Working With a Bad Foundation

In the comments to my post last week about the wholesale blocking of blogging sites by schools, two visitors left long, thoughtful notes to let me know just how full of crap I am. (At least Patrick knows to compliment the host before letting fly. :-)

Both commentaries criticized me for taking what they saw as a very simplistic view of the situation, that we cannot allow students to have “unfiltered access to adult spaces” when there are many disciplinary and legal issues involved for schools, teachers and administrators.

I’ve never been a fan of internet filters, mostly because they don’t work and tend to offer teachers and parents a false sense of security. But as I’ve said before, they are necessary to catch the really bad stuff.

Most blogs, though, are not the really bad stuff. They represent the thoughts and ideas – of all stripes – that used to be expressed primarily in limited communications. Now these conversations are open for all to participate. Welcome to life in the 21st century.

However, there’s a bigger problem here: the structure of the American education system as a whole, something I rant about regularly. And Miguel, in the response posted on his blog, offers a quote which supports that very point.

It may be that the reason there is less use of technology for instructional purposes by the nation’s K-12 teachers is not resistance to change or lack of teacher training. The root cause may indeed be the inappropriateness of trying to layer technology on top of an obsolete education system.
Source: Email message on WWWEDU by Dr. Patrick Greene, Florida Gulf Coast University

An idea that is expressed even better by David Warlick:

No generation in history has ever been so thoroughly prepared for the industrial age.

The basic structure of our system for teaching and learning has not really changed in more than half a century. In blocking blog sites, schools are just doing what they’ve always done. Educational institutions are organized to maintain an island of academia separated as much as possible from the real world.

So, while I certainly understand the realities of what schools face on a day to day basis, in this virtual space I get to advocate for the way I think things should be. And, in response to the challenge posed by both Patrick and Miguel, the only way to change an intrenched institution like education, is to work from the inside. Please don’t think I’m not doing just that.

As a sidenote, I’d like to thank Miguel, not just for the criticism (I really do appreciate feedback of all kinds) but for his post Brief Guide to Starting with Linux that I found while exploring his site. Just the information I’ve been looking for. Ain’t the web great? :-)

education, blogging, web filters

4 Comments Working With a Bad Foundation

  1. Tom Hoffman

    There really is a ton of flat out porn on blogspot and flickr for that matter. Not that I’ve ever seen any of it myself. But I’m not sure you can have a policy of filtering porn without eventually blocking those.

  2. Richard Koman

    as far as flickr goes, the question is not whether the porn exists, but rather whether it is reasonably possible for kids to access it. search for any number of standard dirty words on flickr, you will come up empty. while i have no doubt it’s there, if its that hard to get to, it’s a non-issue, imo.


  3. Ted Gardella

    Seems to me after this week, (my own 13 year old son was the target of phot postings and modifications on Photobucket) that I am more concerned about the ability to create and modify digital content, and then electronically post this content without any kind of legal release form. A subtle form of Cyber bullying – take a picture of a classmate at school, doctor it with photoshop, post it on photobucket and link it to myspace or elsewhere. No release for publication … and with some of the photo galleries being public, anyone can and does view it. Photobucket radically altered their tos this week – wonder why?

    Yes, we are digital immigrants. Yes, the natives are restless. Does anyone really want to cede policy decisions to 13 year olds? I was one, I taught them for 15 years, and now I am parenting one. I can’t think of a group that I would less want to have in charge of any kind of educational policy setting – and I help districts cope with NCLB for a living!

  4. Tim

    I have no interest in turning control of education (or anything else) over to 13 year olds. However, we need to realize that teachers and principals are no longer in full control either.

    What we now need to figure out is how to find a balance between the two extremes. I doubt that compromise is going to fit comfortably in the traditional educational structure we’ve been clinging to for fifty years.

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