wasting bandwidth since 1999

Trust People, Not Filters

Andy asks a very good question: Do Internet Filters Undermine the Teaching of 21st Century Citizenship?

By that, I don’t mean citizenship in terms of who has the right to vote. Instead, I was thinking of what’s sometimes referred to as active citizenship. This is the idea that we all have a role to play in improving the quality of life in our communities, whether through public service, charity, volunteering, civic participation, etc. We all possess the potential for creating valuable civic capital through our own good deeds, so the more we can do in our communities, the better off they’ll become.

He points out that a growing part of the perpetual presidential campaign and other civil discourse is being played out on Web 2.0 sites, URLs that more and more schools are choosing to block.

On Monday CNN will present a “debate” among the Democratic candidates using questions uploaded to YouTube. They’ll do the same for the Republicans in September.

If school were in session, none of our high school students would be able to view and discuss the videos submitted much less have the opportunity to upload their own.

Many of the candidates are posting their own videos to YouTube and establish pages on MySpace and Facebook as ways to reach younger voters or soon to be voters.

In our high schools, and I suspect many others, teachers would be blocked from using these resources to help students learn about how the new tools are affecting the political process.

Andy’s right that it boils down to trust.

Most politicians and many school administrators don’t trust the professional judgement of educators to select the materials that will best fit with what their students need to learn.

Beyond that, however, I think there’s also the issue of teachers themselves not advancing their own learning.

I hate to say it of my colleagues, but I believe that a large number of educators are afraid of this stuff, both the web and the perceived tech skills of their students.

And, as with many fears, it comes from a lack of knowledge, a lack of training.

But now we come full circle since that learning can’t happen if we insist on putting up electronic barriers (ones with many holes in them) in an attempt to keep the real world at bay.

internet filter, trust, education, teacher


  1. Peter Rock

    Giving students the freedom to make choices as to what they view on the web provides opportunities to teach and reflect upon responsibility. Filtering indicates mistrust. Mistrust is pedagogical poison.

  2. Jim Gates

    Good point. BUT.. did you read that Nigeria has decided to install all future $100 laptops with web filtering software? It seems that a 16 yr old’s interest in all things sex is not limited to just 16 yr olds in the US. And the adult men are now, let’s say.. distracted.. from their teaching duties because of the unrestricted Internet.

    Here’s more: http://pages.citebite.com/c1k9i8d1y4twk

  3. Tim

    I’m not totally opposed to filtering, Jim. There are certainly many web sites that should be blocked from the view of students for perfectly valid reasons, sex among them. I suspect the national government of Nigeria and many other countries would have a longer list than I would but that sometimes involves politics as well as morals.

    However, my big complaint here at home is with the way the technology is used as a substitute for good classroom management skills. Too often sites are blocked in our schools because of a fundamental lack of understanding.

    And, I hate to say it, also for a lack of willingness on the part of many teachers and administrators to learn how the tools kids use everyday in the outside world might be useful for teaching and learning.

  4. Brian B.

    Tim’s right – classroom management solves most off-task Internet behavior (it solves most off-task behavior period, whether the Internet is involved or not). Unfortunately, teachers have taken to using the technology as a baby sitter.

    Fear also plays a big part in filtering. Some people want to block porn, others think hate and discrimination sites should be blocked, and the IT guy/gal just wants to stop people from inadvertently downloading the latest virus. Its a political power game – from the feds to the local school board.

    A think a “reasonableness” standard should apply. A school should make a reasonable attempt to block porn and malicious code web sites. Then teachers should make sure students stay on task when using computers. No free-surf-the-Internet Time for students. Let them do that at home.

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