I’d like an idiocy filter, please

I received the e-mail below from yet another
person who can’t access my blog at school
. How is CASTLE supposed to help school
administrators kickstart their schools into the 21st century if they can’t even
read one of our primary communication channels?

The idea that all blogs should be categorically blocked – that NOT A SINGLE
ONE of the over 100 million blogs out there might have something important or
relevant to educators – is both ludicrous and shameful. This type of blocking is
not required by CIPA and it’s just plain dumb (see also I don’t
like Internet filters
).

Dr. McLeod,

I read your "D.I." (a constant reminder just in those
two words), but I am unable to click through from school (as I tried today). You
must be so dangerous that I really shouldn’t even be reading you to  begin with
(tongue in cheek).

The atomic-bomb-to-kill-flea net filter that is used
here blocks anything in the "web log" area. I am dangerous as well, since my own
blogger rants about soccer are blocked.

My other item to vent with you
about is the school’s new wi-fi network – it is completely blocked from student
use (around 15 teachers use it daily). They spent a lot of money on it, and then
locked it up so no one could use it. As you suggest many times in D.I., it is
easy to become irrelevant – I have seen a few Iphone users on campus that don’t
even need wi-fi. And when I even slightly suggest to the tech guys that blocking
access may not be trusting the students enough, they circle the wagons quickly
and become very defensive.

Did I mention that teachers are not allowed
access to any networked drive for fear of student access and destruction of
data?
I’m sure you have heard of much worse, so I will stop.

Anyway,
if you didn’t know, you are a troublemaker according to my school. 😉

Keep up the good work.

I plan to read some of your longer
writings this weekend where my own wi-fi network is completely
UN-blocked.

Teachers that aren’t allowed access to any networked drives. An
expensive Wi-Fi investment that no one can use. Who is steering the ship here?
How can this district’s administrators possibly show their face to their
community and justify how they have used taxpayer money? This is horrible.

17 Responses to “I’d like an idiocy filter, please”

  1. Some IT departments feel they are doing their job when blocking, protecting, monitoring. It would be great if they could replace that with sharing, opening, and engaging (though I must say I’m lucky in my district…a recent blocking of my ning network ended when I sent a couple of e-mails).

  2. IMO what happens many times is the administration is tech ignorant and scared to death that something “bad” might happen. For heavens sake a student might see the “f” word or find a porn site and they will be stunted for life, both educationally and physically. No matter that the news stand and the playground are avenues to the same thing.

    When this ignorance takes place the entire responsibility is put on the tech dept and the students are the enemy. They mess with “my” network and by George I’ll defeat them. How will I defeat them, I’ll just block everything that might be of any value and I challenge them to get by the stuff I’ve put on there and I’m too busy to listen to teachers who don’t know anything about the network. Paranoia reigns.

    I have preached the same thing for years. Tech has to be a team effort. We have to have administrators and staff who understand that tech is another tool to be used to educate. This needs to be from the top down. A superintendent, principal, teacher who can’t designate authority to someone who knows technology while learning it him/herself is just as bad as not having the technology in the first place. Egos can be destructive to the tech thrust in any area of education.

  3. That’s the problem, I think, John, is that it’s not from the top down. The administrators just delegate and then they’re completely hands-off except to say “keep us safe.” They rarely say “Enable good things.” That’s what we need to work on. It’s not the tech coordinators’ fault if that’s the message they’re getting from above.

  4. Scott,

    If you and your readers are interested, I am doing an ISTE SL presentation tomorrow (1/15/08) 6PM SLT called Maintaining Intellectual Freedom in a Filtered World. Join us!

    Resources that support this presentation are at:

    https://dougjohnson.wikispaces.com/

    (I love the “tomic-bomb-to-kill-flea” remark.)

    All the best,

    Doug

  5. Scott,

    That’s what I mean by a team effort. Somewhere recently I read an article comparing educators to Private Contractors. Couldn’t be more accurate. Without leadership from the top down, these private contractors rarely, if ever, look around them. In some ways, administrators are in the same boat. Most are paranoid because they have a board staring down their neck and a general public that will raise a fuss at the drop of a hat if their little one does a no no on the school’s network.

    To me it has always seemed that technology is new to everyone, including parents, and they hear mostly of the bad experiences students have online and seldom of the good ones. I seldom hear parents talking about what their kid is doing constructive with the new technology in school. There are teachers who spend much time planning and using the networks. Especially the newer Web2 applications available out there. A district like is mentioned above has taken many steps backward by taking away these possibilities. So sad!!

  6. At my school they brought in a new content filter and locked up almost everything. We were told that it was our job as teachers to go out and find all of the websites that we would need for our curriculum and get them unblocked. The filter was so restricting that many teachers stopped using the internet completely because it was too difficult to teach with.

    My school has almost everything blocked (including my blog) but students have none of these restrictions at home. We need to teach them how to identify and avoid risks, but we have to do that by exposing them to risk along the way. And we need to be there right beside them.

    Knowing how to set up and run a network does not mean that you know best about how to use it to teach. Leave that to those with the training.

  7. My district blocks blogger and blogspot. The post do show up in Google Reader though (and probably Bloglines if that isn’t blocked). You might want to ask your readers to try setting up a Google Reader, Bloglines, or Pageflakes account at home and see if they can access the blog that way. It does get rid of some of the formating and pictures, but (for me anyways) the text comes through.

