Sunday, March 1, 2009

Content Filtering

"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...Image via Wikipedia

The conversation on content filtering has been a hot topic in our region and my district. This post is not going to focus specifically on any piece of hardware or software, but more the philosophical view of content filtering. I encourage you to read my opinions (which are my personal opinions) and leave yours below.

I believe it is the role of the school CIO to provide CIPA compliant filtering; blocking pornography and other hard core non-educational items. It is NOT our role to block every site that is non-educational. Currently our system is setup to block content by keywords (sex, bomb, etc.) and this can sometimes cause educational related sites to be blocked.

The question becomes...why should we limit the content our students are able to view? Shouldn't we allow them to learn, explore and share information without being hindered by filtering appliances? (Again...obviously blocking the hardcore and extremely inappropriate / non-educational content.) If students were allowed to freely, safely and securely browse the web - finding the content they needed, imagine the improved productivity both of the student and the teacher.

I do believe part of the teachers responsibility is classroom management. As a former classroom teacher who taught in a lab environment, I made it a priority of mine to always be aware of what my students were doing on their computers. I did this not only by observation and movement throughout the classroom, but also utilizing software such as Syncroneyes. If the classroom teacher makes classroom management a priority, then those sites that can slip through the cracks are quickly remedied by communication from the teacher to the district.

Our district will continue to refine our process of content filtering, ensuring that any and all appropriate and educational related sites are available to our students. We will also continue to take the necessary steps to ensure all inappropriate content is blocked.

What are your thoughts on content filtering? What should we or shouldn't we allow our students to see?


JDS | CIO

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7 comments:

Bret Foster said...

I agree. While the district should provide basic, blanket filtering on obviously inappropriate and non educational sites, we should also not want to hinder the learning experience nor grossly limit the resources of our students. Teacher responsibility and classroom management is the cheapest and when teacher takes an active role, the BEST content filtering system available.

Michael Schaffner said...

The issue is the same in academia as it is in business. The use of IT filtering tools is a compliance issue (stop known porn etc.) but as far as making sure people don't use non-offensive sites inappropriately e.g. sports sites - that is a supervisory issue. As you stated the teacher (supervisors in business) should know what their people are doing. Bottom line is that IT is not you mother.

JDS-CIO said...

I agree 100% with you Michael. IT is not the babysitter / mother.

Think Mps said...

It seems to me that content filtering is an activity that carries a high opportunity cost. To what better use could those resources and time be put?

But, all enforcement activity carries opportunity cost. 'Cheapest' would be an environment of mutual trust and integrity; a perfect version of that aside, maybe IT's opportunity cost is lowest for this activity?

Just thoughts..

Nic Evans said...

IT is not the net-nanny, but it should be making sure that use of technology is aligned with business objectives. Since when has an employees use of facebook or use of a music downloads site been for business purposes. There is a real cost to use of company property from use of such sites with data leakage, reputational and copyright infringement risks.

Jody said...

I've had several discussions lately that deal with this debate. I never finished that portion on my own blog, but I've definitely heard both sides of the story.

One thing I can say with some certainty is this: The more you block, the more you're asked to block. Some school districts spend an inordinate amount of time on this topic. Others spend very little time and expect proper use of technology to be handled at the classroom level.

Much of it depends on the culture that's been established in your environment. If you know that acceptable use violations will be handled firmly and swiftly, you'll be much less likely to attempt to circumvent a content filter. The same is true if the user thinks he/she is being watched by an administrator. Conversely, if there's little/no price to pay for a content violation or if the user feels like there's no chance of being caught, then the environment is ripe for misuse of technology.

dambrophy said...

In my experience, OpenDNS provides the flexibility for appropriate level filtering with increased performance and without hindering the benefits of access to the internet. It is easy to set up and maintain while providing protection to our youth and removing temptation on the job and at home.