Teachers as filters

Check out this suggestion from Mitch Wagner A Simple Fix for Internet Censorship in Schools  Simply stated: Give teachers a code to override the filter when a site is blocked that teachers want students to go to. It seems easy enough and I do not see how it would violate CIPA. I do not buy the negativity in the comments about time wasted. I waste enough time testing sites I want students to access to see if they are blocked and then trying to find work arounds or alternatives. I would gladly take the time in my room to type in a code to override the filter.

If each teacher had their own code then it could be monitored for abuse (the main abuse I would predict is students “stealing” a teacher’s code by watching them type it in) and IT could change the codes if neccessary. Teachers could use their login code that they already have.

Ideally filters would just be opened up for students but as many districts are reluctant to do this using the teacher in the room to judge whether content is “safe” and “educational” is much better than some computer algorithm.

Any IT people out there want to share a problem with this concept? The only drawback I can see from this philosophy is if one does not trust teachers.

Thanks to @anderscj for the link to this article. 

10 thoughts on “Teachers as filters

  1. Cyndi Danner-Kuhn

    Excellent post. I sure wish the school network Nazi’s would listen!

    The local school district where I live has the most extreme filtering I have ever been exposed to. In fact, they just changed their policy and it is locked down even more. Teachers have to fill out an extensive form asking permission and documents why they want to use a site. And to top it off, basically there is no guest access, I do a great deal of technology staff development and every time I do a session in a local school, the teacher has to fill out the lengthy form weeks in advance and get all kinds of signatures and wait for permission.

    I really feel for the teachers in this district. I suspect the result of the new form and policy will cause teachers to just stop using the technology.

    I teach in a College of Education and work with pre-service teachers. Sadly, these future teachers do not see examples of of technology integration in real classrooms.

  2. Kevin

    “I suspect the result of the new form and policy will cause teachers to just stop using the technology.”

    I think that is the intent. You can’t easily maintain an arcane lore in the presence of a free flow of information.

  3. John Spencer

    I feel this way constantly. Students know how to find proxy servers and they end up going on sites that are blocked. If I ask my class, “How do I go to Myspace?” half the hands will go up.

    Regarding passwords, you’re totally right about this. We aren’t supposed to let students know the password to our wireless network, but that has gone viral and now kids use their ipod touches and PSPs to go online.

    There is an underground side to technology that people at the top miss entirely.

  4. Kate Nowak

    Agree w/John – It seems like a great idea, but the passwords would get out. Also, sometimes they’re limited by their existing blocking software, and might have to buy some new package to have this capability. School IT types aren’t usually programmers, they just buy, install, configure, and administer commercial software.

    Also agree that many students know how to get around the filters with proxy sites. The only defense (here, anyway) is to take away students’ accounts when they are caught… Which means they can’t participate on the computers in class.

    I can see both sides of this. I can see how we should be teaching kids how to be safe and responsible online. But also if I was a parent, I don’t think I’d want my adolescent having unrestricted access to the Internet and all the potential depravity that goes with it. So then decisions have to be made about where to draw the line, and the judgment calls and arguments start.

  5. Dvora

    I worked at a private high school that went 1:1 and made the choice not to block rather than battle the students constantly to keep them from Facebook and the like. In the class we used tools like Synchroneyes to see where students were during class time and it all worked out pretty well.

  6. Ann Lusch

    I work in a private 1:1 school, too. Some things are blocked, but teachers are trusted. A simple e-mail to the IT guys (or a visit, since my office is just down the hall), and they will unblock a site that I need for a class.

    Our school also uses DyKnow (though I haven’t gotten into it yet, really), which allows teachers to decide what things to block for a particular class period. The idea here is not censorship, but helping to keep students focused on the matter at hand.

  7. Marc

    The password security is a foreseeable issue to this proposal. I love the idea overall. Several solutions could be used to combat this.

    1) Each teacher has a unique password that would allow for easy tracking if it appears that students do get their password.
    2). Mandatory password changes periodically.

  8. Paul R. Wood

    I think if you keep you parents involved and informed you can do a lot of things. We installed a wireless network this past summer and we allow our students to bring their own connectivity. iPod touches, Macs, PC laptops, smart phones if they want to connect for class we allow with a simple check of the machine for updated anti-virus. It has worked well. We do not filter youtube, Facebook, twitter, diigo, delicious and many others as we are only required to keep out the bad stuff. We continue communicating with our parents and asking questions of them as well as informing them. Teachers merely send me an email if they need something unblocked but most of it already is unblocked. Our departmental philosophy in IT is that the world is an unfiltered place, let’s teach best use and help the students find their “crap filter and use it.”

  9. concretekax

    Thanks for all of the feedback. My position is much the same as Marc’s points about individual teacher passwords that can be tracked. I have found in class when I get something opened up that it only takes one irresponsible student to abuse the system and get caught to discourage the others.

    The key is that I am able to monitor their blogs/backchannels/wikis etc. and identify immediately the culprit. This reinforces to everyone the importance of on-line etiquette and that they will not be allowed to misuse technology to bully or be inappropriate.

    In the same way the teacher who allows their password to be “used” by students and then is informed by IT would I hope would be embarrassed enough to be more careful in the future about protecting it.

    So the argument that the passwords will be stolen is just not good enough for me to throw out this idea, but is just smokescreen. For me it is about trusting teachers (or not as in most districts). If kids can already get around filters with proxies then why not let the adult in the room control the filter to allow legitimate learning?

    I agree with Paul that we need to teach students to be their own filter because in many cases no one is filtering what they view on-line at home or on their phones. I believe the other side of CIPA that schools neglect is the teaching of proper on-line behavior because it is easier just to block.

  10. Bud Hunt

    This is exactly what our school district does. Each staff member can override a filter with their computer login. That login is also their access for other systems, like email, which removes the likelihood that it’ll be shared. Filter or not, someone should be monitoring – face to face, not with another computer – what students are doing when they are at school.

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