November 11, 2005

Banning pencils and blogs

Safety on the internet is and always will be a huge issue.

While we definitely have to protect kids, we are much better off tackling much of the questionable content with the students as part of this discussion. Will’s recent post on this presents it very well. This is an issue being dealt with in San Antoino, Colorado, New Jersey and right here in Moose Jaw.

Our school division has been reluctant to implement any policy on filtering content. At present we have a content filtering system that filters sites based on a numberical score. For example if a site contains certain words from a pre-populated list or custom list, the site will receive a score. If for example the word “breast” is in the site, it might get a -3. However if the word “cancer” is also in the site, it may get a +5 giving it an overall score of +2. All these settings are customizable. We’re testing it over the next few months to see if/how we’d implement it.

We’ve got to stop trying to create a ban everytime a new technology comes along that causes disruptions. After all the internet itself is a major disruption. It’s unorganized, full of inappropriate material, very little on it is directly related to curriculum or education. Let’s go back to textbooks as our only source of information. That would be safe. Pencil and paper only. No wait! Doug Johnson’s already figured out why pencils should be banned as well:

  1. A student might poke out the eye of another student.
  2. A student might write a dirty word with one. Or even write a whole harassing note and pass it to another student.
  3. One student might have a mechanical pencil making those with wooden ones feel bad.
  4. The pencil might get stolen or lost.
  5. Kids might be doodling instead of working on their assignments

So the issue for some teachers is not only is a site like Myspaces inappropriate but it’s also a distraction. So let’s address both these issues. Will’s post address the first part and to the second part I’d say I hope that after dealing with part one, most students will begin to realize the danger of a site like myspaces and start to look at sites like Clarences’ as examples of not only safe, but meaningful expression.

Again, if you didn’t read Will’s post, you should read it now.