Long-time readers of this blog will remember the WWW (Weekly Wednesday Website), an idea I came up with back in 2010 as a way to share a weekly internet resource with my teachers. Each Wednesday I sent out an email featuring a relevant website, with an explanation of how to use it and suggestions for integrating it in the classroom. A few years later I changed schools and I stopped sending out the WWW, but I’ve always thought it was one of my better ideas so I’m bring it back.
This time around I’m expanding the scope of the WWW from a single site sent in an email, to a weekly newsletter of resources for teachers to use themselves and/or share with their students. Content will include websites for students to use independently, free tech tools for teachers, information about seasonal or timely events, tips and tricks to enhance virtual/hybrid learning, links to activities and lesson plan ideas, articles and blog posts about teaching, and self-care resources. What better tool to curate such a collection than Wakelet?
I’ve been a fan since Wakelet burst onto the scene a few years ago because of the way it integrates so successfully with Twitter. I get daily professional development on Twitter courtesy of the people I follow there, and Wakelet provides an easy way to save and organize the tweets I want future access to. My respect for the Wakelet support team has grown as I’ve watched how responsive they are to feedback from educators, and the number of new features they continue to add is astonishing — especially when you consider there are no fees of any kind for users!
This is just one of the many ways to use Wakelet, and I’ll be sharing more ideas in the future. For now, my newsletter is Public and I’ve set it to Copy, so feel free to use it and re-mix it and share it yourself if you like. You can click this link to view, save, and copy it.
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?
- Knowledge is power. I need to stay informed about the laws and requirements for school internet use.
- 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.
- 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?
As I mentioned in a previous post, our district Internet filters seem tighter than ever this year, and the results are that a lot of sites with educational value are being blocked for teachers and students alike.
I’ve been doing some research on the reasons for these tight site restrictions. Let’s follow the trail and get the facts:
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