More than 20 students, grades 7 through 12, were suspended today for violating our district's AUP (Acceptable Use Policy). The infractions covered a three-month period; miscreants lost computer and pass privileges for two weeks. Their crime was to use a website that allowed them to circumvent the school's internet filter. Most of them had been paying illicit visits to MySpace or Facebook.
School districts across the country remain convinced that blocking inappropriate websites is the best way to keep our children safe from harm and focused on learning. Yet students continue to maneuver around school filters.
When I did some research on the issue of internet filtering and the CIPA legislation, many of the sites I found were authored by hackers offering advice on how to beat the system. Obviously, many of our middle- and high-schoolers have found the same information. By going to a website based proxy like ZTunnel, individuals logged on to the Internet can make an end run around watchdog filters. Without prior cyber safety instruction, these users are vulnerable to whatever dangers might lurk in the digital world.
In the introduction to his safe digital and social networking presentation wiki, Wesley Fryer reminds us that
"Generally adults help young people learn to drive safely before giving them car keys and turning them loose on the streets of the world. Young people also need guidance and adult assistance to learn how to safely navigate the virtual environments of the 21st Century. Schools must be proactive, rather than merely defensive, in helping students acquire the skills of digital citizenship needed today and in the future. Simply banning read/write web tools on school networks is an inadequate response: Educators must strive to learn alongside students and parents how these technologies can be safely and powerfully used to communicate and collaborate."Fryer's wiki provides a rich assortment of multimedia resources, including PowerPoint slides, podcasts, articles, and links all addressing the need for safe digital social networking (DSN).
Julie Lindsay describes "digital citizenship" as "knowing how to behave appropriately and responsibly with regard to technology use." Her grade 9 unit called Digital Citizenship in Education outlines 9 elements essential to digital citizenship and provides a project outline and scoring rubrics. Also mentioned in Julie's blog is the free CyberSmart! K-8 curriculum, which provides worksheets and guided activities addressing issues like cyber safety and digital manners (citizenship).
Describing the frustrations of his students when encountering blocked sites, Clarence Fisher states
"I am still vastly against even the idea of filtering. Filtering content is a messy, inexact, and inappropriate solution to their being "bad things" online. I find it offensive and pure and simple censorship; something democracies should abhor. But as I think about our situation more, I am also worried. The Internet service that our school is provided with comes via a Manitoba government service called MERLIN. They provide highspeed service to many hospitals, libraries and schools. So in the end, it is my democratically elected government that is restricting the access of my students to information and content."How should the education community define "appropriate information retrieval, correspondence, and communication" in the 21st century?
"The same fence that shuts others out shuts you in." -William Taylor Copeland
"The only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it." -John Locke
"None Shall Pass" by Clearly Ambiguous