Boy, as I was doing a little research on this topic I have discovered to my delight that it is one that is often discussed and that many educational thinkers out there share my opinion about the over reaching aspect of internet filtering. Much has been written recently about the topic and just recently @rmbyrne set up a wikispace trying to collect success stories of educators who have had any luck with peeling back the digital curtain.
In my school I have come to the realization that the internet filter and the ability to override the filter result in an ad-hoc caste system among the faculty resulting in resentment among the ‘digital untouchables’. When a website is blocked the user sees a black screen containing some language about education law, the category of the site that has been blocked and a link to override the page and bypass the filter. At first only administration had the codes to override the filter, but eventually out of necessity certain teachers were also given the keys to the digital kingdom. These teachers were usually people who were viewed for one reason or another as technology leaders in the building or the district (I was included as one of these). Eventually what happened was that these few teachers would give another teacher their codes so that they could go about their teaching without the encumbrance of the filter. Soon conversations could be overheard in the teacher’s room like: “how were YOU able to use that YouTube video, when I try it is blocked”. It wasn’t that my fellow code holders and I were trying to exclude our colleagues, but that was what was happening, and the people who needed the access the most (the students) were left out completely.
Recently I have begun a dialogue with my administration about these issues and to their credit they have seemed very receptive. I am hoping to abolish this digital divide here by the end of the year.