A Letter From a Student About Filtering

On Monday I got into an impassioned argument about the state of technology adoption at our school and the heavy handed internet filtering. A member of the student council happened to be their to overhear this conversation. When I got home from school I had the following email in my inbox. I asked the student if I could share his email with my PLN because of the conversation we had this week during #edchat. I have removed names from the message, other than that it is unedited. What do you think?

I’ve been thinking more and more about the blocking thing.

You and Miss [teacher name] were talking about how maybe it would be helpful to have student perspectives when you went to present. I would be more than willing to help you out with any of this.

I mean, I’m in a class called Entrepreneurship. I have a business and I want to advertise to engaged women about my DJ services. On Facebook, I can create an ad that will only show up on the pages of women in the Syracuse/Oneida/Utica/Rome areas, who are engaged. Now normally, if you ran an ad in a newspaper for that, the ad may only apply to every 1 out of 100 people that read it.

I think the biggest concerns would be, 1. Students would waste study hall time on social networking sites or game sites, and 2. Students would have access to inappropriate content.

Well for 1, isn’t school all about preparing students for the real world? When I go out and get a job where I’m on the computer for hours during the day, there isn’t going to be a blocking system. If I want to waste 20 minutes, I will have the ability to go to a game site and play the helicopter game. Or if I want, I’ll have the ability to check my Facebook. So instead of just trying to block it all, which is impossible, we should just teach students now to be productive with their time. If a student seriously has all their work done with 10 minutes left in a study hall and they want to check their Facebook, who cares?!

2. I know we have the ability to monitor what students are doing on the computer through another computer. Mirroring, whatever you call it. Is that difficult to do? Does it take a lot of time to go to each different computer to check them?

Imagine this, what if a teacher could open up a program that would show all the computer screens that are currently logged on in the school. It showed one at a time, and the teacher could press an arrow button to go to the next screen.

How many students do you think are on the internet at once during school? Maybe 30 or 40? How long would it take to go through those screens to check that they weren’t looking at porn or anything inappropriate? Probably less than 5 minutes.

Teachers have to monitor the halls now. And that’s a 40 minute commitment. Who says a teacher can’t go through for 4 minutes to check that no one’s looking at porn?

It would probably be simpler to have someone check it through mirroring than to actually make sure every teacher is watching every kid on every computer in the building.

And if they did unblock everything, they could tell kids that. What you’re doing on the computer IS being monitored. If a kid wants to go on their facebook, they just better make sure what they’re doing on their facebook is appropriate.

Now another question, would it be possible to institute the website blocker for certain users? For instance, if a student got in trouble for looking at inappropriate content, would it be possible to put the website blocker just on their account?

Just some ideas I had while I was thinking about it on the way home. I’m not going to be in school much tomorrow because of the field trip, and I figured I would forget them before Thursday so I decided to e-mail you. Sorry if it was a long read.

It was interesting though, because it’s something that I had been thinking a lot about the last few days, and I had actually thought about bringing in up in the Student Council meeting today (because we meet with Mr. [Principal] from time to time to express student concerns) but I figured it would be kind of pointless.

If you ever want a students perspective or need any help with it, I would be more than willing.


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5 thoughts on “A Letter From a Student About Filtering

  1. Clint Buhs says:

    It’s a  message full of insight, and well-written to boot! I’m sure you’re proud of this student. I really hope you’re able to implement some of his ideas.

  2. Dave Sapp says:

    So true!!  The student is absolutely right!  At our school we use NetSupport.  It allows us to monitor all screens at the same time, get full screen views, take snapshots of the screen and much much more.  There are other programs that also do this. 

    The schools firewall/filter should handle the rest that he was talking about.  It should handle blocking a particular student from Internet access if they have behaved inappropriately.  

    I believe we should be opperating in the “least restrictive environment” just like it is required for special education students.  Why is it different for everyone else?


  3. Lizzy says:

    This made me laugh. I love how you call Jimmy an “exceptional young man.” hahaha. Also, way to block out everyone’s name except for his!
    PS. Remember that time that you were helping me and Erin search for pictures of cowboy hats on the internet (for that prank on Ms. V) and a picture of a naked woman in a cowboy hat popped up? That right there proved that all those filters don’t work anyway..that was right on google!
    At my school we even have gchat blocked, and teachers aren’t given overrides to anything. It’s just inconvenient, especially since students rarely use the computers in the school anyway.

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