An experiment in professional learning, collaboration and sharing of ideas.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Protecting our kids online.
With the emergence of Web 2.0 we are being encouraged to be creators like never before. Every day, so many great tools are developed that it's hard to keep up! This is not a bad thing. A lot of these tools are fantastic for engaging kids (and teachers) in learning. Just this year I have discovered blogging (using iWeb and Blogger), Bubbleshare, Ning, Bubbl.us, flickr, Twitter,Teachertube, Slideshare, ToonDoo, Google docs, and LOTS of other great tools that I can see great educational value in for the classroom. The frustrating part comes when I try to put these tools into use in my classroom.
Most of the sites and tools that I mentioned above are blocked by our Education Department's website filtering program (BESS). Bess (the internet retriever) is designed to filter sites to protect our students from inappropriate content. I get the theory... we don't want our kids exposed to bad stuff. We know there are some pretty dodgy things on the internet and the kids need to be protected. But is the OVER blocking of sites the best way to protect our kids?
My big problem with Bess is that she doesn't follow the kids home. On home computers our students WILL come across inappropriate internet content at some stage. They need to know what to do when this happens. Blocking PORNOGRAPHY at school is common sense, blockingGOOGLE DOCS makes no sense at all. Teaching kids how to close a screen and get an adult is a far better method of protection. Teaching responsible internet use along with adult supervision has to be a better option than blocking anything and everything 'just in case'. This method means that we can be VERY limited in what we do.
There are some great texts and interactive programs that are available for us to use with our students AND parents to show them how they can protect THEMSELVES. Cyberquoll is one of these programs that have been developed for Australian schools. It recommends 'sensible' self protection measures. Using first names only, no personal information, thinking about the photos you upload and the importance of not meeting people you only know from online are some of the topics that are covered. The series is made up of six 10 minute videos that are very child friendly.
If we over block sites at school we have no way to teach kids to protect themselves. As well as this, we spend a ridiculous amount of time requesting sites to be unblocked and then waiting for these requests to be processed. Quite often we then find the same sites re-blocked the next month. This overprotection is at the expense of some valuable learning and access to up to date learning tools.
Considering that it unlikely that Bess will be put to sleep (remember she is not an actual dog!), what can we do to make this manageable? What's the situation worldwide? How can we teach our kids these important skills?