edublogs being blocked!!!

In General on 23/11/2005 at 3:18 pm

Well, you know you’re doing something right if people start trying to stop you (I know this is an odd logic but it seems to be true in a bizarre way) I quote from two emails received when I sent out the first edublogs.org newsletter:

“I used your blog for a few weeks during Sept, Oct, however, the A-site of our school district has now blocked your blogs. Students can no longer use these for asynchronous discussions. Thank you for providing this service to educators. We appreciate everything you do for students everywhere.”

“Thanks for all you do!! Currently, I’m having some trouble accessing my edublog due to the censorship I have to put up with in my school district. I’ve literally been blocked from using it at the district level. I’ve written our district webmaster and asked for an explanation for this. Do you have any suggestions for me as to how to “get around” this problem?? I put a lot of work into my blog and want to use it with my students and parents.”

WTF???????

How to deal with this??? Any ideas???

Update: Looks like this is happening all over the place.

As far as I can see though, no-one is doing anything about it (apart from on an individual basis)… and you know what they say about collective vs. individual action!!!

So howabout it, I want to be part of something that stands against this ridiculous censorship in schools, that states clearly and unequivocally that he most important thing is to teach people to swim and that can clearly and unequivocally say to these educational establishments that what they are doing is WRONG and STUPID.

Are you with me?

  1. Write, write, write. Keep blogging. Keep speaking. Keep trying to get students using the technology to connect with others. Write to the gatekeepers through different channels and try to get them to see the light.

    Teachers can also blog about this censorship. Unfortunately by raising awareness of the problem, they put their jobs at risk. This is also a problem.

    Blogging isn’t dangerous and neither is conversation. It’s GOOD.

  2. Unbelievable… :O

  3. James, if the affected educators are Australian, then they fall under the auspices of Educonnect who provide internet connection (and filtering) to the vast majority of Aussie state schools. They use a watchdog program called Bess (I think) and heaps of stuff gets blocked – blogs, hosted webpages, flickr etc. However, every school has an administrator or someone with those priveleges (I’m one of two at my school) and they can override the filter by listing key words to allow, key categories to be unblocked or individual websites in the Admin section. It all happens at the local site level and that’s how I got access to most blogs at school (typepad accounts are listed as a hosted webpage) so become friends with the staff member who has those admin priveleges and get them to do some editing on the filter system.

  4. The expedient thing would be not to have the string “blog” in your URls but that isn’t going to help the cause in the long run.
    Education authorities err on the side of caution especially if there are younger students on the network and some have categorised blogs as being chat sites, where chat = risk, liability or improper use.
    Sometimes it’s just a miscategorisation and there will be a administrator somewhere who wil be only too happy to unblock.

  5. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean They ain’t after you…

    I know I can wobble off the rationality rail sometimes, using apocalyptic and politicized language about restrictions placed by The Man on self-publishing spaces. But what to make of James Farmer’s edublogs.org being blocked from schools by some facel…

  6. It’s happened to the one I set up on edublogs too. I’ve been told my local education authority in the UK now blocks anything that could be described as ‘personal pages’, whatever that means, and has no plans to change their minds. My research blog sneaks through because it’s a .net address but I want one specifically for my school based work on edublogs as it will be aimed at other education professionals.

  7. [...] This morning, I saw that James Farmers’ Edublogs service is being banned in Australia. Censored. Blocked. Verboten. It irked me, and has been bugging me all day. Now, Brian just posted about it, and I realize I need to publicly demonstrate some form of outrage at this. It’s not enough to quietly grumble, or to simple comment on James’ blog post. [...]

  8. At the user end try this:

    Sometimes using Google Translate bypasses the filter. Type in URL and translate it to spanish!

    Or, here’s a big list of proxy bypasses. Someone out there start developing quirky how to resources for using proxy bypasses.

    Unplug your computer from the network, and use a dial up modem in a spare phone line

    Walk down to the local city library, or comunity hotspot

    Call a stop work meeting

    We have a similar issue accross all of NSW.

  9. I’m 90% sure they’re both in the US but it’s even more disturbing that the UK “blocks anything that could be described as ‘personal pages” Linda… that’s just plain wrong.

    Yeh, I figured that having the word ‘blog’ might not help but bloody hell, what’s that about???

    And Leigh, bloody hell, this is getting ridiculous… we need to start a foundation or something, pressure group?

