Stop the Madness!!

I have been noticing a rather disturbing trend in my school district. More and more sites I think are useful instructional tools are being blocked. I have gone through Websense to try and have them re-categorized and have submitted the sites to the district admin. So far, I have successfully had two sites unblocked for the remainder of this school year only. When I questioned staff at the Ad Building about this trend I was told that unfortunately it may be the direction we are forced to go next year. I don’t accept this. Are we really going to let the negative media attention focused on social networking sites and the fear it has generated dictate the resources we use in our classrooms? Apparently, yes, this is a big possibility.

The logic I keep running up against is, “You can do that with another program.” The “program” being referred to is usually Blackboard. Yes, Blackboard is an outstanding course management system, and yes, you can do a lot of things with it, but you can’t do everything, and you certainly can’t do everything as well as you can by incorporating other tools as well. Let’s use blogs as an example… Yes, Blackboard offers a discussion board feature which enables hyperlinking via HTML coding so responses can “connect” to outside sources, but in my opinion, you lose one of the biggest positives of discussions when you limit them to enrolled users only… an authentic audience and a voice from outside the walls of the classroom.

This argument, “You can use another program,” makes me think of an analogous situation like, “Just use your shoe to hammer in the nail.” Sure, it can be done, but it is not the best tool for the job. Why do we feel we must limit what are students have access to in order to make them “safe”? Why can’t we educate them on how to use tools appropriately instead? And while we are at it, why don’t we educate parents, teachers and society at large about the positives of social networking sites and Web 2.0 technologies so they can see what there kids will be missing if we block access to these outstanding tools.

When you get some time, check some of the sites that could be on the chopping block and think about what the students might be missing…

WT Hanes Podcasts
Westwood Wikispaces
Global Voices
BD Room #304
BD Room #304 Wikispaces
Talking Teddies

Please comment and add some instructional Web 2.0 sites to the list. I can use all the positive examples I can get. 🙂

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Explore posts in the same categories: IISD, web 2.0

5 Comments on “Stop the Madness!!”

  1. LeftLaneEnds Says:

    *sigh* This is really going to come to the fore soon, and one side is going to win out – it won’t be a win/win solution *sigh*

    I can predict which side will win…but you probably don’t want to hear that answer. So, our response should be to NOT give up and to fight as hard as possible.

    Now, here’s the trick. When we fight, we MUST do it smartly and the tools of self-awareness come in handy here. You see, turning people off (especially those that have formed a negative opinion of social networking sites already) will not accomplish our goals. We have to provide positive example after positive example to show the power of web 2.0. We have to demonstrate the extreme handicap in blocking portions of tools online and we MUST shift our focus of concern to INSTRUCTION!!!! If we focus on the negative, then all we will see is negative results. If we focus on positively changing instruction for the good or our students, then we will see the positive results. We’ve got to show people that these decisions are not about the dangers of technology, but about the new opportunities to engage students in a new type of instructional environment with technology as the driving tool of choice.

    One more thing – we (you and I) must also be prepared to rethink our own positions and opinions and really look at issues with a fresh perspective each time. This is the hardest thing to do, but probably the most important as it allows us to tune-in with those that we need to listen to us.


  2. Hi Angela
    I am a co -creator of the talking teds blog and sites being blocked is a problem here in Scotland. We in Argyll are unable to see Flickr photostreams yet can use the excellent Bubbleshare. In Glasgow it is the other way around! I hope with the advent of the Scottish Schools DigitalNetwork- SSDN, many of these restrictions will go. As Alan November advocates we need to show internet responsibility in school by teaching the grammar of the internet.

  3. astephens Says:

    Thank you both for your well-thought out posts. If you come across any educational blogs,wikis, podcasts or other Web.20 resources you think might help me support my case, please pass them along.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Angela,
    We talked briefly about this last week in an afternoon technology session with my teachers who were setting up classroom blogs at WordPress.com. I know that some day (maybe sooner than later) I will show up to school only to find that site will be blocked by Websense. I am really surprised that we can still see your Blogger site.

    Here’s the bigger question that will need to be answered on that dreaded day. Will my PE teacher’s new blog hosted at WordPress (http://mrvaughn.wordpress.com/ ) be blocked and my 2nd grade teacher’s class blog (http://www.inspiredclassrooms.net/ginn/ ) that is delivered via WordPress software, but hosted on my server at inspiredclassrooms.net still be up and running?

    SAME TOOL, two different hosting locations. Are they going to block the tool or the hosting location?

    -Darren Wilson

  5. Kary Says:

    I have my students make their own blogs during the school year and upkeep them for a grade. It is a great learning opportunity. They learn the positive way to do this and what information should go on their sites. I had a lot of success with this and my students took off the personal information they had on Xanga and Myspace. I also got to know my students better by doing this assignment and I am wantin to do it at the beginning of they next year, after my freshman get their laptops. Blocking these sites would be harmful to my World Geography class and to my students. It is a great tool to discuss current issue from around the world and a great opportunity to get to know my kids better.


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