Would You Please Block?

Ever since we opened up lots more of the Internet in our school district earlier this year, the district has received several requests from teachers and other staff to block resources that are distractions in the classroom.  I’ve written a stock response to those requests that I thought might be worth sharing.  It’s my hope that their requests and the conversations that come from this response lead to changes in classroom practice.

Here it is:

Thanks for your question.  When we implemented our new filter this school year, we looked at all the things we were currently blocking, what things were required to be blocked by law, and what we were blocking that we shouldn’t be.

What we’ve decided is that we will no longer use the web filter as a classroom management tool.  Blocking one distraction doesn’t solve the problem of students off task – it just encourages them to find another site to distract them.  Students off task is not a technology problem – it’s a behavior problem.  It is our intention that we help students to learn the appropriate on-task behaviors instead of assuming that we can use filters to manage student use.  Rather than blocking sites on an ad hoc basis, we will instead be working with folks to help them through computer and lab management issues in a way that promotes student responsibility.  We know that the best filters in a classroom or lab are the people in that lab – both the educational staff monitoring student computer use as well as the students themselves.

This opens up possibilities for students and staff using websites for instructional purposes that in the past were blocked due to broad category blocks.  It requires that staff and students manage their technology use rather than relying on a third party solution that can never do the job of replacing teachers monitoring students.

That said, we will still block sites that are discovered to violate CIPA requirements.  If you discover one, please do not hesitate to share it with us.  Also, if you discover a site that shouldn’t be blocked, please pass that along so that we can open it up.

I hope this makes sense.  I’d be happy to speak further with you if you have further comments or questions.

How do you talk to folks in your districts about your Internet (un)filtering?

101 thoughts on “Would You Please Block?

  1. I love your response Bud. Your clearly worded, non-confrontational letter is just wonderful. I also especially like that you are asking not only for sites that might be illegal or against school division policy to be sent in, but that you are also asking instructors to be on the lookout for valuable sites with educational value that should NOT be blocked. I think that is extremely important to ask for too. It shifts the perspective for the instructor and has the power to alter their point of view on internet blocking. Thanks so much for sharing this!!

    (I’ve referred to your post in one of my own on my blog site and I also plan on forwarding your response to my colleagues and IT department too.)
    Link to my blog: http://michelleclarkepc.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/new-media-literacies-and-internet-blocking-mutually-exclusive-concepts/
    .-= Michelle Clarke´s last blog ..New Media Literacies and Internet Blocking… mutually exclusive concepts? =-.

  2. Great points! I wonder if teachers shouldn’t be teaching kids about the content on inappropriate sites that we don’t want them visiting in the first place. We should try to avoid students from forming their own ideas about “inappropriate” content and rather teach kids why sites are inappropriate to access at school and at home. It seems impossible to filter out content so instead of fighting against it we should work with it but from an educational perspective.

  3. I was very interested in seeing this article or comment appear as one of the readings for eci831. Filtering has been a constant issue within our school setting. Since I started working here many sites have been banned from student use. A common complaint amongst the student population is the issue of not being able to fully research certain topics due to words that prompt a ban on the particular site that they are trying to access.

    My views on filtering are the same as some of the points that you outlined. “Blocking one distraction doesn’t solve the problem of students off task – it just encourages them to find another site to distract them. Students off task is not a technology problem – it’s a behavior problem.” I remember teaching a highschool class and one of the assignments was to do reserach on a particular topic. The students were not able to access certain sites but found other ways to get there. Further to that the chat sites were blocked but a new one would be found within days. I think that its up to the teachers or instructors to manage their classrooms and to show appropriate ways of researching on the internet.

    “It requires that staff and students manage their technology use rather than relying on a third party solution that can never do the job of replacing teachers monitoring students.” (Hunt) I believe that schools and districts need to look at and rely on the teachers to fully monitor what is going on in their labs. Filtering does allow some of the monitoring to go on but sometimes to an excess. I look at the program that we have installed in our computers and get frustrated when I can even access youtube. Within our school system a policy regarding computer use needs to be set up to ensure that all staff are aware of the do’s and don’ts of computer use and the internet.

  4. Excellent blog post! We’ve heard all this before but your to-the-point words speak volumes to both concerned teachers and heavy-handed admins. Thanks, Bud.

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