  10. My son has just finished his final (VCE) year at an Australian Secondary School. He was constantly frustrated with attempting research online as many sites for subjects he was studying (biology, legal studies which looks at legal and ethical issues and psychology were a particular problem for him) were blocked. Luckily he was able to access the internet at home without rediculous restriction.

    The fear of the internet is really out of control. When obviously educational sites such as this are blocked it becomes even more regressive.

  11. I’ve got a couple of years before my son hits school, but the last thing I want is for some bureaucrat to define what content he will be allowed to access. If it’s a teacher, or a parent, that’s one thing. But some schleb sitting behind a desk clicking a “block everything that rhymes with blog” button, no thanks.

  12. James, I do have the nasty feeling that “blog” in the URI might be the cause … I do know there’s a lot of paranoia about students, esp at the primary school level, using online tools from school libraries etc and putting far too much about themselves online. While, personally, I think the answer is an ongoing series of lessons across all primary and secondary school to make students internet savvy and understand the ramifications of their postings etc, I fear such a programme might be a tad more enlightened than some schools are willing to embrace.

    While I’m sure this blanket ban can be fought and overturned – at least in specific exception cases – in the immediate short-term, a fairly crude work around might be for those on banned domains to set up a blog which is entire formed from RSS feeds. So, set up Suprglu, get the content to reappear there without (presumably) a ban. It’s crude (and cuts off the user from the design of their template, comments [esp. since suprglu uses their own comments and doesn't mirror existing ones] but it’s a quick way to regain access to content if it’s needed.

    Good luck getting this overturned – I’m sure if there’s anything many of us can do to help, including emails, letters, phone calls, etc, just let us know where it would be effective to send them!

  13. Oops, the link clearly didn’t work … it should be SuprGlu.

  14. [...] [X] James laments that it seems Edublogs is being blanket URI blocked by Australia’s school filters.  That’s pretty crap.  I hope this can be fought – there are some useful comments already at James’ post – but in the very, very short term, a crude workaround might be to set up a SuprGlu blog which re-posts blog entries aggregated from RSS feeds. [...]

  15. Here is a paper that deals with swimmers and mentoring by the grand master of peer learning – the late Guy Bensusan.

    http://itdl.org/Journal/Jul_04/invited01.htm

    Don

  16. Re. update: Do you want to help prepare a manifesto addressing everything wrong with the current state of affairs in Australia with regard to ICTs in education?

    We are with you

  17. Just read your update. Hell yeah I’m with ya…

    I was thinking about some sort of open letter or online petition. You floated the idea of a foundation. Might consider leveraging some existing group like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Maybe a virtual campaign of some kind (GoogleBombing the censors, coordinated mail and blogging assaults). Maybe collect some of the ideas for circumventing the controls, as well as strategies for fighting these restrictions on a policy/political level.

    Whatever, I’m for it.

  18. Yes I agree with you JAmes. Last week in NSW we had a test run for the new “internet Sherriff’ for DET. It blocked out all blogs, MSN, Yahoo groups and many sites that our students were using for tutorials and research. On top of this the IT people were specifically instructed not to tell anyone this test was being held. You can imagine the confusion with teachers going into classes with lessons prepared and finding that nothing would work. Who are these power hungry morons and what higher order do they think they are serving?

    I’m with you too.

  19. Of course I’m in on this. I don’t think the word blog has much to do with it. Administrators at district level are perfectly able to unblock specific site addresses. Unfortunatly they need to be told by someone else (usually after several committeee meetings) to do so. What we need is a protocol and tools for addressing this that will work at local, regional and national levels. First of all an initial letter outlining what the problem is, what edublogs are and how students and educators can benifit from them, and a request to reexamine the current approch to them at a strategic level. This could itself be in the form of a blog with printable/emailable resources. Secondly we need to follow these up and request conversations/meetings in cases where the responce is zero or negative.

  20. Yes I’m definitely in agreement with everyone here.

    I think that something between what Josie, Brian & Leigh are saying sounds just right.

    It needs to be:

    -organised (possibly as part of EFF but I’d imagine more effectively not, in the first instance…)
    -clear and to the point in explaining what the problem is (educationally valuable sites / technologies being censored) and what the solution is (teaching people to swim, individual teachers making decisions & taking responsibility)
    -Strategic in terms of applying pressure (this has got to be a ‘policy’ rather than a ‘personal’ thing… ‘cos that’s where the decisions take place)
    -Able to convey and evident in supporting a large number of people in the area (a la petitions, mailing lists

    A name?

