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Banned Websites in Schools

ALA runs the Banned Books Week and Freedom to Read talks about this as well. I’ve suggested before that American Libraries, Library Journal or ALA should start a banned website list or contest for the silliest or most damaging banning. I think that it would make an amazing cover story and be picked up my the mainstream media too. In this day and age is banning a website any more censorship or destructive to democracy or learning than banning a book? I wonder.

Eight Surprising Websites That Schools Can’t Access

Here are a few submited by teachers:
1. SKYPE
2. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
3. GLOGSTER
4. DROPBOX AND OTHER FILE-SHARING SITES
5. BLOGSPOT AND OTHER PERSONAL BLOGGING PLATFORMS
6. KHAN ACADEMY
7. FLICKR
8. FREEDOM TO TINKER

Of course, we’re not surprised that the sites that contain much educational content and connections are blocked as well so they’re not on this surprise oriented list (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Club Penguin, Vimeo, etc.)

We’re trying to teach learners information literacy. Some educrats and technocrats would have us teach road safety in the world where roads weere banned too.

Banned Websites Compared to Banned Books in Schools

With reference to MindShift’s “Surprising Websites that Schools Can’t Access.”

“Book banning has long been a controversial issue in the nation’s schools. Now some educators say banned websites pose as great a threat to kids’ education and intellectual freedom. Filtering software and school rules designed to keep out violence and pornography are also blocking key educational and otherwise useful sites, teachers say, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – not to mention Google and National Geographic.” — www.usatoday.com

“Here’s Karen Cator, the director of Education Technology at the D.O.E. in a recent MindShift interview:

“The bottom line is that we do need to figure out how kids can be safe and out of harm’s way and not exposed to inappropriate materials online. But the filtering programs we have are fairly rudimentary. We need more intelligent filtering programs, safer search environments, smarter technologies so that people aren’t just shutting down large swaths of the Internet. There’s a lot on YouTube, for example, that could be safe and really instructive, but since it’s just in one bucket, a lot of schools just shut down YouTube.””

Of course, my favourites will remains a certain Middlesex County that once banned its own website(s) across the county. I also recall when any database that covered current affairs, business affairs, etc. as blocked as well.

There’s humour here and its a serious issue.

Stephen

Posted on: July 31, 2011, 6:33 am Category: Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Thank you for this post, Stephen! On September 28, 2011, as a part of ALA’s Banned Books Week, several teacher librarians across the country will celebrate #bannedsites Day. Our goal is to start a conversation about how ubiquitous filtering impacts teaching and learning. For more information, please visit BannedSites.info.

  2. sherrie said

    I’m glad to see facebook and twitter are blocked — this way kids will be more likely to pay attention in class rather than see how their farm is doing or complaining in 140 characters or less about school lunches or how Timmy didn’t ask Lexie to the school dance.

  3. Sherrie: I worry more that if a teacher can’t control such simple things in a classroom then we have far bigger issues. If mobile devices are the chief access point to the web for learning and information we need to support them. Also, mobile devices are the way kids get around the school’s filters since the school can’t filter the mobile web personal accounts – just Wifi. I also worry that with the majority of people on Facebook, I’d prefer for kids not to learn how to handle privacy, appropriate use, and personal reputation management in the streets by happenstance. Indeed, by some measures, FB and Twitter are major sources for information and the sharing of information. It has to be as difficult to teach the skills kids would need for social tools when they’re blocked as it would be to teach crossing the road safely if we banned roads.
    SA

  4. Well said, Stephen. It is shortsighted to block resources because of potential classroom management issues. When mainstream social media is used FOR instruction, we embed important digital citizenship lessons in core curricular content. Yes, there are facsimile resources available for instruction, and those are important too, but we cannot rely on young people’s ability to transfer and apply the skills they acquire in one platform to another without practice and guidance. It is therefore essential for learners to have academic experiences in these platforms so they learn to use them for productivity. If I want to know the latest Gale/Cengage news, I don’t visit their website. I visit their Facebook page. This is just an example of how the world is changing. If we deny students access to mainstream social media in school, we are sending the message that they are a) bad and/or b) frivolous. Neither are true, so long as we show students how and why.

  5. Betty Marcoux said

    Balance between safety and access has always been thrown toward “age appropriateness” whether websites or books, or anything else. And while these may not be in the classroom they are in their lives….. My question is when is it age appropriate to teach about these things, and what constitutes safety versus our adult concerns? Having raised kids, taught kids, working with grandkids; I know that what we knew/know isn’t what they knew/know.