Ranting: School Internet Filtering

My district has a new filtering program and I guess they are trying to get their money’s worth because they continue to block sites – not just daily, but hourly.  While working on READissance forms this morning, I had to find the number of pages in several books our library does not own.  Our public library didn’t have one of the titles, so I decided to rely on one of my best cataloging friends, Amazon.

I was using our generic student log in and was amazed to find that Amazon has been blocked for students.   Same with Barnes and Noble.  Yes, students are supposed to use the Internet for school work only, but don’t students sometimes have questions about books that can’t be answered by their OPAC or media specialist?

Okay, fast forward a bit in my day to 3rd block.  A class had come in to continue researching The Canterbury Tales.  When I walked by one computer, I noticed the Fortiguard (I think that is the company) warning that a user had tried to access a blocked site.  The site?  One that is the home page of every LMC computer – our library media center’s web site! 

To say that I was angry is an understatement.  To say that I was frustrated is an understatement.  To say that I wanted to pitch a flaming hissy in the LMC and use words that the *!#@*^#! filtering program would filter out is an understatement.  To say that I used enormous self-control is NOT an understatement. 

Yes, my library media web site was created in Googlepages.  It was created this past summer as an assignment for a graduate class and was the best way I had available to me at the time to create a site and post it to the Internet.  Yes, there may be some Googlepages sites that are questionable.  But this is not reason enough to me to block out any and all pages that are hosted by Google.

As an educator, my job is to prepare students to function in the real world.  The real world doesn’t filter web sites. This seems to be a bit of a problem to me. 

But what do I know?  I have only taught for 31 years, am only Nationally Board Certified, have only one Master’s degree plus fifty-seven more graduate hours, and lack only three graduate courses to hold a second Master’s degree (which I am now pursuing). 

While earning all those graduate hours, I also managed to raise two daughters who make me burst with pride for many reasons.  But I always tell them that I am most proud of the fine young women they have become.  And guess where they attended school?  In the same district in which I teach  – which did not have this *@#!*#! filtering program while they were students.  So, golly gee, how in the world did they manage to not grow into psychopathic, homocidal, warped maniacs? 

Ranting is done – for now.  Send blood pressure medicine.

Image Attribution: ‘Inside H Block 4
http://www.flickr.com/photos/95239135@N00/46446926

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6 Responses to “Ranting: School Internet Filtering”

  1. Cathy Nelson Says:

    LOL i am laughing so hard. Yes it is “frustrating.” And yes, that in itself is an understatement.

    Our media coordinator recently got our district librarians to be on a different level with our logins, giving us more freedoms with the filtered content than teachers. This is a step in the right directions, as we can now access many sites that we couldn’t before. We also are offered an override feature on many other sites that still show up as blocked. But it is a false sense of freedom. I worry that links I want to promote to teachers either through the lib site or ones I just send in an email may be blocked with their login. So in a sense this freedom has handicapped me to a degree, and I have to double check with another user login before adding the sites to the page or sending them. Argg. So I’m not so sure what I got was a blessing, though the media cordinator thinks it is. In my district every user has a login. The only ones with generic logins are elementary schools (and they have a library generic login and a computer lab generic login.) Everyone else must login wherever they use a computer. Sounds tedious but honestly the kids are accustomed to it and it goes really quick.

    I absolutely agree that blocking anything google is just stupid. I hope you can request your portal be unblocked. Most filtering software allows the administrator of said software to add links that should be allowed all the time. I’ve had many tell me though that their district says they cannot open the door a crack–that a subdomain allowed for one site opens them all. (To which i say under my breath BOLONEY.) Not using this option (and indeed it is an option in 99% of filtering tools) just SCREAMS that someone managing it is quite lazy and not willing to check sites submitted for review to unblock. They just don’t want to do the work. But that could also be a funding issue, as many district’s IT department is SMALL and there is no manpower to physically do that, troubleshoot hardware and software, manage purchases, installation, and implementation, and do the website too. It’s an issue of manpower rather than power-control.

    Oh and one more thing. A friend of mine who used to work in a chemical company’s lab has assured me the filter in place in our schools is much more lenient than what they dealt with. They were heavily monitored for their online use, and if they strayed from their narrow path of what was deemed as appropriate, their computer froze the screen, and even unplugging would not remove what was frozen on the screen, and the IT people would come down and escort you to the IT director’s office to explain your online activity that you were “caught” with on your computer. Now THAT is tight and borderline ridiculous. They must have a job description in the advertisement for openings that reads something like “power hungry and desire to be on a power trip.” It makes me feel less animosity towards our filter.

    Sigh. I’m glad you were able to vent. I know you’ve read numerous posts of mine about filtering. It feels god to share these frustrations and get them off our chests. Please be sure to let the readers here (me at least) know if your page is opened up and made available. I know ou spent a lot of time creating it, and have put a lot of effort into making it relevant to the kids, the school, and your community, and probably have worked hard to maintain a virtual extension to yur library program.

  2. Heather Loy Says:

    I sympathize Fran! The same thing happened to me. I created a LMC page, a drama page, and a webmasters page using Googlepages. I did so because I wanted a way to be able to update my pages from anywhere w/o having to be tied to the school’s web server. I created the pages around October/November and when we returned from Winter break all Googlepages had been blocked. So I understand your frustration. (BTW, most things Google – other than the search engine part – are blocked by my district.)

    Since Martha Alewine’s pages are on Googlepages, we were able to sway the district to unblock at least her pages. I was told mine would be unblocked, too, however that still hasn’t happened.

    I ended up moving my LMC pages to my .mac account (to which I pay for myself!) so I can still have the ability to update from anywhere. So far they haven’t been blocked!

  3. Doug Johnson Says:

    I hope your vent here is not the final action you take on this issue.

    The first line of your post attributes these actions to a “they” – “they are trying to get their money’s worth because they continue to block sites”. Do you know who the “they” is and if not, your should find out.

    Second, I would lobby for these filtering choice to be determined by a district tech committee and then get on it! Censorship is far too easy when decisions are not make by a range of stakeholders that reflect a wider educational community’s values.

    I know most those who vent feel better after doing so – myself included. But it doesn’t do much to help the students and teachers in our schools who are probably as frustrated as we are.

    All the best,

    Doug

  4. blatantbibliophiles Says:

    I feel your filtering pain! I recently worked in a school system with a filter designed for business. It blocked shopping websites, but not pornography. Very appropriate for schools!

  5. Research at a Glance — September 22, 2008 « sixslides Says:

    [...] Research at a Glance — September 22, 2008 Published September 22, 2008 Research at a Glance Tags: e-books, literacy There were a number of good articles and posts over the weekend but several jumped out and are worth consideration or review. First up, this thoughtful entry by Jennifer Wagner about another digital divide — this one between the teachers who get technology and those who don’t. On a related note, Miguel Guhlin has a nice podcast with librarian Laura Alfaro from San Antonio, Tx. ISD about the Web 2.0 librarian. Also, Doug Johnson writes this piece in defense of postliteracy. He concludes by asking, “Schools and libraries take note. We are living in a postliterate society. Are we acknowledging and supporting or in denial?” Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Informania’s rant on school filtering while I’m on the school subject. [...]

  6. Meme: My Best Posts of the Past « Informania Says:

    [...] Ranting:  School Internet Filtering posted on September 17, 2008 [...]


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