    Responsible Internet Foundation in Schools (RIFS)

    Um… I *know* there are better ideas than that ;)

  21. My fourth book, 109 IDEAS for Virtual Learning will be published in February – my 4th! rant in part against the presumption of the education industry that it is they alone who can decide what to teach and learn. I believe much of the smoke blown about protecting kids and keeping them from cheating (insulting them with the accusation!) is in large part a means of keeping control and censoring school online access. The open Internet has threatened their hubris as nothing else has, and that is a very good thing.
    Gradually, I have caught on that bad as it is, limiting access is not the worst thing about the ability of educational entities to block Internet use. The incredible pedagogical and cognitive advantages of aggregation are prevented by the blocking. Pedagogically, edublogging synergizes ideas and techniques on the instruction side. Cognitively, the open Internet lets learners form network patterns that emerge as ideas about what they are learning.
    My first understanding of the determination of the education industry to control what is taught (mostly, I think, because it is immensely profitable $$$$ for them to package and resell knowledge) was when the 35,000 subject, 4 million monthly hits project HomeworkCentral.com that I headed was bought and taken offline. The project was open content – free to use and free to connect. It was not controlled by anyone.
    Keep fighting the good fight, Jim! I don’t think the control can last much longer because it is becoming more and more obvious as the growth of edublogs has shown.

  22. Please let me know how to help. I see the filtering becoming more and more of a problem — specifically, I think districts need models to use for how to be responsible and open at the same time.

  23. How to keep it open while being responsible? My own answer to that is a radical one: the schools should get out of the responsibility role for Internet access — completely. The presumption by K-12 that it is the school’s responsibility to remove the temptation for a student to access smut, cheat, or chat on school time is futile and undermines trust. It has succeeded only in blocking kids from using the interconnectivity and freshness of the full spectrum of online knowledge. The notion of schools allowing students to look at the Internet only in a limited way has been the justification for censoring ideas, for making them share wired down machines instead of supplying individual students with their own mobile computers, and for perpetuating the spending of billions on textbooks and other pre-digital knowledge conveyances.

    When kids look at dirty pictures, cheat, or goof-off at school they should be disciplined as they always have been. I realize that to change the mind-set on the control of the Internet at the level of school administration is a lot to hope for. But with the impending full Internet access on cell phones and devices like the $100 laptop in the hands of individual children, the K-12 kids are going to have open Internet access soon anyway. Today, though, youngsters still land in college where things are open online, and do so from the attempted cocoon of high school control of what they can see and do on the Internet. That’s not a problem for a lot of them because they have already been using the open Internet on their own outside of school.

  24. More Blog Blocking

    Just a quick note about the fact that James Farmer’s edublogs and learnerblogs sites are now being blocked by districts.

  25. Judy – Amen, sister! Schools spend so much time/energy/resources/money trying to enforce an artificial authoritarian regime (nevermind that it isn’t too conducive to education) rather than working to educate/enlighten the students and faculty…

    And the cocoon is completely artificial and arbitrary already – kids just go home to surf what ever they need to, or head to the local pizza shop for lunch, with the open wifi connection…

  26. More Blog Blocking

    From “weblogg-ed”: More Blog Blocking .

  27. Good on you Judy. I agree all the way.

    But to throw a spanner in our thinking… up here in the Blue Mountains, NSW Australia – we are known to have our fare share of alternative lifestylers, including some unique interpretations of some religions. Some kids that come to the schools lead an even more sheltered life at home. Full and open Internet access at school may give their parents extra anxiety, and cause them to withdraw their kids.

    I’m with you on the idea of withdrawing the school’s responsibility. Do you think this issue (and the near future developments in devices) will mean that by simply offering a network connection for kids to connet their own devices (perhaps some are borrowed from the school) that the kids are then responible for their own use? I think that’s actually a good idea – so long as we can ensure parents that we will teach the kids how to use the things responsibly… thinking back to when I was 13 though… I don’t think I would have stopped for much…

    One thing’s for sure – I have had some very very interesting discussions with young kids about this issue. Why don’t we add some of their voices to this thread? I’m off to grab my 12 year old bro…

  28. When Leigh tald me the idea of schools handing out computers, I thought that’s way to exspensive for schools. Then he showed me the $100 laptops. $100 laptops changes my idea of everything!

