Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ditch Internet Filters!

This conversation is starting to get old. It is 2011, not 1875. It’s time we collectively got our heads out of our filters and prepare students properly for the world they will graduate into, not the world we grew up in.

Everyone needs to be vocal, everyone needs to be an advocate for students in the 21st Century. I’ve written about this before, but the message is still not getting through. The red tape and fears are mounting and students are suffering in the wake of ill-informed adults. The Internet filters, in their current state, have got to go. Protecting students is one thing; a blanket denial of modern learning is another.

Please, consider the following:
  • Limiting access limits learning.
    • Schools are supposed to be places of learning, not prisons of content. Content and information live everywhere now and the impetus is upon us to create opportunities to connect that content, not continue to limit it.
  • We trust teachers with children, but not with the internet.
    • Teachers are better filters of appropriate sites than machines. Machines aren’t discriminate, machines don’t factor in lenses of opportunities.
  • We need levels of protection if districts can’t agree on their filtering issues.
    • We need tiered filtering so that teachers can access content at a different level than students. Teachers need to be able to make sound instructional decisions based on the usefulness of a web resource, not limited by what the filter says is appropriate.
  • CIPA rules do not block Youtube or teachers.
    • Please READ THIS ARTICLE. CIPA rules only advocate for blocking inappropriate sites for students. Youtube is not on some Gestapo CIPA list. There are many appropriate Youtube videos that are beneficial for teachers. In fact, Youtube just created a PLACE just for teachers, but unfortunately, it is blocked by Tech Directors who mean well but are either all-controlling or ill-advised about education in the 21st Century. Additionally, there is NO PROVISION in the CIPA rules that blocks teachers from ANY Internet site, that is SOLELY a district decision. Let me also add that CIPA includes the following provision: "An authorized person may disable the blocking or filtering measure during use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes."
  • Get your heads out of your filters.
    • Your filters don’t have the benefit of discretion. Using a blanket filter virtually guarantees that your school is NOT a place for learning in the 21st Century. In fact, blanket filters are portals back in time. Your students live in the 21st Century. Do you really want to create a time machine that forces your students to learn in modalities of the past?
  • Smart phones are already open to your students, and you can’t control it. Who’s teaching them to use them responsibly?
    • Once students are old enough for their own cell phones, chances are good it will be a modern phone with internet capabilities. So then, the internet filters at school are moot, except that now it’s mainly teachers that are blocked from resources that would impact student achievement. Also consider who is teaching students to use the Internet responsibly? Their parents? Their friends? Blanket filters don’t teach students what to do if they come across something inappropriate on the Internet, it only fascinates them around WHY a website may be blocked.
  • Teachers are blocked from teaching students.
    • Dramatic statement? Yes. Truth? Yes. Not letting teachers discern appropriateness within the scope of their professional capacities about resources that are needed for instruction essentially blocks them from teaching effectively.
  • Do your state test scores reflect yesteryear thinking?
    • Want to raise your state scores? Use 21st Century tools, websites, and resources. If those resources are blocked, you are shooting yourself in the foot and should not complain when your students perform to the 19th century standards that you are essentially advocating for and providing resources for.
  • Students are blocked from learning.
    • Schools are places of learning right? Right...
  • 6th Capacity of CCR standards.
    • The 6th capacity of the College and Career Readiness standards in the Common Core requires that students use technology and digital media strategically and capably. They can’t do that if they are limited. They have to make choices. They have to discern, curate, think critically, and articulate the why around the usefulness of resources. States that have adopted the Common Core but also promote blanket filtering in their schools are, in fact, not meeting the College and Career Readiness capacities.
  • Monitoring and Blocking are 2 different things.
    • I can’t think of school that, pre-Internet, had detectors at the door that prevented every conceivable nefarious material from entering the school. Those things were monitored by teachers. If a kid brought something into school that they weren’t supposed to, then the teacher decided how to handle it. The Internet needs to be monitored by the professionals that are using it, not blocked. Blocking reinforces “Time Machine” mentalities and 19th century instruction.
  • Technology Divas with no educational background are in control.
    • We need to take a look at who is running our technology in schools. Most often, it is a Techie professional with no educational background making instructional decisions. This is bad practice. This is detrimental to students’ educations and it needs to be monitored more closely. The superintendent in each district is the main decision maker. It’s time to step up and branch out, and manage those divas with either an executive decision or a committee that drives instructional technology decisions. (Or perhaps hiring a tech director that has an educational background.)
  • Filtering limits Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creative Problem Solving, and Communication.
    • The Partnership for 21st Century Skills advocates for the “4 C’s:” Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creative Problem Solving. If your students can’t move beyond the four walls of your classroom because of Internet issues, then you are limiting their opportunities, their learning, and their perspectives. We are, in essence, creating students with limited experience who are not prepared to compete with their peers who were educated in places that valued educational freedom and a strong foundation in the “4 C’s.”
  • Filtering limits Global Connections.
    • The. World. Is. Flat. We can’t go back to the private world we grew up in. Social media and the leveling of the global playing field means that our students are not just competing with their community peers, but with students around the world. We have to understand and appreciate global perspectives, bringing the world into our classrooms, and taking our classrooms to the world. We can’t do that in blocked environments.

We have to move forward and we have to do it now. We need to stop thinking about integrating 21st Century tools...we’ve had 11 years to consider how we are going to do it. Stop limiting our kids and let them bloom. We have obligations and responsibilities to grow these kids in the time that we must prepare them for.

Or don’t do it. But you better be prepared to tell this generation why you held them back.

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