Whither censorship?

I have begun to follow a few people in Twitter and they inevitably say interesting things or point me to interesting reading/listening.  Clarence posted a Tweet, is that “Tweeted” highlighting a podcast from CBC radio about a mother and a school division and their discussions on appropriate site blocking in the elementary school.  Censorship of the internet always makes me take a second look.  I dislike having to ask for reasonable sites to be ‘unblocked’ during the day to day work of school.  It isn’t difficult but it is tiresome.  I know Vicki et al are working on this.  My own school practice is so far from an integrate web 2.0 environment as to make the discussion purely academic but I don’t have any personal net nanny for my own children at home.  So I wonder, what is reasonable?

In this particular case, mom found her twelve year old up in the middle of the night on their office computer.  Using her own personal expertise, the mom had run some checks on her daughter’s practice and was aghast.  The daughter was using the internet at home and at school to talk in chat rooms and go to porn sites.  She took measures in her own home to eliminate her daughter’s access to the internet.  She wanted the school division to have similar measures in place.  The division had temporarily suspended student access to Facebook and some other social software in resp9onse to the incident and was reviewing policy.   The mother thought this was not enough given that Yahoo and other such sites and engines can give students access to similar chat spaces.  Her thought was that there was no educational reason for students to have access to social software at school. She believed that these tools would be better taught and learned about from home.

I believe this story illustrates  why schools need to teach about social software and teach its use rather than the teaching about the need for this access to eliminated in schools.  It is clear to me from this case that the home is not necessarily teaching children what they need to know.  Children need to learn how to make good choices on the internet and they will not learn that by not using the software and sites which are available nor will they learn it in an unsupervised environment.

I set all kinds of limits in my own home to protect my children from negative influences.  My children only watch videos which we borrow from the library.  Usually we preview them before they see them.  My children only go on to the internet accompanied by one of their parents.  So far we have no need for a net minder on our computer because we are with them.  I believe it is the relationship I am building with them which will help to keep them safe as they grow.  They are not testing their wings much beyond my home yet.  They are both younger than ten, what will I want from the school as they grow?  I want them to have access to the tools which they need to develop a critical and creative outlook.  I want them to be able to experiment and play as they learn.  I want them to learn to make choices about which things they want to see and which they do not.  I do not trust a filter to provide a safe environment, I expect the teacher to provide a safe environment.

How do we prevent what happened with this women and her daughter?  I sure do not want a Canadian version of COPA.  I think we need strong divisional policies and well-educated teachers.  I think we need a vision of grade appropriate access to the internet.  I think we need small enough class sizes that teacher supervision of child activity is possible.  I think it is appropriate to be able to track student activity, just as we track employee activity.  They need to know they are working on computers which are not theirs in an environment which is not theirs and is not private.

What do you think?



Filed under education, safety, web 2.0

5 responses to “Whither censorship?

  1. This is a great post! I feel the same way you do, as both a parent and educator. I have teenagers in my home, and I feel they are really missing out on exceptional learning opportunities due to all the internet filtering at school. I teach them at home… but think of all those who don’t get that instruction at home! I’ve even mentioned this fact in my tips for parents on internet safety on my blog.

    Kudos to you!

  2. Diana Kenney

    Found your post via Twitter by CoolCatTeacher!
    Our district is in talks to open the filter for all teachers with the expectation that they use discretion. My director of technology believes the we shouldn’t have a filter at all…just do a MUCH better job of educating our students, teachers and parents!
    Thanks for the great post!
    Diana Kenney

  3. Thanks for the link to your site and tips, Michelle. Internet safety and internet censorship are conjoined twins. It takes good relationships and open communication to find the right balance.

    Diana, I appreciate the look into how you arrived at my site and this post in particular. I don’t get many comments and sometimes assume I am unread. I suspect the superintendent in charge of technology in my division would go filterless if he could but the political and legal position for school boards is a tricky one. I tend to get idealistic on these things but the issue is complex and needs careful handling. I still believe the best filter is a good relationship between students and teachers, children and parents.

  4. I agree that I would rather see schools teach how to use the tools responsibility than ban them. However, it’s not just the students who don’t know how to use the internet effectively…most teachers are also clueless.

  5. Yes, there is work to be done in making sure teachers have the skills they need to guide students. I believe that teacher librarians or media specialists have a role to play here.

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