Blocked Websites Part Three

Happy Banned Websites Awareness Day!

For the final post in my three-part series on my experience this year with blocked websites and the laws regarding Internet use in schools, I’d like to look at how these laws are affecting school Internet policy, and whether they’re being interpreted correctly.

My own reading of the Children’s Internet Protection Act  (CIPA) indicates that the law is primarily concerned with protecting minors – defined in the document as “any individual who has not attained the age of 17 years” – against “access through [school] computers to visual depictions that are obscene or child pornography.”

Computers used by adults are also required to be protected, but “An administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the certifying authority under subparagraph A(i) may disable the technology protecting measure concerned, during use by an adult, to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose.”  This seems to leave it up to individual districts to decide whether or not they will restrict teacher use of the sites the filtering software is blocking.  Certainly there is nothing unlawful about the sites I’ve been denied access to so far this year, and there is no content at any of them that is remotely obscene or pornographic!

It’s also important to note that in the newly-released CIPA rule revisions, the FCC has determined that social network sites do not fall into one of the categories that must be blocked.  So if districts choose to block them, that is a local decision, not a CIPA mandate.

So what does the U.S. Department of Education have to say about all of this?  Let’s consult an interview with their Director of Education Technology, Karen Cator.  She says:

  • Providing access to YouTube is not a violation of CIPA rules
  • There is nothing that says websites have to be blocked for adults
  • Broad filters aren’t actually helpful; we need more nuanced filtering
  • She doesn’t know of any districts who have lost funding by allowing access to appropriate sites
  • If sites are found that are deemed appropriate they can be unblocked
  • Having the process in place for unblocking sites is definitely important
  • Teachers need to impose their professional judgement on the materials that are [made] available to their students

So, what’s the takeaway?

  1. Knowledge is power.  I need to stay informed about the laws and requirements for school internet use.
  2. The best way to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you’re talking about.  My voice can be stronger now because I can speak with confidence about what is and is not required by law.
  3. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  If I want unrestricted access to valuable web resources I must be prepared to speak up, for myself and my students.

What’s your takeaway?

 

 

Blocked Websites Part One

I have been wrestling with the issue of blocked websites in my district lately, partly because of my own frustrations with blocked content and partly because teachers are funneling their requests to have sites unblocked through me, which is proper procedure since I am the Technology Coach as well as the librarian at my school.

So far this year I have tried to use: Continue reading

Vote for The Reading Express

The South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy needs your help.  They have entered their Reading Express project in the Pepsi Refresh competition in hopes of winning $50,000 in funding.  You can help by clicking on this link and voting for The Reading Express.  The goals of the program are to:

  • Break the cycle of illiteracy through education and outreach
  • Give books to approximately 7,000 school children in 35 schools
  • Provide literacy kits for 1,200 families
  • Educate families about the importance of reading at home
  • Empower families by giving them tools to raise life-long readers

You will need to register with the Pepsi site and be sure you sign in before you vote.  If you click the “Vote” button and then sign in, your vote will not be counted unless you click “Vote” again.  You can vote once a day throughout the month of November.

If The Reading Express is one of the top ten vote-getters, they the children of South Carolina win!

To Catch a Fish

If you’ve read the “About” page of this blog, you know that I’m a person who thinks things through by talking them out, and that writing these posts is like having an internal conversation with myself to sort out my feelings on various subjects.  Lately I’ve been writing a lot about how frustrated I am with the apparent lack of interest in technology integration at my school, and I must say that even I’m getting tired of my whining on the subject!  “Oh, I wish more teachers at my school were interested in using technology in their classrooms.” 

Well, a couple of days ago a third grader shared a poem during a Poetry Pass in the Library that smacked me right between the eyes:

To Catch a Fish

It takes more than a wish
to catch a fish
you take the hook
you add the bait
you concentrate
and then you wait
but not a bite
the fish don’t have an appetite
so tell them what
good bait you’ve got
and how your bait
can hit the spot
this works a whole lot
better than a wish
if you really want
to catch a fish

Eloise Greenfield

So, am I letting my “fish” know what great bait I have, and how it can hit the spot in the classroom?  From now on, no more sitting around wishing — it’s time for positive thinking and constructive action!  I do have good bait, and it’s up to me to make sure my teachers know it!

Passion + Persistence = Change

In an earlier blog post I mentioned a webinar that was offered back on April 5, 2010 at the TL Virtual Cafe entitled What it Means to Be a Change Agent in Educational Technology.  When the participants were asked to share their thoughts on what makes an educator a change agent, one consistent piece of advice was to be passionate about what you believe in and be persistent in pursing it.

If it’s true that passion can drive change, and I want to effect change at my school, then I need to be asking myself these kinds of questions:  What are my teachers passionate about?  How can I help them share that passion with their students?  And for that matter, what are my students passionate about?  And how can I help them explore and share that passion with others? 

I love this quote from John Ross at his TeachLearnTech blog:

A strong leader acts like a ladder or a scaffold, one that supports and helps teachers reach new heights.

So maybe if some of my teachers are a little afraid of heights, their passion and my persistence can make them bold enough to take a risk and make a change.

May You Live In Interesting Times

  screen technology

There’s no doubt that there are interesting things going on in education right now with regard to technology!  I think we will all agree that we can’t equip our students with 21st Century Learning Skills without incorporating technology into our teaching.  Serving as both the Library Media Specialist and the Technology Coach for my school, it’s my job to look at the issue of integrating technology into the classroom from four different perspectives:

1. What are “best practices” when it comes to using technology in instruction and with students?  What strategies will enable us to be more effective users of technology?  How can we make time for training, collaboration, and integration in an already crowded school day?

2. What are the technology literacy, media literacy, and information literacy standards that we should be addressing for each grade level?  How do our content standards mesh with these literacy standards?

3. What tools are affordable and available in my school and my district?  How much tech support can I manage at the building level?  How much tech support is available at the district level?

4. How can I ensure teacher and administrator buy-in for technology integration projects?  How can I involve more stakeholders in the planning and implementation process?  How can I be an agent for change in my school and my district?

I’m struggling with the answers to all of these questions, particularly the last one.  That’s why I’ll be participating in a free webinar on April 5, 2010 at the TL Virtual Cafe.  The webinar is titled What it Means to Be a Change Agent in Educational Technology, and will feature Ben Hazzard and Rodd Lucier. 

Rodd Lucier I’m familiar with, since I’ve been following his blog (The Clever Sheep) and listening to his podcast (Teacher 2.0) for the past year and a half.  I’ve never heard of Ben Hazzard until now, but even a cursory glance at his website tells me that he’s someone to watch. 

You’ve probably heard the title of this post referred to as “the Chinese curse,” but you may not realize that it’s supposedly the first in a trio of curses.  The other two curses in the series are, “May you come to the attention of those in authority,” and “May you find what you are looking for.”  One can only hope….

 

Photo Attribution: “Screen Technology”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/11022910@N00/503238148