Blocked For Me, Open For You

pay heed by most uncool
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Children in my class cannot use YouTube at school, but as soon as they leave at the end of the day, they will.

Since the exponential growth of the online video giant I have never once used a video directly from YouTube in my classroom. It is exempt from my teaching routine. On reflection I find this fairly incredible.

In England each local authority can choose which sites are open to use in the classroom. YouTube is blocked by many due to inappropriate content, which includes the comments accompanying the footage. However I have never been shown, read or offered an explanation by my local authority about their reasoning.

At the end of school children will go home and use the website, open to the inappropriate content we block in school. Not only is YouTube exempt from my teaching, I am exempt from helping children better understand, process and find value amidst a mass of video content. I am exempt from demonstrating and educating the children in my class to appreciate the power of such an information source. Apparently that is a good thing.

In my opinion it comes down to some hard decisions. The longer, more protracted path of educating young primary school children in dealing with open content on the web (including YouTube) is too hard a path for some to consider. The easy route is to block it. And that is what has happened.

It is hard to fully appreciate the effect this will have on years and years of children not being given guidance about open content, from the very people who are best placed to provide it.

I consider YouTube an unprecedented source of information in the form of videos. Does the blocking of access to this information infringe on our rights? According to Kimberley Curtis,

Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights holds that freedom of expression includes the right to information.  Specifically, it states that

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

It goes on to admit that governments can place certain restrictions on these rights, but only if necessary.  This has long been understood to cover access to government information, such as rights covered by the Freedom of Information Act in the US.  But increasingly some are starting to include access to knowledge, particularly in regards to the internet, in this rubric as well.

No hands ma! by OLD! (NEW! http://flickr.com/codooautin)
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

I take it then that governments have given school’s local authorities the freedom to choose what to block “if necessary” and YouTube falls into this category and the easy short-term decision is easy. So what would I want to see? What would I do with an unblocked, unfiltered web? I would invest the money from filtering in high quality guidance, training and materials to provide teachers the ability to properly guide young learners in the web they use at home anyway. Bringing some parts of our teaching force up to speed with the internet their students are using, and equip them with the basic principles for teaching and using an open web.

Having complete access to knowledge will after all benefit an economy in the long run, right? The Every Child Matters aims and objectives state that whatever their background or their circumstances, every child should have the support they need to:

  • be healthy
  • stay safe
  • enjoy and achieve
  • make a positive contribution
  • achieve economic well-being.

With a filtered version of the internet are we providing children the best possible chances to feel they can make a positive contribution to society? Is their protracted exclusion from a growing information source such as YouTube  actually detrimental to their chances of achieving economic well-being? Would an unfiltered web make children more or less safe?

Jack Balkin from Yale University explains,

Access to knowledge means that the right policies for information and knowledge production can increase both the total production of information and knowledge goods, and can distribute them in a more equitable fashion. The goal is first, promoting economic efficiency and development, and second, widespread distribution of those knowledge and informational goods necessary to human flourishing in our particular historical moment– the global networked information economy.

I repeat: It’s not just a trade off between equity and efficiency. We are not simply fighting about how to divide up a pie. Access to knowledge is about making a larger pie and distributing it more fairly. Or, at the risk of extending this pie metaphor well beyond its appropriate scope, access to knowledge means giving everyone the skills to make their own pies and share them widely with others.

Durham

(“How to make a pie” returned 23,500 results on YouTube.)

Beyond the filtering of YouTube there is massive inconsistency across UK schools about which sites are blocked and which are open. I work in Nottinghamshire, for some reason many of the sites that I use for educational purposes are open to me in school. For many of my colleagues across the UK it is different. Would my development of learning technology use have been completely different if I was 30 miles further North,  South, East or West? Of course it would.

Similarly children in one school will be able to use different learning tools in the classroom than another. As someone said to me recently this is a sort of “learning technology postcode lottery.” Inevitably those teachers that consider certain web based tools crucial to their teaching will think twice about a post in those local authorities most effected.

I want to hold a lens up to the inconsistency between local authorities in England. I have started a Google Spreadsheet with a list of 80+ web based tools used in the classroom and the opportunity to state OPEN or BLOCKED for your local authority.

Web Tools in English Schools > Blocked or Open?

