So I’m not sure if this is the best online etiquette, but I feel compelled to share an e-mail I got from a long-time edblogger this morning with some really disturbing news. Basically, without warning, his district blocked internal access to all of his student blog and podcasting sites.
This afternoon, my district…officially blocked all of my 150 student blogs – both my online magazine and my 100 student blogs for my classroom. The urls you put in your book will work anywhere in the world except in my school, and maybe China.
Now that in itself is pretty ridiculous when you take it at face value. But it’s even worse when you understand, as this teacher does, that they’re not just blocking blogs. They’re blocking a community of learners and an innovative educator who are making great use of these tools. He says:
The blogs have energized my classroom this year. We’ve had over 11,000 hits to our student blogs and online magazine since October of last year. That’s 11,000 times that someone else is reading my students’ writing. We literally created a community of readers and writers.
And why did they do this?
As far as I can tell, the school’s technology officials had no valid reason for shutting me down. I have meticulously created the templates where we blog. I closely monitor all pages. None of the students are identified. Parents are aware of what we’re doing, and support it.
Surprised? I’m not. It’s becoming clear that we’re going to see this more and more, and while I’ll bet the district is going to raise the safety defense, it really has much more to do with losing control than anything else.
But what we have here, it seems, is also an opportunity for parents to stand up and come to the defense of good pedagogy. (What a concept…) And that might be a first. Isn’t it about time we read a newspaper or magazine article where parents and teachers and students are advocating for the learning that comes with less control rather than the ignorance that comes with ratcheting it up?
Updates as they come in…
Brad Hicks says
That just stinks.
I was talking to a collegue from my school, which I’m on leave from at the moment, yesterday about how the school now has very heavy restrictions on what can be accessed by kids over the internet. This is an Education Department run site-blocking system that is now in place in most state schools in Western Australia. When my colleague asked the on-site network administrator about unblocking some sites he was simply told “there’s nothing I can do about it”. The blocking notice page does have a request form for a block to be removed for a particular site, but when I asked my colleague about using that he said that he had tried on several occassions but that no action seemed to have been taken on his requests. Probably just disappeared into some administrative black hole.
Another school in the area has reportedly gone as far as blocking students from downloading any types of media files. As a teacher of multimedia subjects, hearing this sort of thing just frustrates the hell out of me. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have some filtering but it now seems to have reached a level that is blocking legitimate educational use by students.
Considering, in my opinion, that as a school system we are still very behind in the implementation of ICT, this sort of blanket action over internet content will only serve to obstruct teachers and discourage the use of ICT in the classroom. Again it seems to have come down to the blame denominator. The system doesn’t want to have the finger pointed at it if a student does access something controversial or inappropriate. How about we actually have the opportunity to teach them to be discerning users of this technology? And also take some responsibility as teachers to monitor what our students are doing in class. It’s really no different than when a student snuck a Playboy magazine into class 20 years ago, the teacher needs to be aware of what’s going on in the classroom, not have each kid frisked and bag checked at the school gate.
That breaks my heart, especially after reading some of the students’ work. Maybe I’ll homeschool. Seriously, what would a Read/Write Web curriculum look like? How much fun would it be? I can think of a few things we’ve done recently. There’s an ant farm, the boat experience, writing in blogs on our snow day. So much we could do.
This is what happens when you have non-educators making decisions. Whether it’s politicians or techies who have never been in the classroom, people with no experience teaching have no business making decisions about what’s best for our schools. We’re fighting this same fight in my district with our tech department about sites that are blocked.