    I reckon if kids look at porn and stuff, it should be their own fault. But I have accidently come accross porn sometimes my mates show it to me. My mates do look at a lot of porn at their home. I know guys who have been obsessed with porn, but when they got older they just weren’t into it anymore.

    I reckon since schools blocking it, kids want to look more. There’s no stopping them.

  29. Leigh and Chris – What you have to say is right on! We have gotten into a situation in schools of keeping kids of all kinds firewalled away from the many good things on the Internet because of the age old problem of porn. Alas, I hardly think there will come a time when we can expect to convince absolutely everyone not to look at the stuff. But frankly that fact is a poor argument for keeping young people from using the Internet at school. I think there are 2 main, big and very important factors:

    1. The best, most complete and most exciting knowledge is now on the Internet – not in printed textbooks and often not available for and from teachers. Students have a right and need to go where the good stuff is.

    2. As you say, the kids are going to get to the Internet anyway. That makes it plain rediculous not to let them do it while they are at school and supposed to be learning.

    Leigh, I know parents want very much to protect their children. Sheltering is wonderful and important for the littlest ones. But I think it is something like dealing with automobiles. You have to protect kids by teaching them how to avoid getting run over and how to drive well enough to keep from getting injured or killed – or hurting someone else. The Internet is here to stay and children need to learn its dangers as well as using it to learn.

    Chris, yes, let’s do hear from the kids! Here in New York City this fall there is a big moot court competition among 57 public high schools. The student attorneys are arguing about what schools can/should do about blocking students from the Internet. The case was created and the competion being judged by Fordham Law School students. The whole project is of/for/by young people, with many of the competitors 14-18 years old. You might be interested in looking at the case materials here:
    http://www.jrcnyc.org/mootCourtCase.05/case_documents.html

  30. For fun (and I emphasize that word!), I wrote a quick response to this topic:
    http://www.mguhlin.net/blog/archives/2005/11/entry_719.htm

  31. In my first book, Raw Materials for the Mind, I include descriptions of two barriers that we must overcome, before we can truly retool and modernize our classrooms. They were more professional time and a new vision or story about the 21st century classroom.

    In the 4th edition of the book, I considered adding a third barrier — technologists. Yours is one of many examples of how technologies have served to cripple the information and communication tools that hold so much promise for teachers and students.

    We need to collectively and convincingly say, “They work for the Teachers, not the other way around.”

    Wait a minute. I did add that part to the book.

  32. Hi

    You can make a mirror of your blog fairly easily at http://www.digitaldivide.net . Take for instance Andy Carvin’s main blog, http://www.andycarvin.com . Anything he posts there gets automatically posted to the “mirror” blog at http://www.digitaldivide.net/blog/acarvin . All you have to do is to add the RSS feed of the blog you want to mirror when you create the other blog at http://www.digitaldivide.net . And the effect is retroactive too

    Whether such a copy would be blocked by school filters too, I don’t know, unfortunately. But considering that it takes very little time, it might be worth a shot, perhaps.

    cheers

    Claude

  33. [...] MercuryNews.com | 11/23/2005 | University of Miami boots blogger from campus housing. He blogged. The post was raunchy. So the University kicked him out of college housing. Elsewhere school districtis are censoring access to student blogs, and many cases, issuing punishments for what students write on their own time, off campus. [...]

  34. Count me in.

    I like the idea of educators from across the globe working together to advocate for our students. It feels like “a movement” is growing in the comments to this post. I’ve continued the conversation on my blog as well.

  35. I think that this is a good idea, im 16 myself and i think if there is filters on the school computers it does want to make me break them not so i can look at porn or reck the computer some how, but so i can search the web with full freedom and be able to use them to there full use.Yeah there is always going to be some idiot that will use it for the wrong use but for most people it will help with there education and im with this idea all the way.

  36. [...] edublogs being blocked!!! at incorporated subversion Blogging isn’t dangerous and neither is conversation. It’s GOOD. No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  37. [...] A couple of posts pointed me to the plight edublogs.org is facing. It seems that they are now being targeted by district web filters. [...]

