Friday, January 18, 2008

Only Those Places

"Access only those places on the Internet which are intended to be used for appropriate information retrieval, correspondence, and communication. Appropriate is defined as morally correct, free of antisocial behaviors, pornography, and any form of abusive or obscene behavior." -Secondary Student Agreement

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


Cathy Jo Nelson said...

Great Question--wrong audience. Wonder who will ask it to the right person? Asked my son about ZTunnell today, and he says at his school, ZTunnell is blocked BUT ztunnell (all lowercase) grants access. Go figure. Some filter they are using. can't wait to try it at my school. Im such a rebel.

OMG these word verifications are Killing me.

diane said...


I think I'll try it at my school just to see if our IT is monitoring it.

It's like a game to the kids. At least it stimulates critical thinking. And hand-eye coordination.

Sad that you have to leave education many times to effect any change in the system.

One more year.


Anonymous said...

When Alan Levine did his Australian speaking tour he included a great section on walls, in relation to firewalls and blocking. He showed fantastic pictures of physical walls like the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall - then went onto explain that when people build walls you end up spending all your time fixing them. Put a wall in front and people will always try to get through.

diane said...


Through, around or over - the walls are more a challenge than a deterrent.

I thought about using an image of the Great Wall but like the rusted barbed wire better.

The sad thing is that there is no distinction between teachers and students when it comes to blocking sites. I can sympathize with some of the kids' frustrations!


dancing librarian said...


Thank you for these links the quotes and your questions. This is such a hot topic at our school, but I find that only the "scary" side is presented, not the balanced, "we need to educate, not block" side. It's frustrating to watch and to be a part of, as I am blocked from so many legitimate, worthwhile sites.

I learn so much from your blog and am impressed you can do it so often! I do plan to take some of the information you provided here and post it on our school website, however. Thanks!

Julie Lindsay said...

Diane, I am pleasantly surprised to be in the Middle East here in Qatar and to be part of what in comparison to many USA attitudes, a fairly mild approach to content filtering. Yes, we cannot have alcohol or pork or gambling or sex, but I have now had 'games' unblocked as a group. We use Websense so the whole term 'games' is open at my request. I also have YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook, wikispaces blogger etc etc open and ready to go in the classroom.
I do not see the point in putting up the walls. Let the students create their own walls based on educated judgment.
Thanks for your post!