Sometimes I get a question that leads to an answer that’s a bit of a surprise.
For example, last week someone from our public relations office wanted to know who was in charge of teaching internet safety for the school system.
He wasn’t looking for any of the school-based trainers we work with. He wanted the name of the person directing the whole thing, someone who could speak for the whole system to a newspaper reporter (definitely not me :-).
I made the mistake of referring him to someone in our department of instruction. It only made sense. This, I thought, was a problem involving teaching and learning. I was wrong.
If I had thought about the way our beaurcracy views the whole issue of internet safety, I would have landed on the answer much faster.
In the minds of our district leaders, the internet is a technology – and any problem with it must have a technological solution. Therefore, internet safety is the responsibility of the technology department.
As with most systems, the people running the show see the answer to keeping students from interacting with bad stuff on the net is to have a device block it (we call it “filtering”).
Helping students, teachers, and parent learn how to safely use the web, well, that’s an option, a nice add-on that a school might use. If they are interested. And have time.
The problem, however, is that those electronic filters don’t work.
Most will keep out the worst of the web, the nasty pictures, vile language and the like. But the software still allows through large amounts of inaccurate information, meaningless chatter, and just plain crap.
And that’s where the real internet filtering starts. Or should. Safely using the web is a problem with an educational solution that, in our overly large school district, the schools can choose to ignore.