Sunday, March 29, 2009

Are You a Wimpy Whiner?


As I stumble on some more resources from our conference I found this. It is the backchannel chat that occurred during David Warlick's opening keynote. If you are unfamiliar with conference backchannels, you can read my previous post here. Significant to note is that Karl Fisch was surprised that in a district apparently as progressive as ours, there were certain sites that were blocked. Additionally, some sites promised to be opened on the day of the conference were in fact unaccessible. I'm a little disappointed in that, although I have to say that the folks in IT worked very hard to ensure that would NOT happen.

(Interesting to note; proposed in UK that students actually study Twitter and other social networking sites.)

I'm particularly pleased to see the conversation take a turn to how teachers can begin to stop suffering in silence and seek a role in advocating for the very change they are seeking. It is always my contention that we should not "wimply whine." We must take a part in finding a solution. If you are unhappy with the level of security placed on your desktops at your schools, what are YOU doing about it?

image: David Warlick
literacy, redifine, warlick

13 comments:

Gordon Shupe said...

As a guest from Brevard County (errr, 'Special Guest', thank-you Lee ;-) I was surprised to find Twitter blocked!

As much as I have benefitted from Lee and my other Twitterfolk, I just assumed... So as learners often do, I learned how to get around the block and used my iPhone.

I think it is wonderful how school districts bring out the learner in us ;-)

stacy said...

I always think of Palm Beach county as one of the more progressive counties in Florida. I am surprised to hear that certain sites are blocked. Is there an administrative reason behind this?

Brent Jones said...

My students in Chicago have given me the info to get around the firewall to facebook and myspace when necessary.

Lee Kolbert said...

I just found this on Jen Dorman's CoverItLive transcript and wish I had included it in my original post. As a matter of fact, I'm going to go back and add it in. Schools in UK propose requiring students to actually study Twitter... I think that's quite relevant. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/25/primary-schools-twitter-curriculum

bethstill said...

Great post, Lee. I teach in Nebraska and progressive is probably the last word a person would use to describe most districts in my region! I have been shocked to learn that many schools around the country block so much. I could share countless stories about instances when I have asked for certain sites to be unblocked and the less than professional responses I have gotten, but it would be nothing new. The problem at my school finally got bad enough that a special committee was put in place to review request for sites that teachers wanted unblocked. While the process is not perfect, it has gotten rid of some of the friction between our teachers and our IT department.

My question is when are IT departments going to realize that filters do not solve any issues? If anything, they create a false sense of security. Teachers also much be taught how to harness the power of the Internet and web-based tools. One local school blocked Skype because the students were chatting on it during class. (Oh no!) Obviously so much of this depends on the age of the students, but why not build in opportunities for students to use Web 2.0 tools in the classroom? I know. I know. Preaching to the choir.....Thanks again for a great post!

Barb said...

I'm in the same boat! I discovered a work around to get onto Twitter. I installed Twitbin on Firefox to get to Twitter. It works, but not as good. Thank goodness Plurk isn't blocked at my school!

Barb in Nebraska

Lee Kolbert said...

So many teachers are joining the kids in using work-arounds to access those sites needed to truly prepare kids for today's world. (Note I didn't even say "tomorrow's world.") Is that really advocating for change and is that all we are doing in order to not suffer in silence?

Does the end justify the means? What message are sending to the kids? How does this help the teacher next door who would benefit from using these sites as well, but is not as brave or as tech savvy?

Karl Fisch said...

I was also "surprised" to learn Palm Beach didn't have teacher overrides of the filter. My CIO says that CIPA requires this, and he thinks many more districts are in violation of CIPA because of this than because of any site they let through the filter (since pornography is the only thing that must specifically be blocked). (Nancy Willard seems to agree.

In case you were wondering - yes, we have teacher overrides in our district, tied to active directory. All of our teachers can immediately bypass most of the filter (it still blocks pornography and some social networking sites - Facebook, MySpace - but we're working on that).

Kim T said...

Well, the last I heard, our district was going to research purchasing some type of software to regulate the student accounts that are blocked vs. the teacher accounts..so this would give the teachers an open level of security when it came to blocked sites.. the district is under the impression that CIPA makes them block the internet in order to acquire funding.. but from what I have read, CIPA and internet blocking is largely misunderstood? It is the "easy" way out. I must confess, at times, it is nice to know some sites are blocked.. I know it sounds hypocritical, because I am a champion for unblocking everything.. but it does ease my pain when it comes to classroom management. I am still at somewhat of a standstill when it comes to figuring out how to professionally and nicely discuss my opinions when it comes to unblocking the internet in our district. It is a slippery slope with many higher ups making the decisions. What would be a good strategy to have someone listen to me? At this point, I have been labeled a “whiner” already because I discuss many new technologies such as web2.0 with exuberance and passion, and to no avail! I would love to hear others solutions as well. I am trying to be part of the solution not the problem! PS - We have twitter blocked too! @bethstill - I do agree, there is definite tension between the teachers and the IT department. They are making education decisions, and have been given the authority to make those decisions. We run into the IT department suggesting education responses to our requests. @Barb.. I am going to try your work around for twitter! I had to use another work around for flikr too.. flikrstorm..

Mary Lou Buell said...

We have so many problems in my district, not just with blocked sites but also with not having updated versions of software like flashplayer. Our IT will unblock any site upon request--but often we can't fully use sites.

It is easy to enough to find out which students are using the web inappropriately and the teachers who take students to labs are usually savvy enough to catch students misbehaving. Still, there is a pervasive attitude---by parents---that an unfiltered web is dangerous.

mlf said...

I'm an IT professional in a small school district and daily face the issue of blocked sites, specifically, how to work around the block so that teachers can get to the materials they want to use. Even most of the work-arounds are blocked!

Our Department does not make the decisions as to which sites are blocked and which are not. These are administrative decisions that we are required to implement.

All too often I see these decisions being made out of fear, mis-information or due to poor classroom management. While districts have a responsibility to protect students from the truly offensive and objectionable areas of the web, there needs to be a balanced, informed approach to blocking sites.

Mrs. Warren said...

My district uses "LightSpeed" filtering and has a teacher authentication piece so teachers can access the sites that might be blocked.

Sites such as flickr and photobucket are blocked to students but the new http://www.k12hsn.org/calaxy/ allows image storage for teachers to use in the classroom. May be the appropriate work-around and sends a better message.

Great discussion, Lee

Neil Winton said...

I always find it really interesting to see that IT people are on hand to ensure that delegates have the necessary access on the day. I've seen this happen time and time again (with varying degrees of success), and it has always struck me that someone somewhere in power must have noticed the irony of this. If the sites are to be unblocked so that 'visitors' have a seemless experience and can work to their full potential, then surely, these self-same sites should be available all the time...

Given the very high profile of your speakers, it is doubly surprising that you should have had filtering problems, but let's hope it leads to change, or at the very least, a meaningful discussion.