  38. Maybe I’m being over-simplistic, but I just don’t get the whole filtering thing when it comes to blogs. Kids are going to say what they are going to say, and today’s kids are doing it via blogs rather than in-person conversations and notes passed in class. I see no differentiation between digital, paper, and verbal communication. We need to educate them as to what is okay and what is not okay to do at school/work/home, as we always have, but now, in addition to appropriateness, we have to include safety. We have to teach them not to trust strangers and that people can be bad when they seem really nice. Wait! That’s not news, either!

    I actually think that the problem is that the parents and teachers have not learned to use the technology that these kids are using and there is a sense of loss of control and we’re freaking out way too much.

  39. Yes – there are so many good points here… Tracy – I also believe that assisting young people to use the internet effectively is being impeded by us older pre-computer/internet generation late comers who just don’t get it. Of course we don’t want our children being exposed to porn or unsafe situations.

    However they do see the internet, SMS, MSN etc as just there – no big deal – part of the world just like the fridge (I don’t want to sound ancient as i am not, but we had an ice chest when i was a kid….) the TV, the iPod etc. My experience is that the vast majority of kids when they find these situations – the porn for example, have a look and quickly become bored and have pretty effective strategies to avoid it when it next tries to intrude on their lives.

    Perhaps with younger kids a more intrusive system of protecting them could be justified, but when a 16-19 year old is unable to access information and make decisions of wehat they can safely access and not access, it is a worry. When are they going to be able to get these skills?

    After all children are probably more at risk in their own home or physical community – that is where most sexual assult happens – We attempt to deal with this by teaching children at a young age – ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ ‘If you feel bad about a situation you don’t have to stay’ etc. So if we think that the physical world can be coped with by education and that this largely works then why not apply the same principles to the internet?

    Another aspect of freer internet access is the important role that use of chat rooms SMS etc can have in creating a sense of community for young people. Youth who are depressed, isolated etc have benefitted from the communities that they have been able to establish in the ether of the internet when the ‘real’ world may have briefly failed them.

  40. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation.

    I think it would be an opportune time to set up an organisation to take a unified and visible response to these issues. James – would you set up some space over at incsub so we can discuss the body of a petition/position statement?

    My name suggestion is the Foundation for Learners Online (FLO) – any others?

  41. Thanks to everyone who has commented here, wonderful things, and Josie you’re right on the money.

    I think we need an organisation that synthesises what is being said here… that has a clear message, signatories and most importantly can be used by teachers (and students!) to put their case against this kind of rampant and ill considered censorship.

    The name, I reckon, has to be something that reflects that. It also needs to be savvy in a pitching sense. It’s got to convey responsibility, learning, openness, freedom, authority (of us), balance and understanding (of why people feel and act as they do). How does this sound:

    The Online Literacy Association

    I think it’s more of an association than a foundation and I love D’Arcy’s link to this http://www.fepproject.org/news/nrcadopts.html which is spot on about the overriding importance of literacy (learning to swim etc.)

    If we can agree on this / something along these lines then I’d like to set up a site at an independent URL like: online-literacy-association.org

    In the first instance I’ll chuck up a blog for discussion of the key points, namely: mission statement / blurb (something like four key points about freedom, literacy, responsibility etc.), related articles / literature, case studies / stories (like the excellent one here: http://www.edsupport.cc/mguhlin/blog/archives/2005/11/entry_719.htm), news area (of course ;) and perhaps most importantly ways of making a difference… how we can leverage the group for it to have an impact and how individual / groups of teachers can do the same, something like “your stories” or “getting TOLA to help in your case” (in a similar way a union might advertise its services).

    Anyway, that’s a first draft…. tell me what you reckon, I’ll give it a day or two and if all is good go ahead and set up the site.

  42. A great discussion going on here! Tracy really brings it home.

    When I was a kid (80′s kid) my friends and I used to go BMX biking around the place. In the bush tracks were often scattered an assortment of bongs, needles, mull plants (if you looked hard enough), matresses?, and a full range of rain soaked porn mags scattered about the place. As a kid seeing all this, I used to invent wild stories in my head about what went on in these bush tracks, and how crazy the adult world was. But as a grew up I began to realise that the stuff scattered about this area was just from other kids. All ages came down here to conduct their secret lives. Me at 10 on a BMX, digging up jumps and burns; slightly older ones flicking through and trading porn mags; slightly older ones again chopping up and smoking dope in bongs; and the odd few unfortunate souls ruining their lives with a needle.

