Network? or Netblock?

5:48 AM

I’m trying to lighten up a bit here at the end of the school year, but my mind keeps getting drawn into these issues. I just looked at my vanity search that I have installed in my aggregator and found that the name of my podcast had been used by Chris Harris, a “Director of a School Library System in Western NY”. He laments that he can’t listen to my “excellent educational podcast” at school, because all media downloads at are blocked. He continues to explain that resources at SourceForge are blocked because they are tagged as games, Google is tagged as a “loophole”.

Yesterday, Will Richardson posted another entry about the alleged school newspaper closing in Georgia, referencing Steve Dembo’s podcast where he predicted that…

…in a couple of years just about every school will have at least one student blogging away on his own time and space about what was going on at the school.

I jumped in with a comment from my reading (years ago) of The Cluetrain Manifesto, the point being that people/customers are going to network, and as a result are going to know more about what’s going on in your school than you do. My point was that information will find a way. Does it do us more good to try to control/block the network, or facilitate it?

Two other comments were posted, both missing my point completely, issuing in on blocks and filters on the school networks. Well it wasn’t Bill and Bud who missed the point. It was me. I’m out here, way outside the box. Inside, it comes down to whether you can access that web page in the classroom that you selected at home last night, play that animation or video, access that open source wiki engine.

Bill pointed out that according to a recent survey at his school, less than 20% of students regularly use the technology provided in schools, where more than 80% have access at home, and that in most cases, the performance capabilities at home exceed those of the school computers and networks.

For the sake of protecting our “behinds”, are we shoving learning out the doors of our schools?

I know that this is a serious and complex issue that concerns teachers, but also extends far beyond the classroom. It has to do with staffing resources, community sentimentalities, government regulation, and the presence of truly dangerous content on the net. But we must solve this problem and be willing to invest in solving this problem.

Because when the students see their network as a wall between them and information, then that school is no longer being a school.

7 thoughts on “Network? or Netblock?”

  1. Filtering vs. Free Loading? If schools were Burger Kings, kids could “have it their way”. However, school networks are not their personal game consoles. In a recent technology training that I facilitated in our school district, a veteran middle school computer skills teacher lamented that to prepare her students for their 8th grade computer skills test here in North Carolina, she is alotted 45 minutes, 5 days per week for 9 weeks. Her school has a high failure rate on the state test. To assure that her students master the skills, they must be taught how to conduct database queries-for example. When students fail the state test, parent raise the point that they do not understand why THEIR child failed the test because they are SO GOOD at using the computer at home…BUT, the skills they have mastered AT HOME include: IMing their friends, downloading and burning pirated MP3s, or listen to BET or MTV or other entertainment site music being streamed on the network, searching Google for video game cheats and finding and printing out pictures of Pit Bull dogs or just going to a game site and killing time (I know you disagree with this, but the vast majority of online games have no redeeming values). The sad thing is, tests do not measure their mastery of IM slang or how many MP3 fit on a CD. Bottom line- the computer lab is not effective, the standard test assumes technology knowledge should reflect what adults sometimes use at a workplace somewhere in a city a long way from here (not relevant to their world). For our schools to prepare our students for our NC Computer skills test in 8th grade, all teachers must have the technology skills to direct teachers in all content areas to help students master database skills. Social Studies teachers need to be able to model and assign activites that teach their students about various content in their subjest area and query real databases to find information. The band teacher needs to have his or her students create a spread sheet of the instruments in their class (this is a joke, I tried this and the band room has no computer for students to use). It can not be just the computer lab teachers responsibility, Do away with the computer lab teacher, put a non-certified facitlitator in their and have the computer lab teachers go around work at team teachers in the classroom using a mobile computer lab of laptops to teach the skills with project-based learning activities that are relevant and meaningful.
    Adminstrators have only one solution to this issue: dial up the filters so nothing gets through and hope that their teachers stop complaining about kids wanting to use the computer in their classroom to listen to music, search for Cheat Codes, or play a game. To meet AYP, NCLB, EOG, EOC, and all the other Education Initiatives, the classroom teacher’s best practice still is grill and drill, to try to make sure their students know the content of the science book that is hopefully properly correlat
    John Blake | Homepage | 06.01.05 – 7:53 am | #

  2. David,
    Unbelieveable that you should mention Cluetrain in an educational context. Just yesterday I got a “bug” in me that we as educators/bloggers/leaders need to have a group coversation that ties together Cluetrain and education. Use the combination of the two (inside a Moodle based envrionment) to have “conversations” about everything from home schooling to filters to information literacy.

    The conversations are happening out there…we aren’t doing a great job at listening to them. “Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.”

    I invite you (and others) to join the conversation.
    John Pederson | Homepage | 06.01.05 – 9:12 am |

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