Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To Filter or Not to Filter

In schools today, technology is such a key source of information that we not only use it daily, we rely on it for our day to day activities. Given that dependence on our digital contact, what role does filtering play for both our adults and students?

Some will indicate a clear need to drop the walls and let our conscious guide us. Over at Dangerously Irrelevant, it is clear what many are thinking. http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2009/09/we-trust-you-with-the-children-but-not-the-internet.html

Others will cry that we need to clamp down on the junk that we expose people to through this medium. Where is the balance between free access and appropriate use?

Reactions:

16 comments:

Kastendieck said...

Filtering conputers in a school environment can be a topic with lots of individuals on both sides of the fence. I just watched a Youtube Video called "Tracy - Epic Fail @ Internet Filtering (Computer Chronicles) that gives an example of a filter that can be purchased and used on a home computer. It did not reference education but begs the question is this what schools are buying? One size fits all filters and blocks? Are there educators in these companies that create and sell the filters, or at least are they asking advice from educatiors. One filter or block does not fit all especially in education.

Marshall said...

I would agree that this is one of the major hurdles that we are facing. If we could somehow filter what we want and how we want on a local basis, much of the argument against filtering subsides as we can get to content rich information. I think it also limits the argument for filtering as we can eliminate the generally unwanted material that most find offensive and/or problematic. The "one size" is the issue as you stated. When great authors and artists are blocked as a whole because of one phrase or painting, there is a whole new set of problems we are facing.

Kastendieck said...

An interesting side-bar...had a DJ setting up for a High School dance. wanted to know from a staff member why his lap top was blocked. He needed to resource a song list on line and could not. By asking the staff member how to go around the block or access their non block site he was told even the staff are blocked. The DJ was shocked that teachers were blocked and wanted to know if they used internet to teach students. He understood the need to block students but could not grasp the need to block staff. I wonder what public opinion would say?

Marshall said...

Would the public opinion correlate to their own work place? People that have filters would expect the school to be filtered for adults as well, but those that are open would expect open adult access at school too?

Kastendieck said...

Job place filtering is subject to the job that is to be done.
Businesses that are production oriented filter social networks and other non productive sites such as on-line purchases and gambling to enhance product outcome. Businesses that are service related may do the same but not a complete filter so as not to block key sites useful to the employees’ job duties. A bank would not filter out money managing sites along with Facebook. A hospital would not filter out medical research because it involved a forum. Educators teach and use all resources available to provide updated curriculum and methods that relate to students and the educational pedagogy. This does involve social networks at times and access to sites that students should not have open access to. After talking to individuals in various non-educational jobs I find that they understand the differences in filters used in various employment settings and how it may differ from educational settings. A general consensus so far is that teachers should not be filtered from content that relates to education and students. That is the answer and the dilemma, what sites are not educationally worthy. I would like to see a filter that can be created and manipulated by staff, or perhaps and group of staff members. One filter for all is not the answer. When 9 out of 10 art sites are blocked there is something wrong and I know most of the public would agree.

Marshall said...

New stuff on DI that you may like. I thought these last two posts were insightful.

Kastendieck said...

Article that I found that answers a lot of questions about filtering. I do not agree with all of it but it is really worth reading. Now the question begs what filtering service is used by the school district that you work or your students attend. How to find out that information. Who decides on the filtering purchase and how is it evaluated. With school budgets being tightened maybe filtering services can be reviewed and perhaps even not renewed. Maybe we should do like the article suggested....
http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/12_04/net.shtml
"Critics of filtering software make two main points. First, school districts and public libraries need to be aware of how filtering works -- that it blocks out any number of legitimate sites and, conversely, often fails to block "indecent" sites. Second, particularly for schools, using filters may be at the expense of the more educationally sound practice of teaching kids how to responsibly use and evaluate the Internet. (This article focuses on filtering software; an equally important issue for school districts is developing "Appropriate Use Policies" that govern a range of Internet issues, from student use of e-mail, to recreational versus educational use of the Internet at school, to disciplinary actions when Internet policies are violated. One of the most important issues is teaching children safety issues on the Internet -- for example, that they should never give out their name, phone number, or address to strangers on the net.)"