    Out of curiousity, I went for a little walk down the local bush tracks recently to see if all that was still there. Oddly enough it wasn’t, or at least, I couldn’t find it. I did spot a group of boys, faces scratched with charcoal, playing war games though.

    But Internet disrupts everything. Suddenly movie ratings have no effect, teachers and police have little control, the army has a security issue, on and on. Our society and culture is changing, some would say for the bad. As the movie EPIC says, “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times..” refering to the ability of a few to access valuable information, but the choice of the majority to stay shallow and meaningless. Tittytainment goes up up up.

  43. James: Yep!

    Like the new name as well.

  44. James, I’m a bit dissapointed that no one has taken up writing something like this on the wiki I set up a while back (see my comment much earlier). I guessed that I had turned people off the wiki by broadened the scope too much with the starts I made, or perhaps the use of the term manifesto was too ‘old left’. But now you are proposing a name like online literacy association, and a petition, which implies to me that we do want to widen the scope of this effort. So, I’m concerned that while there are loads of comments here, that we don’t have enough people to sustain an effort like what you are calling for. If my gauging this by the zero reaction I got from the wiki is not right, please set me straight. I like the name btw, and do think the scope needs to be widened. Would appreciate someone telling my why the wiki page didn’t work..

  45. [...] James’ recent posting about learning and teaching weblogs being blocked from view/use is sad, but not at all surprising. I’m sure the blocking is being done by US schools, yes? ¶ [...]

  46. Hi Leigh… besides from my usual gripes about wikis (never really work for collaboration, especially in anonymous contexts and even if you do know people… I could go on) I reckon that what this needs is focus (I know literacy has far broader implications but here I think we can focus it) and to be driven rather than collectively pulled.

    So, if we as a small group can develop a focus and direction and require a minimum for participation (i.e. a petition, emailing the link… upwards to adding a story or becoming an active member) then I think it’s got a chance.

    Most of the best OS projects are, Linux for example, basically led by one person or a very small group… even a collectivist of the ol’ left persuasion (I love manifestos btw.. have always wanted to write one) needs direction.

    I guess i want this to be as much a resource, rallying cry and awareness raiser as a collaborative environment. Make sense?

  47. Guess so, I do have trouble focusing. Don’t want to distract the effort at all. Where ever the workspace ends up, I’ll be there to help out.

  48. [...] A recent post from Doug Johnson, Personal use of the Internet, has got me thinking about appropriate use of this resource by students and access to appropriate material via the service provider’s filter system. This has been a real hot topic amongst edubloggers one the past week or two and James Farmer’s original post has taken on a life of its own. (Might be the most comments posted to an edtech blog ever!) So the two ideas have been swirling around in my head and I’m still not sure of my personal position yet. See, the filters here in Oz are designed with students in mind but educators use the same system and are blocked in the same way as the kids. The providers here use a system to filter sites called Bess produced by Secure Computing. So instead of making assumptions I visited their website for further information. From what I saw, the Bess filter uses a system of categories to rate all websites on a Control List which then determines what sites are either blocked or allowed. Guess where blogs fall? In a category called Personal Pages where the following description can be found and I quote: This category includes personal home pages that share a common domain such as those hosted by ISPs, University/Education servers, Free Web Page hosts, etc. Blogging sites are also included. Personal home pages present a risk to viewers because content ranges from harmless to offensive, yet these pages are not highly trafficked, making them difficult to categorize and provide coverage for each personal page. You can also use a tool there called the URL Checker where you can see what URL ends where in terms of categorisation. Edublogs ends up in Personal Pages, as does my blog. Weblogg-ed ends up in a different legitimate category Education/Reference, Forum/Bulletin Boards. D’Arcy Norman scored a Not Categorized as does James Farmer’s own blog . Stephen Downes also ends up in Personal Pages. So it’s a bit of a chook raffle about which blog ends up where and who will be blocked in a school or not. Now I need to check these blogs against my own school filter (Bess N2H2) to see if this is the same version and I think that administrator control can release a lot of blocked content that shoudn’t be. I think I need to poke around a bit more but I do think it is something that needs addressing. I mean, if a teacher is getting keen on blogging and can’t access any blogs to see what the fuss is about, they might not engage and move on. Likewise if there are too many barriers, then student blogging is unlikely to follow. I agree that there is a lot of trash out there that as a parent of a primary school aged child, I wouldn’t like them to stumble across. But do I filter at home – no. Perhaps I should and there are definite taboo topics I think that we don’t want our young children encountering on their own. And there is a lot of evidence to say that a lot of teachers aren’t skilled enough to navigate their own way safely through the World Wide Web, let alone be totally responsible for the content their studnets  encounter. I suspect there is an element of  “Thank goodness there is a filter. Any chance of getting World Championship Wrestling blocked. I’m sick of my kids downloading images of wrestlers.” Which brings me back to the starting point with Doug’s post. What is the internet at our schools? Is it part of the whole fabric where students can continue their online existence or is it just a powerful resource to be turned on and off by teachers’ direction? I think we are all grappling with that one – some people can make statements with more conviction than others but our educators do need to try and view the online connection through their students’ eyes and what it means for them. Hmmm….a lot more thinking to do. [...]

