Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Web Filtering in Schools

I just posted a link to this article to the Learn, Teach, Tech Twitter . Then I thought it was a good enough article to actually write a post on. And it gives me a chance to live up to my New Year's Resolution to Write More.

Here's the link to the article, click here.

I don't usually comment on articles on the internet. However, this article hit home as I've run into the same problems repeatedly while trying to integrate technology into my lessons in the Minneapolis public schools.

Last year, while teaching READ 180, my class attempted to create an online book review site using Blogger. Sadly, within days of starting the blog, Blogger was blocked. I dutifully filled out the "unblock request" form voicing both my displeasure and my valid, educational reasons for wanting to use Blogger.

This year, I started using Twitter to post class information on my class webpage. [I took the Twitter Flash code and embedded it into my page] Within a week, Twitter was blocked. The warning page cited "Personal Relationships" as the reason it is blocked. Again, I dutifully filled out the "unblock request" form. It's still blocked.

This year, I'm using Blogger for students to publish writing assignments, like an online notebook. I was planning on using Twitter to post classroom updates and then have each student create a Twitter to post bits and pieces of learning from all their classes. So much for that. I'm also using Google Sites to maintain a class wiki.

I will bend the ears of the district tech leaders that I have a good relationship with when I see them next. There are so many resources out there for our students, provided they have been taught how to use them effectively. Which brings me to the the comment that I left on the article page:
Just like any other topic I cover in my classroom, it boils down to teaching the students what is acceptable and what is not. I teach my students how to handle a paperback novel so that it lasts more than a year. I teach them my policy on using the bathroom during class time. I teach them what appropriate topics are for writing assignments.

I also teach them what is appropriate on the internet. First, I send a letter home explaining what we'll be doing online and have parents sign a media release saying that it's okay. Then I teach the students what is appropriate. I bought my own domain name so that students go to that site and then link to everything they need. No need for extra "stuff," good or bad. Those don't follow the expectations, lose the opportunity. Just like the kid who throws the paperback book across the room. You don't get the book and you can do a different assignment.

The problem is that not all teachers are doing what we are by teaching and modeling appropriate use. Then, in a large district, things get blocked because teachers aren't being good teachers.

I understand the bandwidth issue. However, if your students know not to be listening to music or watching videos in the background, this isn't an issue. I link to videos on teachertube and google video that are relevant to the lesson. That should be allowed and encouraged.

Enough ranting. Great article and comments!

To those of you fighting this fight for Blogger, Twitter and many others, keep going. The value of these tools is tremendous.


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