It seems the only time I’ve had to blog this summer has been while on airplanes. Not exactly how I had my summer planned, but family and friends come first when you have a years worth of conversations to have in a 6 week period. So, another in flight blog entry from 36000 feet above the Pacific Ocean

Before I left Seattle I had a chance to sit down with Mark Ahlness a 3rd grade teacher in the Seattle area. I met Mark through the Class Blogmeister Yahoo group. We talked about meeting up back in May and I’m glad we found a common time to sit down over a beer and talk about education in Washington State, blogging, and interesting enough filtering.

I could feel Mark’s frustrations from across the table when talking about filtering and some of the tactics his school district has employed to try and keep students safe on the web. By the end of the conversation we came to the realization that most students in America are censored more than the citizens of China. Yet it’s China and the “Super Filter” that makes the pages of the local paper and not the fact that local students are censored to a point where teachers can’t even use the web for resources. Mark’s not the only teacher I talked to this summer who has filter frustrations. Three other teachers that I met had the same concern. One teacher trying to use technology in the classroom told me they tried to use the Internet for an assignment and it was “A complete waste of time.” Here is a teacher trying to using the technology and because good education sites are being blocked has come to the conclusion that the Internet is useless for her and her students. A shame.

My fear is with DOPA things won’t be getting better any time soon. One thing about only coming back to the States for a couple weeks every summer is you get an outsiders view of how things change and the pace it which they change. I knew how popular myspace was getting by reading blogs, newspapers, etc. But it wasn’t until I was home this summer and realized that almost every radio station I listened to had a myspace profile and that some billboard ads had myspace addresses on them. It was then that I realized how popular myspace has become. All of this is one year’s time. I talked with a student at Western Washington University in the Elementary Ed program who showed me a picture of his girlfriend by bring up a picture he had of her on his facebook account. “I won’t use myspace” he said “Myspace is to commercialize we like facebook a lot more.” By WE he was referring to most of WWU students. “Everyone I know has a facebook account…some changed from myspace because it’s just too much.” He’s 22 years old and just finishing his first year in the Elem. Ed program. My word of advice to him: Keep using facebook and find ways to incorporate tools like that into your teaching. He looked at me kind of funny. I just smiled and said, “We’ll talk more later.” :)

My point is this stuff is everywhere and students are not accessing it at school. Sure you can put a filter on your schools Internet and for 7 out of 24 hours a day students won’t be able to access the web they use (That’s about 30% of their day we make students disconnect from their world). But for the other 17 hours of a day the students have access to the real web. The web of social tools that allow you to vote for your favorite song, chat with your friends, and view the latest video on youtube. The question I keep asking myself is: Are we educating our students to be active, productive members of our society? Which is what the public education system was originally created for was it not? I would hope that in this day in age we could actually change that to be “…member of a global society?” Nevertheless to be an active, productive member in today’s society means that you understand how myspace works, how to communicate via the web, and learn how to successfully navigate the informational landscape. Can we teach those skills in a bubble of a protected Internet that does not mirror the true nature of the web? One of my best lessons is using martinlutherking.org as an example that you can’t trust a web site just because it looks professional. Could I still do this lesson behind the filter of a public school? I sure hope so.

Here’s another scary thing I just thought of. As a teacher I would start assigning web homework, knowing that students had more access to information from their homes then they do from school. Here’s the scary part. I would be sending them home where I could not monitor what they were looking at and what they were reading, yet I would have to in order to have them complete assignments. We have to send students home to a completely 100% unfiltered, unsupervised web in order to use information. Way to go DOPA!

One thing is for sure, I’ll think twice before complaining about the Chinese filter again. Sure we can’t view blogspot or wikipedia and a small handful of other sites but in the grand scheme of things it is a very small percentage of the web that it actually filtered. I’d take the Chinese filter over what some public schools are doing any day!

Picture from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alidasphotos/27537048/

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2 Comments

  1. Jeff, yes it was great to get together and chat. The filtering issue in schools is critical. To the point that there is no need to even have discussions about the wonders of web 2.0. If you can’t get there, what’s the point? Well, that’s my perspective right now, from my little corner of the US. David Warlick has just posted a very politic “don’t burn bridges” piece for how teachers can get what they want from the people running the filters. I need to bite my tougue and lock away my laptop for a bit…

    All the best in your new school year. Good luck on your to do list! – Mark

  2. Hey Jeff and Mark, this is a great point! I’m hoping to get invited into several local school districts this year for seminars on web safety for school kids and the opportunities for blogs, wikis, and web2.0 to change learning as we know it. I’d like to incorporate your China filtering example as a powerful way of showing just how restrictive we are, and how nutty we’re getting about all of this. Thanks, Barry

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