Jan 30, 2009

Filters? To teach or not to teach, that is the question.

“To not teach technology use responsibly is neglecting the charge of universal education.”
Don Knezek

The Problem:

Filters are supposed to be protecting school networks from malware and hackers, while also stopping access to inappropriate or offensive content. Those who believe that filters are protecting users are preventing those users from deciding for themselves which information they would or would not like to access (
Ryan, 2003). For example, filters are being used to keep a tight control over usage of certain applications like instant messaging, youtube, facebook and many sites that someone out there has deemed "dangerous." With filtering software, you don't know which sites are blocked or rated, you know some, but not all pre-programmed stoplists of words, phrases, sites, and topics deemed objectionable and these products are not created by educators (Schrader, 1999).

Other than filtering blatantly obvious sites that parents and educators would not want their children to come across, I think it is up to parents and teachers to teach students how to be responsible on the internet. It is the teachers job to preview sites before a lesson, the same as previewing videos before letting students watch them in class, and when students are on the internet, it is our job to supervise and to make sure students are able to be critical of information that they come across.

Why would we need provincial ministries to create web filtering standards for schools?

When I read "Patrolling Web 2.0, " I realized that it is the educators that need to make the decisions for our students, not the information specialists like Losinski, the author of this article. He claims that web 2.0 has "little or no value to education," and that social networking sites like MySpace and facebook are "sheer trouble," and these sites should be blocked. We don't need a policy or web standards to dictate where each and every individual can and cannot go when online.

We teach a curriculum that clearly strives to:

  • reflect the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes that Alberta students need to be well-prepared for future learning and the world of work
  • anticipate and plan for the needs of the future by considering the changes and developments in society, such as trends in employment, globalization, advances in technology and stewardship of the environment
  • provide learners with attitudes, skills and knowledge that will enable them to become engaged, active, informed and responsible citizens

The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the future, including lifelong learning and the world of work and as teachers we need to make sure students have the knowledge, skills and attributes to be successful (Alberta Learning). Therefore, we need to create critical thinkers and students who can evalute content. When students have free computer time in our school they know which sites, we as a school, have deemed acceptable. We value a safe and caring school, so students know that if they play on mini-clips, they cannot choose any games with weapons or violence. There are always those students that will test boundaries and there needs to be consequences. Whether they wear an offensive t-shirt to school or go to an offensive site, there are consequences in place. Our school doesn't need a policy to tell us where students can and cannot go when they are online. If students get lost by clicking an advertisement and it takes them deep into the net, they know how to get back "home" safely. They also know how to tell a teacher when something isn't right. They have learned to solve problems when on the internet and how to be responsible students.

The Solution:

The solution is pretty simple. We need more professional development so teachers can develop techniques for educating their students about responsible internet use (Villano, 2008). When teachers have the opportunity to try web 2.0 tools such as nings, facebook, and flikr, then they have the chance to see its educational benefits and teachable moments. They would quickly learn the digital culture that students are living in and would see how social networking can actually empower teens and be used as a learning tool on how to be smart and safe when using technology (Abram, 2007). Also, when teachers go surfing for information and come across questionable material, they learn how it happens and can teach students how to search safely and how to critique different sites. We don't need to censor and hide information, we need to teach responsibility and thinking skills. As Will Richardson says, "the only way to get teachers and students to master the web, is to let them use it" (Richardson, 2008).

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