..."Obsene/pornography"!

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