My survey on K12 Filtering is done for now. I probably should re do it in September, when school is back in, and things have settled down (since many SC Schools go back mid-August). I don’t know if I will though, as I feel I got good a fair representation with the 55 responses. That in itself is amazing since 55 people took my survey since Thursday of last week, and it’s summer break and vacation time for many.
The respondents represented seem relatively balanced over the grade bands (k-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) with the exception of post k12, where I had 4 respondents (7.5%) Overwhelmingly 87% of the respondents agree that filters are needed in k12 schools, and almost equally, that many folks have encountered a blocked website. The vast majority said that their district technology department decides what content is to be blocked. Surprisingly though 35% of the respondents indicated they either were not aware of or had ever read CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act.) (Read ALA take on CIPA.)
When faced with a blocked site, most respondents seek alternative relevant content (which is not surprising), but what was surprising was that almost 70% take measures to request blocked material be reconsidered. When asked who should have a say in what is filtered out, many indicated school personnel, such as a district superintendent and high level district administrators, district technology departments, building level administrators (principals), and teachers. Few thought the school board, parents, students, or the community should have a say. Most respondents feel safe even though filters do not always work, but I was surprised to learn that almost 30 do not trust existing filters. However, the respondents said overwhelmingly they would continue using online resources even without a filter, though 36% said they would use it w/ reservations. None, though, would stop using it.
So my curiosity is appeased. I do not hope to “change” the way filtering is done where I work. Quite frankly I’m pleased as punch that I have a “back door” to most blocked content, and can also request relaxing the filter on sites I or my collaborating teachers desire to use as a resource. But I do have reservations that it seems most areas have the filter set up and executed without having it explained to users (students, teacher, or higher) in detail. Perhaps some would find that irrelevant or boring, but I very well may have a discussion about this as a part of my orientation in the library this year—for all of our learners, professional and not. I think dissecting that acceptable use policy and discussing the Child Internet Protection Act may reduce anxiety and help the learners understand the need and use of filtering. Maybe, and that is a big MAYBE, it will keep the learners from trying to “get around” the filter. Maybe…(in my dreams??)
Here are the responses to the open-ended question that simply read “Your final thoughts.” I have BOLD PRINTED my personal “take-aways” or things that will effect the way I talk about or teach about filters in the future. I’ve added or responded to their comments with my own comments in parenthesis, italics, and a different color text.
I am in a charter school. Our tech person works with filtering. She is very concerned with liability issues and I feel she blocks too much, however it is easy for me to get a site unblocked. I don’t have an override password yet but I think she will provide me with access next year. She is still learning the system. I feel that our charter school board should be looking at filtering processes and assisting in making those decisions after being sufficiently informed of the issues pro and con. Putting the decision on one person is not fair to that person nor to the users.
It is about teaching ethical behavior on the internet
Despite their limited effectiveness many teachers and administrators would probably choose not to access the Internet with students if filtering was not in place. (The survey did not support this statement.) Fortunately, I have override access at all times and can request any site to be unblocked without a lot of red tape. In almost 100% of the requests permanent access is granted unless IT finds providing access would open up too many portals. School access is no different than workplace access–limits are imposed. We have the responsibility to help students understand that access in this arena is not the same as access at home–just as they will find in their places of employment. (True! I will include this in my instruction.)
We have two levels of filtering in our system. Level 1 is the provincial government and it is set in stone. There is no way to contact them to plead your case. Level 2 is with our local district. They have been very reasonable in unblocking sites for specific uses when requested. We have access to a fairly wide variety of sites including blogs, wikis, Facebook, YouTube, and Hotmail so I feel fortunate compared to many other places I read about. One site that was recently blocked at the provincial level was Awesome Highlighter. I don’t know why and have no recourse for finding out or launching an appeal. Interestingly enough I had planned to introduce it to staff next term. My big concern with filtering is, how do we teach kids to use the net safely if we can’t show them the pitfalls of certain types of site? I plan to show students my Facebook account in the fall so they can see how to set privacy levels as many have no idea this feature even exists.
I’m very lucky. Very little is blocked. I used to be in charge until the church hired someone to take care of their services and we were included. It is really just x-rated blocking.
I think there should have been more questions and a choice for other – if a response did not meet your needs (Excellent point!)
It’s a waste of time, money, and human resources.
Filters can’t block every inappropriate site. Our students need instruction in cyber safety & digital citizenship for real “protection”
When done right, filters can block the extreme cases of indecency. I don’t think filters should block every single case of profanity or indecency. Kids will find that stuff anyway.
I am the director of libraries for a school district in Texas and arrived at your survey via your blog. My district is one of the few in the area where filtering issues are decided by instructional personnel, rather than network administrators. We are also one of the few that allow teachers an override password to access sites that they feel are relevant to their curriculum. Currently we have a committee that looks at requests to unblock a web site, but I feel that anything requested by a professional staff member should be unblocked without question. We are considering revising our policies to address web 2.0 tools in the near future. Hopefully, we can make the filtering less restrictive while remaining in compliance with CIPA.
