Will Richardson's bring up an important issue in his recent post Filter Fun where he shares his sentiments about believing that filters make our kids less safe. This is an issue that those who know me know I feel strongly about and am frustrated that so often we are not preparing or protecting kids inside schools for the world they live in outside school walls. At the very least we should begin with providing teachers with unfiltered access. This would enable them to share countless valuable (but blocked) resources with their students and model appropriate use.
When I began teaching I had about 25 computers donated to me (from a company that was upgrading) and arranged for them to be driven from L.A. to New York. I worked in a inner-city school in Harlem and had no problems with an unfiltered network (back then, this was possible) where expectations, guidelines, and policies were set. The students did come across inappropriate sites from time to time, but this was usually accidental. Those became quick teachable moments about how that should be handled. While there was, of course, ooooo-ing and awwww-ing early on when students stumbled upon an inappropriate site, after not too long, the students all knew the proper protocols and behaviors expected, and an unfiltered network was not an issue. I did enlist the help of students who were instructional technology officers who provided a great way to extend my own eyes and ears but their services were rarely needed as the kids valued and respected having the ability to use the computers and appreciated having an adult interested in speaking to them about their online environment.
I know this is not the ideal setting for all teachers and schools, but I do think there has to be something set up where individual teachers, or schools can set their own filter preferences enabling those educators who are ready to navigate the waters of the internet with their students, the ability to do so.
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