  49. Leigh and Jim, perhaps the time is really right to compel a change in this area. I am in New York City, where the same situation in the schools exists as this conversation describes for Australia. I am not a tech person, but know something about manifestos, having worked in some big time political campaigns for a decade earlier in my life. I have a suggestion.
    Frankly I was surprised by the response to the very simple idea that all blocking be removed. Maybe that crisp one idea is the manifesto. It could even be a small banner or button bloggers could put on their sites. Unencumbered by philosophy or procedures, just do it: “Ban the blocking at school so our kids can use the Internet!” could be a goal, clear and simple.
    Perhaps the banner/button could link to a page with some of the excellent writing posted in this conversation plus links to your wiki Lieigh, etc. Frankly, I don’t think most of the public even knows kids can’t use the Internet at school. It would be very interesting to see what happens if they do. Maybe the public is programmed to believe in the blocking, but that would be a good thing to get out for discussion too.
    Grist for the mill . . . .

  50. Thanks for that guys… I’ll leave this open for another day and then have a crack at a first draft tomorrow based on this and whatever feedback follows.

  51. Count me in too.

    Claude

  52. Judy,
    U know, I’m not 100% convinced about a totally filterless Internet in schools. If classrooms and bolted to the floor computer labs are going to be around for much longer, then I think that perhaps filters are needed – but I have ideas on how it could be done better. The reason I think it is still necessary is because ever since this issue entered my radar, I have noticed many reasons why its needed. In teaching with computers (in old style classroom setting sadly) my classes can get quite off track and disrupted by one person looking up what ever. Now I’m not a control freak, and enjoy some of the side tracks, but when other students start getting annoyed and think I should be doing something, I start to feel preasure. On a couple of occasions I have been glad that the filter stopped a few sites, or there would have been some issues quite hard to handle.

    But, if classrooms, shared computers, and computer lab environments are to continue… and filters deemed necessary, then I think every class should have at least one person (starting with the teacher) who can unblock (and block if necessary) particular sites. If a teacher had those rights, then the filter could be trained quickly and easily, making it far more intellegent and effective in those situations where for example, minors need to be shielded from some things…

    But I could be swayed quite easily. I do in fact prefer the no filter stance, and would campaign that line with the above as a compromise.

    What do you think?

  53. I don’t agree with going for the no filter stand. Theoretically it’s a nice aim, in practice it won’t wash with the people who are actually legally responsible – school administrators, or with many parents. I really like the approach Stephen Downes is taking on this – peer networks/recommendations as a way of building safe environments in which children can have the freedom to explore.

    I think the galvanising message here should be education rather than protectionism/censorship. This is not the same as saying let your 8 year old – who’s ability to give informed consent is not recognised by law, and who is not accorded the legal rights and privileges that go along with legal obligations and responsibilities – have potential access to everything: instead it’s a clear argument in favour of societies obligation to equip the child with the tools to approach and understand the world (here, specifically the online world), rather than simply withdrawing access.

    So for me it comes down to a child-centred obligation on the school and educational systems to equip children for the realities and languages of modern life.