Marshall said...

Generally I would agree. The more open the better. However, just saying to teach the kids is more difficult than it would appear. Remember that most teachers (especially in the HS level) are behind their students significantly in terms of technology skills and awareness. Trust is still an issue. I have said many times, and I still believe, "part of most students' job in school is to see how far they can push the rules" and educators need to expect that will happen.

Marshall said...

I probably left that last post hanging without re-stating that it does seem rediculous that we end up filtering OUT more than we leave IN with pretty basic searches. It does all depend upon what the desired outcome is, but we need to realize that we are also really limiting the tools we have by doing this. It's still a balancing act.

Kastendieck said...

since the idea of this blog site is to beat the dead horse...why not this idea, graduated filtering by grade level. I have not read about that idea yet, but I am sure it is out there. One size fits all does not work never has so thinking logically it makes sense that what a elementary student can have access to is different from what an 18 year old senior in high school should have access to. Okay how to do it? A freshman could access a seniors internet site just by asking or scooting his/her chair over. I do agree it is a balancing act and an act I do not have to inforce at this time in my career, so discussing options is easy. Still I do feel that teaching staff should not be filtered. Trust is an issue and if a staff member cannot be trusted to be professional with internet access they are not being professional in other areas as well. How to find misuse before it gets out of hand might be difficult but is it not also hard to find other non- professional conduct that does not deal with computers. I just have an issue with punishing everyone for a mistake made by one or a few. Filtering staff seems to do just so and at what educational cost?

Marshall said...

Agreed. Faculty should have it wide open. Responsible adults should be able to make their own decision and live with the results and consequences of any mis-behavior personally, not as a group. That said, some of the filtering is for simplicity and protection that we all seek - spam, junk e-mail, etc. come to mind, but that really isn't on the internet search issue. Based on the technology I don't know if we can split the two, but it seems that should be possible.

Here's another conversation that makes sense. Gives a real perspective to the whole thing in my humble opinion.
http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2009/10/your-technology-coordinator-works-for-you-not-the-other-way-around.html

Marshall said...

I do think that the graduated access is a good idea. Hadn't heard that before, but it makes sense on so many levels. I'm not even sure that it matters to divide Freshmen from Seniors, but the ES, MS, HS, Adult divisions would make a lot of sense.

Kastendieck said...

Here is another thought...
How much do we know about our staff and their on-line needs?
How much do we know about our students and their on-line needs?
How much do we know about our parents and their on-line needs?
How much do we know about our school district community and their on-line needs?
There alwasy seem to be 30 minute discussions and then decisions are made or not made.
What would happen if we had actual data on sites visited in reference to school curriculum, sites visited as to social networks, and misc. sites. This data could be used to decide policy, purchases (filters or services), and even to add to Iowa Core Curriculum and 21st century skills documentation.
So back to the question of filtering. Filtering should involve some kind of data collection that is relevent to the school district being filtered.
The data could be collected during in-service days and analyzed during the same in-service activities. What an idea for meaningful higher level thinking activities that would engage.

Marshall said...

Always good to be data-driven. I wonder if that data currently exists in history or if it is something we would need to create. If it isn't factual or history-based, would it be accurate ("no, I don't visit game sites at work")?

Kastendieck said...

I would thinkg that the data already exists and just needs to be pulled out of the system that already filters. If a students web sites can be pulled up I know from experience that anyone on staff can also. So what kind of program could pull that data up and put it in a useful format to evaluate. I alwasys say that if I can think of it I guarantee that a computer specialist knows how to do it. The first thing would be to contact the filtering and blocking company and request information on what we have just suggested. E-mail can sort by date, subject, and person. Same thing don't you think?

Marshall said...

I would think that the data is there too and that with all that can be done there is a way to better monitor and customize it. After spending 4 days, however, trying to get to my own post (yeah this one), I'm not sure that by thinking of it the tech can always do it. Maybe someone, but if they don't happen to be our person, it really limits it. Our local tech has worked on it, but there are still some huge glitches and restraints that sholdn't be there.

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