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« Fall Odds and Ends | Main | In defense of postliteracy »
Saturday
Sep202008

Venting's just one piece

The post Ranting: School Internet Filtering appeared recently on the Informania blog. The school library media specialist author begins:
My district has a new filtering program and I guess they are trying to get their money’s worth because they continue to block sites - not just daily, but hourly.
The author lists several egregious filtering abuses and recognizes:
As an educator, my job is to prepare students to function in the real world.  The real world doesn’t filter web sites. This seems to be a bit of a problem to me.
And concludes:
Ranting is done - for now. 
Send blood pressure medicine.

Ah, I can almost feel the author's relief of getting that out of her system! Many librarians and teachers will identify completely. The post was well-written and her case well-made.

But...

I hope her vent was not the final action she, or any of us, take when Internet filters are abused in our schools. I offered Informania some suggestions in response to her blog entry:

  1. The first line of your post attributes these actions to a “they” - “they are trying to get their money’s worth because they  continue to block sites”. Do you know who the “they” is and if not, you should find out. Could it be the smoking man? A vast right-wing conspiracy? Space aliens bent on mind-control and world domination? Or is it a single tech who is probably out-stepping his/her authority in making these decisions?

  2. Have a visit with the "they." Ask for a clear policy statement about what is blocked and the basis for the decisions. Ask if there is an appeal process for unblocking. Ask (or find out) who this person's supervisor might be.

  3. With either the person in charge of the filter or his/her supervisor, lobby for filtering policies to be determined by a district tech committee and then become a member. Censorship is far too easy when decisions are  made by a single individual, no matter how well-intentioned, than by a range of stakeholders that reflect the educational community’s wider values.

Those who vent feel better after doing so - myself included. But venting itself is only a small piece of the change puzzle and alone doesn’t do much to help the students and teachers in our schools who may be in a venting mood themselves. Don't let venting be your first and only response when change is needed.

Image created using dumpr http://www.dumpr.net/ Thanks, Kathy Schrock!

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Reader Comments (7)

Ranting is a great way to get fired up to "do the right thing". Record everything you see as wrong/outrageous/backward thinking etc.. Next study the other side of the issue, adjust your ideas if need be....then get busy and do something.

Our School Library System is forming a committee to draft a position statement with regard to the blocking of Web 2.0 tools. We hope to meet with the "powers that be" in charge of our system wide filtering software and see if we can find some sort of compromise.

It is interesting to note that EduTech ( the folks in charge of our system's internet connection) consistently say their filtering decisions are dictated by the school superintendents, while our library system council's administrative rep (a superintendent) says that he (and others) frequently request filter reforms and are consistently turned down. Obviously, reps from all involved parties need to be involved - librarians, superintendents, classroom teachers, building tech coordinators, AND EduTech. At the very least, a clear "chain of command" should be developed and widely (and frequently) shared with everyone. I will probably post about our progress now and then at Wanderings...

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie Henry

I agree that venting alone will not solve problems. What you have forgotten, though, is that the people who are above the "they-who-filter" usually know little to nothing about edtech. As a result, there is complete trust in they-who-filter as that is their proxy. It does little or no good for a teacher, librarian, or other staff member to talk the supervisors about the censorship. They have already endorsed that stance and will do whatever they-who-filter suggest.

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Science Goddess

Doug,

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I did feel better after getting it out of my system, but the venting did not solve the problem I was describing.

I already have it in my "to do list" for tomorrow to contact our Superintendent of Instruction to discuss the matter with her. I want to know who is overseeing Internet filtering, and if there is not a committee, suggest one. If there is, I will request to meet them. If there is not, I will volunteer to be on a committee.

A secondary result of the blocking of my LMC web site was just a general letdown. The Master's of Library and Information Science program at the University of South Carolina is wonderful and has led me to discover how to incorporate Web 2.0 tools into our curriculum. But, after the blocking incident earlier this week, I felt so discouraged - if the LMC web site was blocked, how on earth would I be able to encourage others to expand their teaching strategies using 2.0 tools? What's to guarantee that a tool I spend convincing a teacher to use will even be available tomorrow for their class to use as planned?

Those of us who are "charged" with the task of implementing more technology into the classroom cannnot lie down and let the powers above us determine what is and is not of instructinoal value. If we do not take the time and make the effort to educate others and be an advocate for our students, then who will? In the end, as always, it is our students who end up being cheated out of opportunities to connect learning to their lives.

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFran

@ Jacquie,

Your argument is a good one for why filtering decisions need to stay as local as possible. The further way from those being impacted by a policy are, the easier it is to make a poor policy.

I would still insist on a written policy on how filtering decisions are made and the steps for an appeal to a filtering decision!

Doug

@Science Goddess, I am surprised by the fatalism of your comment! So this is an impossible situation to change?

I agree that unwarranted trust is placed by some administrators in techs, but I also find that most are educateable as well. And being an expert in technology maintenance and support is not the same as being an expert in technology policy-making?

Any means of addressing this problem beyond throwing up one's hands and admitting defeat?

Doug

@ Fran,

Thanks for being a good sport about this. Like I said in my post, I am sure your comments resonate with many, many librarians and teachers and you gave voice for everyone. I hope your next actions are useful. Let us know on your blog if you have any success. Or if not, let's brainstorm other tactics.

Thanks again, good luck and keep in touch!

Doug

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thank you FRAN for representing SC so eloquently! Thank you Doug for helping bring not only attention, but VERY VIABLE steps, arguments, and possible solutions we CAN use/do to address a really big problem that I'm sure is everywhere. When reading posts like Fran's, yours, and others, it makes me realize how lucky I am to work in my district (where I know exactly who that go-to person is.) No, I cannot say we have a committee or even for sure how what is filtered is selected. But since I do have a direct line to request reconsideration, I feel luckier than most. In light of banned books week coming, perhaps we should consider a week of bringing recognition to unnecessarily filtered content. Our slogan could be "I read filtered findings" or "I hunger for blocked bytes!" Maybe a student targeted one called "Proxy Princes bring Privileged Pages." Oh my I see a poster coming from this--perhaps even a DJ special?

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson

Hi Cathy,

While you are fortunate now to have a personal connection to the person who makes the filtering decisions, you still should insist on a written policy. Personnel changes won't equate into policy changes that way.

I like your Banned Bytes week! I am always grumping at ALA that their Intellectual Freedom efforts are all about books when they should be spending as much or more effort on banned online resources.

See:
http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2008/2/16/have-we-met-the-enemy.html

Yes. I am stealing your idea!

Doug

September 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks for this great post on venting about internet filtering, and for inspiring and responding to the excellent comments that follow. I link to your post in my blog entry, http://cjpeterso.edublogs.org/2010/02/20/internet-filtering/, and found in my research, too, that it really is time to stop blaming "them" and work collectively as educators to change filtering policies in our districts.

February 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

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