March 5, 2007

Having to deal with Content Filtering

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:06 am

I’ve been fortunate over my tenure in educational technology to avoid content filtering. The school division I previously worked for never implemented any filtering software. My current division has requested we develop a policy and protocol and I’m to lead the charge.

I’ve not ignored the topic but have contributed to many bloggers struggle with the topic. I haven’t heard much in the last few months on this topic. Is it resolving itself? Are people simply accepting whatever policies have been put in place? Maybe everything’s working really well?

My opinions and beliefs haven’t changed much over time. In fact, I believe in more certainty that blatant blocking of sites just isn’t the way to go. The challenge I face is leading an entire division in creating a policy that is both acceptable to most/many and can live with in terms of philosophy. Currently, our IT department has deployed a cache logging system and has purchased a blacklist for a US source. The trick now is to determine how we will use this list. Included is the idea of weighted phrases.

I know this will be a very heated debate. I’ve already seen the varying opinions that exist within our schools. While I understand those who want to block the youtubes, and myspaces of the internet, I’m urging them to consider alternatives. Yet simply suggesting that there is a better way is not enough. I’m going to have to develop resources and a systematic approach to help folks deal with the realities of an open access to sites which contain the excellent and the obscene.

But here’s the thing. It’s just way simpler, easy to block sites that may contain potentially inappropriate material than spend the time teacher teachers and students how to deal with the information. It opens a big can of worms that some teachers may not want to address. Cyberbullying, pornography, gambling, and hate sites represent the bulk of what is considered inappropriate. Can we deal effectively with these issues without a discussion of morality? It certainly wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter without some quality discussions. Since these are the big issues of the day for many of our students, I’m not sure we have a choice…unless we hope to perpetuate schools that are not relevant.

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Image: ‘UAE flickr is blocked again