LIBRARY MEDIA SPECIALISTS SHOULD BE INCLUDED ON #7. TIGHT FILTERS PROVE FRUSTRATING WHEN TIME IS AN ISSUE. MY DISTRICT IS SUPPORTIVE IN GRANTING ACCESS WHEN NEEDED, BUT IT TAKES TIME.
I’ve read about schools with no filters where students have extensive instruction about “proper” surfing, and they seem to have few problems. The students eventually police themselves. Maybe this wouldn’t work in all communities, but it probably would in the majority of them. (I’ve witnessed the same at SLA in Philadelphia. I agree, but in SC I just don’t see it happening.)
To elaborate on questions: #4: The content that is filtered is done by category. Categories chosen to block are typically non-educational such as games, gambling, violence, sex, etc. Unfortunately, good websites get caught in the filter because they are categorized under multiple content headings to increase traffic to the site and become a casualty in the war against exposing students to inapporpriate websites. It’s not like someone is picking and choosing sites on an individual basis. Also, the filter we use does have reliable people behind it making sure that in addition to the site being educationally appropriate, it does not contain any “hidden” malware, spyware, or backdoor viruses which some otherwise terrific websites may contain. As to #9, even if no filters were in place, a good teachers will review online resources appropriate to his/her curriculum and not allow students unsupervised use. I know this would not eliminate the possibilities of students wandering (intentionally or not) but I have seen so many teachers give up control of what resources they use and tell their students to “get on the Internet and find”…… BAD approach. (Excellent points! I have seen teachers do the same (last statement) and treat the existing filter as their personal babysitter. We revised our computer lab policies this year to state that unless face to face instruction is occurring, the teacher may not be on a workstation, but should instead be moving around supervising and monitoring online activity. This is just like a teacher’s responsibility outside during student free time–we must be ever vigilant, and being honed in on a single workstation just does not allow that.)
Librarians need to be able to access unfiltered internet on at least 1 computer on campus (not student-observable) and be able to unblock site for temporary/time-limited use, then have it reviewed by IT for permanent unblocking (WOW–what a great idea!!)
I think that with consistent communication between all parties a balance can be struck.
Even with Destiny’s web path express, some of the links will be blocked. I can’t watch every student every minute on a computer. I’m glad we have filters in school. Most of the students with computers at home will go to the site later to finish research if they really need it.
They are imperfect at best. They block the obvious stuff, but my experience tells me that the students who want to get around them will get around them.
There’s a lot of truth in the statement, “Follow the money”… I am fortunate enough to work in a small district and have a great relationship with the county IT folks; I am able to email or call regarding a site and will generally have something unblocked within 10 minutes at the longest. (Lucky you!!) I have also witnessed firsthand, individuals that have teaching credentials, that walk into a lab of 30 computers, fill every one with a student and then announce “just go look for information”; I then watched as the teacher proceeded to complain that her shopping sites that were blocked. Filters seem ridiculous to folks who view the internet as educational/information resource. Many of my colleagues view the internet as a great big playground as opposed to a source of meaningful learning… We are dealing with many issues that are multi-sided and they cause GREAT angst for those trying to find the best for students, teachers and learning. ….. (The remainder seemed more like a private message to me and was not related to the survey.)
Filters are a reality that is not going to go away. As an LMS, I feel that I should be allowed the ability to override the filter when I deem appropriate. But apparently, I’m trusted to purchase books and databases, but not trusted enough to use good judgment when it comes to the Internet.
My district has been very prompt in removing blocks–however the sites are blocked by broad categories–”entertainment; games; sports” so many things get blocked that never should be in the first place.
K-12 is a broad range. High schools would be fine with no filter, but with guidelines. But the little kids might need some filtering. Porn is really ugly. I think the filtering is too stringent in our district because teachers do not have the override capabilities. However, the filter is outsourced to Secure computing.com and if we plan ahead with sites, we can request that they be recategorized and it happens quickly. But, the filter is IT driven, not instruction driven. The “illegal” V tunnel override is what many teachers and students do. We are actually thinking that maybe that is what we are supposed to do and it is a big secret! Working inside a bureaucracy is never ending frustration in many way, not just filters. (BINGO–prior planning is really a godsend to get material unblocked for me as well. I would never expect a site I requested unblocked on the same day-that would be wishful thinking for me.)
I agree that there is definitely a need to protect students from undesirable sites and if a teacher/LIS prepare his/her lesson in advance – they should be able to use sites that are not blocked due to content, etc.
I have no problem getting sites unblocked. I just tell the technician what I need, give them the URL and they unblock it.
In my school, the filter tends to limit the teachers, but the students are given the power because they use proxies.
If you have any other insight you’d like to add or share, please don’t hesitate.
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