  54. Leigh and Josie,
    My view is that the no filter position simplifies and clarifies.
    One simplification is that the issue is moving beyond school control anyway because students will very soon have their own personal mobile Internet access devices. As that happens, from the school side blocking becomes a matter of forbidding students to use their devices at school. Already, many kids, whose parents can afford it, have laptops that they keep in their backpacks when they use a shared school wired computer. As cell phones become more Internet friendly and laptops cheaper, this will happen with more students in more places.
    When the devices are brought to school by children, the blocking decision could/should have been made by the parent who supplies the device. It seems to me this is the way young children can be protected. A parent can insist that a child have a blocked device, which the teacher accepts and work around if necessary.
    These are transistion times, in which simpified goals (like no blocking) will speed the change to something better. I understand the spectre of law suits and know answers have to be found there. Maybe kids will forever be blocked from the full Internet so long as they are using public education. At the least the world should know what the spectre is causing: blocked learning.
    Yes, the bottom line IS education and learning. For me the trade-off in restricting the new generation in using the information medium of their time and from seeing and connecting openly with knowledge and each other is for them ineptitude and ignorance, not education. But now I’m ranting . . . apologies.
    One more thought on how schools handle the Internet as the medium emerges: it is from this column in today’s Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/29/AR2005112901096.html
    The guy is saying corporate tech departments will cease, replaced by outsourcing. One-focus person that I am these days, I thought, “well now, maybe that will happen for schools too.” The Internet will, on its own, integrate into teaching and learning and educators can turn from manipulating the medium to the cognitive challenges and adventures of leading learners to knowledge.

  55. [...] edublogs being blocked!!! [...]

  56. Hiya guys,

    Got caught up with some stuff the last two days… thanks for the great contributions, will put up a site for discussion asap.

    James

  57. Great comments, Judy! More and more kids ARE going to be coming to school with internet-ready devices (I just discovered that my son’s PSP has WiFi!), and as I see it, there are only two workable options: a metal detector at the school entrance, or education on digital ettiquette. These kids who are trying to get on the school network with their PSP’s are going to be grown-up users some day, and I truly believe that ditigal literacy needs to be included with online literacy. Yesterday I was at a local gift shop and there must have been 4 or 5 different kinds of cell phone cases in the Hello Kitty display. Are 5-10 year olds carrying cell phones now? What about the new Firefly? What does a young person learn from being told their cell phone/pda/ipod has to say in their locker?

  58. I have only just caught up with this conversation but it makes scary reading. Especially Linda’s post about a UK education authority’s stance.

    I now work in adult and community learning but originally trained as a primary school teacher and my view is the quicker digital/online literacies become part of the curriculum the better.

    Look forward to following progress on the new site and helping in whatever way I can – will start by checking my own LEA’s position on this in primary and secondary.

    I’m hoping they will be taking a more enlightened line as they held a major conference earlier in the year for school heads/governors at which Alan November gave the keynote which included examples of the use of blogs in schools!

    Belatedly – thanks James for edublogs!

  59. The Trials of Podcasting and the read/write web

    Good and Evil in the Blogosphere, So my faith isn’t entirely shaken, but it is kind of like the 6 month old car – still feels new but there are some odd rattles that are beginning to be annoying. You don’t want to throw it away and get a new one but …

  60. [...] And it isn’t just obviously recreational sites that are being blocked on school networks. Although educators, learners and researchers have been using blogs constructively for over five years now, educational weblogs – edublogs – are currently being blocked at district level by school authorities. In effect, this means that despite the recognition by multiple governments of the value of e-learning (to individuals and economies), and despite an emerging body of research and numerous examples of great educational practice, weblogs – which provide a simple way for educators and students to create and participate in collaborative, conversational and distributed learning communities – are being excluded from the day-to-day business of education. [...]

  61. [...] edublogs being blocked!!! [...]

  62. [...] This week is down in my research plan for taking the first action phase of my research. I was worried that I was just ‘messing about’ with making a blog for the Classroom Displays group. Well, actually two blogs one on James Falmer’s Edublogs site Edublogs and one on Blogger. I wanted to see how they compare for ease of posting, style, ease of linking etc. Originally I thought I’d have to find a blog that would make it through the LEA Smartfilter (that’s a whole other conversation!). However as the blog is aimed mostly at teachers and support staff I decided this wasn’t such a big issue. This is partly because we now have a computer in the staffroom that isn’t filtered so no blocked sites. Anyway, when I checked my plan for this week I realised I am doing exactly what I’d intended. I am taking my first actions in my research, adding a blog to the Classroom Displays Group. [...]

  63. i need an access web address to myspac.com my school blocked it thanks

  64. hey man our school has blocked myspace so i want to get on so please help me thanx