Others believe that access that is completely free and unfiltered is the only way to teach digital citizenship. I believe the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes.
I have heard several creative ways of explaining why extreme filtering of the Internet in schools is not the best practice.
To paraphrase Wesley Fryer: We don't give a 16 year old the keys to a car and hope they can learn to drive on the public streets. Nobody would think of throwing a five year old into a swimming pool and hope that the child can swim. Why do people think it is appropriate to turn children loose on the Internet without teaching them the correct way to use it.
I agree with Mr. Fryer. Children need to be shown the correct and appropriate way to use the Internet.
I was listening to a broadcast on the EdTechTalk channel last week and ended up skyping in and discussing filtering with Doug Symington and a few others. Most of the people on the show and in the back channel discussion were in agreement about Internet filtering in schools. Teaching 21st century skills includes teaching how to use the Internet responsibly.
I read an article this morning in Edutopia that inspired me to write this blog. Kevin Honeycutt and Maria Knee are quoted in the article; and both offer some valuable insight on the topic. Please take a moment and read the article. The replies at the bottom of the page are quite enlightening.
I think that we should have some Internet filtering in schools, but I believe that the students and teachers should do the majority of the the filtering. We all have blacklists and whitelists of some kind on our personal computers. Why can't the entire school collaboratively build their own filter? I see the process of building a filter like this:
- Known porn sites are blocked
- Teachers and students are given access to the Internet
- When inappropriate sites are discovered by students, a block request would be submitted to the IT department.
- Teachers and administrators would have the power to place an immediate block on an inappropriate site.
- A list (similar to a wiki) would be maintained to show who, when, and why a site was blocked.
- Teachers would have the ability to override the filter.
Would this model work? Could we teach the students how to responsibly use the Internet? Could students build a filter that would be good for all grade levels in the school?
It would be an interesting experiment.
The bottom line:
Children leave school and go out into the real world. The Internet is unfiltered at home. Students need to know how to use this powerful tool responsibly.
We don't lock out the power saws in the shop class. We teach how to use the power tools safely and how to adjust the guards. We show our students how to create without doing damage to themselves or others.
We've been teaching responsibility in shop class for years. It's time to do the same in the computer lab.
Photo credit: swait-t on flicker. Link to original photo.