On blocking and banning and somesuch by Bill MacKenty

This is a great post shared by Bill MacKenty on his blog.
http://www.mackenty.org/index.php/comments/on_blocking_and_banning_and_somesuch/

via Bill Mackenty by Bill on 10/13/10


On blocking and banning and somesuch

I’ve never liked the idea of blocking or filtering. My students will be living in a digital world; they need to learn how to communicate in it. They need to learn digital literacy. Basic skills in being safe, appropriate communication, boundaries, the commercial aims of many social networking sites. They need to learn how to be in a digital world.

I don’t think filtering or blocking helps students learn, I think it actually prevents them from learning how to live and learn in a digital world. I understand as a school, we have a duty to keep students safe; we also have a duty to teach them. Herein lay the balance schools must maintain.

We /do/ block sites that are unquestionably bad – adult, openly illegal*, violent, and sites that could harm your computer. But many sites are not unquestionably bad; nor are they unquestionably good. And this is where we need to tread carefully.

One other point: it is not impossible to bypass filters. Kids are rather clever about getting around these things, and with the rise of handheld smartphones, schools can do very little to prevent a student from logging onto facebook, posting a picture or movie, or accessing the internet.

I dont thing removing access is a good thing.

What’s good about facebook

Facebook is popular. The Whitehouse has a facebook page, the UK Parliment, every major political candidate has a facebook page, every major corporation hasd a facebook page. Any social cause you can think of has facebook page. Colleges and Universities use facebook to communicate and stay in touch with applicants and students. Teachers use facebook because it is so easy to communiate with their students (teachers should use a separate facebook account, though). Many teachers report joy in staying in touch with their students over the years.

Let me repeat: facebook is so popular because it is easy to stay in touch and communicate. It is a major vehicle for communication and collaboration.

But it’s not all good, is it?

Facebook can distract students from learning (unless you are learning something on facebook). Facebook has numerous add-on and games that can distract students from work. There are privacy concerns related to facebook. There are add-ons and modules to facebook that make it easy for kids to say very hurtful things to each other. If a student exercises poor judgement, they can be quite embarassed. Fads, half-truths, and even lies can be very quickly passed around to a large group of people.

Not all that different from doodling on a piece of paper or a bad day on the playground.

What should schools do?

Schools need to engage in a genuine partnership with parents. We need to educate parents about the internet and technology. We need to share what we see and hear. We need to share our professional expertise with parents and help them make wise decisions about technonology and their kids.

But I don’t think we should think of ourselves as parents. I think we should think of ourselves as teachers. Hard lines need to be drawn in the world, but you need to be careful when you draw them. Our job is to develop kids, to support them and to encourage intellectual curiousity and learning. I’m not sure completely blocking access to a popular site fits into that model.

Where can parents look for help?

Click here for Google’s family internet safety.
Click here for Microsoft’s parent safety guide.
Click here for Facebook safety tips for parents
Click here for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre
Click here for netSmartz

* even this is tricky; is blocking a site which protests against a law appropriate? If we looked at some legalize marijuana sites, we would see advocating marijuna. Should we block that?

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