Image by bionicteaching via Flickr
Not since I was a student teacher have I had to deal with a school Internet connection that had any sort of serious filtering. Way back then I talked to the IT person and we discussed the pros and cons of filtering. Eventually, we decided that teachers should bear the primary responsibility of monitoring student behavior and the filters would simply block obvious pornography sites.
Ah the good old days when we didn't have to worry about gambling, online games, facebook, myspace, twitter, and all that other stuff. Today the conversation is a bit longer, but I think the results should be about the same. The primary responsibility of monitoring the students should fall on the heads of the teacher. The filters should block only the sites that violate school codes. Social networking, games, etc they can sometimes offer quality educational value and should not be blocked.
I never really understood those teachers who would complain about the excessive filters in place at schools. I just didn't realize how troublesome those filters could be. As a responsible adult I have used my access to the Internet in a responsible fashion. Over the years I have developed what they call a personal learning network (PLN). These folks, whom I usually contact on twitter or through the blogosphere, have taught me more in the last two years than in my first four years of teaching.
Suddenly, at a new job in a new district, I am cut off from my PLN. Twitter is blocked, almost every website with the word blog in the title is blocked. Even a site by the name betterlesson.org is blocked.
It's like I am back in my first teaching assignment in my own classroom. The kids enter, the door shuts, and I'm alone with 30 children and my lesson plans. What happens if we are getting off track in a math discussion and a student asks about the circle proof. Will it be blocked? Will I have to do a quick search of my blogroll to find the information? Can I find what I need?
Worse that that what if I'm planning for the next day and I want to tap into the combined wisdom of my PLN? How do I do that? I don't have phone numbers and emails, I have blogs and @usernames, besides am I going to call 400 names, many of whom live outside my home country? How would those 400 phone calls go anyway? Excuse me do you have any information on circle proofs? NO, ok, wait yes, ok can you email it to me. No I can't go to your blog it's blocked.
Listen, I don't care if a couple of years ago some idiot brought a laptop in with a virus and you had to spend hours on the phone removing our webservers from spam filters. I don't care that the forms on some sites could actually be phishing scams. I don't care that this might increase the workload on over burdened IT professionals. What I do care about is being able to do my job, and right now you are hamstringing your running back. So let me read education blogs, watch youtube videos, and yes chat with my friends and colleagues on twitter.