Internet Filters — I’m Seeking Input

I am planning a blog post about internet filtering in schools. Before I write the actual article, I have set up this post to collect some comments from teachers about how well (or not!) filtering works in their school. When I was a teacher librarian in a high school library two years ago, it seemed that filtering was unpredictable and restrictive, but perhaps that has changed. I’m hoping you have ideas to share. I’d be most grateful for your help.

Some possibilities:

  • A story about a time when a lesson was sabotaged because a link was blocked, or
  • When a link was blocked that worked before.
  • How you have been involved in the filtering process, such as being consulted about sites to block/unblock, or
  • Were asked to serve on a committee to make these decisions.
  • Whether or not you are clear on just how internet filtering works in your school or your school district as a whole.
  •  Whether or not (and why) we can do without internet filters.
  • Your thoughts on intellectual freedom/internet filters/safety and protection of children.
  • Any other ideas.

Your participation would be much appreciated.

3 thoughts on “Internet Filters — I’m Seeking Input

  1. I work at a school where we have been developing an extensive use-of-technology agreement for our students and partners with the input of students, a technology committee and the staff as a whole. One decision we had to make was to filter or not to filter? First off, that was a surprise. We have a choice? Don’t all schools need to be behind the filter? The initial decision make by administration was that we would have clear expectations for the use of internet access at the school and students would sign the agreement. Students who broke the agreement would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
    As a staff member, I was excited not to have to make the case for the educational value of YouTube access in the classroom. However, hundreds of 15-year-olds with unrestricted access seemed like it could go badly. Aside from the more severe cases of misuse of technology in the school, the two ongoing disruptions which quickly emerged were watching videos on YouTube during class and the use of social networking sites during class. Teachers agreed that this was creating the need for monitoring of computer use in class with little contribution to learning. After weeks of debate about whether to restrict access or continue to extend the opportunity for students to monitor themselves, we decided to restrict.
    What was most interesting was the reaction of the students. A carefully crafted letter was given to teachers to read to their classes to explain why they had Facebook and YouTube the day before, and now they don’t. An outcry was expected. My class’s immediate reaction was that it was about time- how could we expect them to monitor themselves and not fall prey to these distractions? I would describe it as a sense of relief. They demonstrated awareness that at 15 their job was to push limits, and our role as teachers was to provide limits.

  2. As naive as it sounds, I had never really considered that it was someone’s responsibility to have/not have filters for students. And my personal frustration at being blocked in my own research on the school computer on topics such as racism has been relatively minor. I just used my home computer to get resources for the research and dramaturgy.

    My assumption is that filtering is created because of a Board policy which seeks to prevent students from accessing information (e.g. racial hatred, pornography) on school computers. I can only imagine what fear of parental legal action does for the Board lawyers!

    Social networking can be done on one’s home computer. And, of course, educators operate on the assumption that parents monitor their teenager’s use of internet at home.

    If we remove filters entirely on school computers, I think we are then obligated to teach students about what constitutes responsible research (e.g. bias, slander, libel, and that wikipedia is NOT a source) on top of everything else.

    The idea makes me a little heartsick. As teachers, we are already parenting our students with regard to family finance, career planning, moral decision-making, character education, sexuality, citizenship/government and whatever else. Are we prepared to shoulder the responsibility of guiding youth to judicious use of the internet as well if filters are removed? (I speak only as myself: I have my hands full aready. Thank you.)

    The argument that having filters consistutes censorship is legitimate. Yet public secondary education is not the same as a university environment which is ideally created to foster exploration and contraversy and push academic & artistic boundaries.

    As a public educator in the high school system, I know that I could expose my students to controversial new plays (or even old ones) but I need to be clear about whether I have arguments ready. Have I considered the maturity of my students? Can I show ties to the curriculum? How will the play be received within the school community?

    The same criticisms I might face with a play could be applied to use of YouTube in the classroom. And it would be up to the teacher using YouTube as a resource to justify its use. With power and access to this popular culture in the classroom would come the teacher’s responsibility to tie its use to curriculum.

    And if we remove these filters entirely, are we utterly confident that our students would always seek out internet information which is not defamatory, misognist, racist, pornographic or violent during class time?

    If I have my students in the computer lab without filters …. and students access this negative information “on my watch” — am I not still responsible for what happens? (i.e. In loco parentis)
    As teacher, I could have done everything in my power: constructed a worthwhile assignment with curricular ties/objectives, suggested legitimate sites for internet research and even circulated actively around the room checking on-task & appropriate internet use, but I can’t really be everywhere at once. I can offer no such guarantees.

    I like to operate with the best of intentions. I don’t like to operate from a place of fear but perhaps I have more in common with the Board lawyers than I would like to admit.

  3. You might like to check out this link from the UK OFSTED related to internet filtering

    It suggests that

    ” “locked down” systems that barred access to websites were actually “less effective” in keeping children safe overall.

    Ofsted also suggested that schools should give mothers and fathers training in how to manage children’s access to the internet.”

    The whole report, plus other reports can be found at the end of the article.

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