  8. This story seems a bit extreme. I agree this is a leadership problem not a technology problem. There is always a need for balance. For those of us that would be crucified if something bad happens, we are really stuck between professional beliefs and personal survival.

    Yes, we educate. Yes, we attempt to teach Internet safety, personal responsibility, character education, etc, etc. Yes, we try to balance the educational needs of the teachers/students along with the security,fiscal and legal responsibilities of the district.

    Yes, kids can easily be exposed to the f word or random porn while using the Internet at school. Try to explain how they can get exposed to the same thing on the playground while you are being grilled by some local talk radio ‘personality’.

    We do not block blogs in our district. We do block most of the free email sites and social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, Ning, etc.) We are constantly thinking about how to manage these resources and do make regular changes.

    Where is the balance? I am not sure anymore. I guess I am not worthy. I am not willing to sacrifice my professional career for MySpace and FaceBook.

    I am willing to develop internally managed resources so that students can have the same experiences using controlled and managed systems. For example, we have built both internal and external blog and wiki servers for use by teachers and students. Just trying to enable good things….

    As I have read and lurked for quite some time on a number of EduBlogs, I can’t help feeling a bit disenfranchised…not worthy of those that apparently have it all figured out. I am just a common sense district administrator that is trying to find some balance.

  9. Darin, I work a LOT with tech coordinators and I think we all appreciate the conundrum you’re in. The challenge is that there’s not a clear understanding at the highest levels about this stuff (i.e., at the superintendent / school board level). So much of this is ad hoc or thrust upon the district tech person with little to no guidance. I’m not sure I’d risk my career for MySpace or Facebook either (mostly because I’m less convinced that they have enough pedagogical potential to be worth the fight). I’d fight tooth and nail, however, as you seem to be doing, to enable as many technology-related learning opportunities for kids and staff as possible, including exposure to at least SOME outside blogs that have value. It’s the categorical blocking that bugs me, not intelligent, pedagogy-based blocking. This district is clearly challenged, as evidenced by the WiFi situation. Thank goodness most districts aren’t in this terrible a shape.

    No one’s trying to beat up on the tech coordinators (I hope). They’re just as stuck as the teachers and students…

  10. Oh how well I hear you. In our last Tech Director’s meeting it was announced that my blog had won the Edublogs award in a particular category. Polite applause. I then asked, “I’m curious. How many of you can actually SEE my blog in your schools?” FOUR!! (I actually only saw three hands but a fourth commented later.) That is FOUR out of the TWENTY ONE districts that were represented at the table. ARRGGGHHHH!!!

    I’ve vented about it before (http://tipline.blogspot.com/2007/12/tips-what-students-can-do-if-given.html) feeling safe that I wouldn’t offend anyone since they can’t see the blog to begin with.

    I agree with one of your commenters. I think the reason for this stems back to the first MySpace and Xanga and LiveJournal push that had everyone in a tizzy. After that, a blog was just a category to be blocked. They don’t read them so they know NOTHING of what good comes from them.

    At another meeting I showed four short videos. I then asked if they know what they all had in common. The answer – I discovered them from reading blogs. I have told them OFTEN how I consider my blogroll to be my personal professional development and that they have NOTHING to fear from them. But, it’s easier just to keep them blocked. Even if they have the ability to give teachers a different policy from th students, they won’t do it. I’d LOVE for someone to sue a district to get them to AT LEAST allow the teachers a different policy so that they can use the tools.

    Oh my… don’t get me started…. 🙂

  11. Scott, what’s happening is white listing. A 180 degree difference between what used to be the norm just a couple of years ago (black listing), and how the general public thinks a filter works. The crime against education is insidious and unforgivable. – Mark

  12. Interesting observation, Mark. I use whitelisting for my e-mail. I agree with you that it’s inappropriate district-wide for the Internet (particularly for staff!)…

  13. “Yes, kids can easily be exposed to the f word or random porn while using the Internet at school. Try to explain how they can get exposed to the same thing on the playground while you are being grilled by some local talk radio ‘personality’.”

    The problem is learning how to work with the local talk radio personality (rather, learning to ignore them) and not be intimidated from a doable right course of action. Yes, it’s hard, but if you feel comfortable with your justification, remember that you are the expert, not the media.

  14. Ya, it’s the same way here in Dallas. We can’t access blogs of any type from our computers at school. Yet 5/6 our e-mail messages are spam, mostly directed at male enhancement suckers.

  15. Every AUP I am finding says internet access is a “right, not a privilege”. Has this ever been challenged?? We certainly don’t have a policy saying a students access to a pencil is a “right, not a privilege”.

    If it is viewed as a privilege anything can get blocked. If it is a right, almost nothing can. Now, if it is a “right with privileges” then we can get some real work done.

  16. I’m an idiot. I wrote that completely backwards. Privilege, not a right.

  17. I shared your blog entry with Texas technology coordinators/directors and Chief Technology Officers. All the responses are posted here:
    http://www.mguhlin.net/archives/2008/01/entry_4201.htm

    is anyone sharing this revolutionary talk within their respective bosses at work? I bet the answer is, “No.”

    Take care,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the Corner
    http://mguhlin.net

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