Friday, November 2, 2007

Forget the filter - The kids do!

I needed to monitor an entire lab remotely the other day. The teacher was reporting problems and I needed to watch was happening to diagnose things. The kids have been warned in the past that this happens. I watched as computers booted up, students signed in and class began.

About half way through the class, many of the students were no longer on task. Classroom management is not my job, although I did take some screenshots to let the teacher know what was happening. Then I noticed something strange.

Three students were on MySpace, which is blocked by our filter. I began to look more closely. They were using two different proxies which is EXPRESSLY a violation of our acceptable use policy. I am not a big advocate of filtering to begin with. I am an advocate of teaching our kids to use technology responsibly. Circumventing school filtering is NOT responsible, ethical use.

The kids were given a day of in school suspension. The teacher was talked to and some arrangements are being made to allow her to monitor the computers more closely. The proxies were blocked. The message got around school quickly and I have noticed an immediate change in how the kids are using their time online. They are learning their are consequences, which is good.

Once all of that was settled, I looked a bit further into the use of proxies. A quick search, WITHIN our firewall, found a number of other proxies that worked. We cannot block them all. Our content filter is constantly updated, but so are the proxies. I want our filter to allow kids to get to as much valid content as they can. I want the kids to learn to use the Internet in an appropriate manner.

Complex compromises and good teaching strategies can make it all work. I just need to be sure teachers, staff developers, administrators, librarians, techs, and students are all on the same page.

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