Ollie Bray has been working on something similar for Scottish authorities – perhaps when both documents have reached a critical mass they could be amalgamated to create a full picture of web filtering in schools in the UK.

I would be grateful if you would complete the spreadsheet for your own location (unless Google Docs is blocked of course!) and help encourage others to do the same, this way we will build up a complete picture.

Five things I am hopeful for:

  1. This will continue to keep the issue of open web access on educator’s agenda.
  2. Local authorities will look at the list and question their own decisions. “Why has Nottinghamshire left Wordle open and we have not?”
  3. I would like to see teachers who are using these tools become part of the process of deciding upon filtering.
  4. Explanations why sites are blocked are provided to teachers and not some random category. We have reasons we want to use them in a positive way, LAs ostensibly have reasons why they are blocking them – that debate needs to be had.
  5. More consistency for what the web looks like for teachers and for students.

Tom Barrett

Tom is a writer, speaker and consultant. He has been sharing his thoughts on teaching, learning, curiosity and creativity on this blog for over 10 years. Drinking coffee and writing would be his idea of a perfect day.

Latest posts by Tom Barrett (see all)

About Tom Barrett 552 Articles
Tom is a writer, speaker and consultant. He has been sharing his thoughts on teaching, learning, curiosity and creativity on this blog for over 10 years. Drinking coffee and writing would be his idea of a perfect day.

Leave a Reply

74 Comments on "Blocked For Me, Open For You"

Notify of
avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
trackback

[…] that I can now do that I couldn’t do before. Tom Barrett has recently written an excellent blog post about what gets blocked in schools and what doesn’t. He comments : In my opinion it comes […]

Mark
Guest
Mark
3 years 9 months ago

We all realize that if anything is blocked on the internet, then there
has to be a strategy to unblock it or get across the block to discover
it anyway.BY using a secure VPN like HOTSPOTSHIELD Unblock Internet at school and enjoy unlimited access to the internet using AnchorFree’s VPN. Anonymously browse the internet from school and access games, Facebook & more.

trackback
4 years 4 months ago

interior design certification…

[…]Blocked For Me, Open For You | edte.ch[…]…

trackback
4 years 4 months ago

lotto program…

[…]Blocked For Me, Open For You | edte.ch[…]…

trackback
4 years 6 months ago

traffic fine…

[…]Blocked For Me, Open For You | edte.ch[…]…

trackback

{名牌汇|幽默|爆笑|恐怖|悬疑|惊悚|故事|}…

[…]Blocked For Me, Open For You | edte.ch[…]…

Web Filter
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Nice post and thanks for sharing information about internet and its effect on kids and students. Really internet filter is mandatory in school and home computers to prevent unwanted web content and make internet access secure.

Internet Filter
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Like the post. Very well written. It contains lot of info. Thanks for sharing.

Web Designer
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

like the post. Thanks for sharing  The points are very appropriate.

internet blocking software
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Internet is really unpredictable nowadays, that’s why its very important to have a tool or to block any website that we think can harm them or can affect their studies and manner. It’s not bad to let our kids to surf online just make sure that they are safe in using it.

trackback

[…] Tom’s blog post on filtering http://edte.ch/blog/2010/02/07/blocked-for-me-open-for-you/ […]

Penny Patterson
Guest
Penny Patterson
5 years 29 days ago
I’m disappointed the spreadsheet in the article is so simplistic, it assumes everything is done at LA level –  where is the opportunity to add  ‘schools have total filtering control –  with exception of IWF list’ ? (I have sent this to you before by email because there was no way of contributing the information to the shared Google doc. Every school in LB Havering can access every single URL listed – if they so wish. They can access across the school, by specific machine, during a specific time slot and now by specific user. It is entirely within school control. Can we please… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 years 3 months ago

WHY HAS DISQUS BLOCKED ME?

Ranch hand bumper
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Puppies For Sale
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

The block list is only set because it is historical from when we first played with the filtering software. The ICT technician (who has joined since) will unblock individual sites on request if *he* decides they are suitable, but is happy with the status quo. I would imagine this isn’t that uncommon.

BlakeKirkpatrick
Guest
BlakeKirkpatrick
5 years 11 months ago

In the confusion of divorce, most parents never consider the issue of child custody beforehand. Often communication between the spouses has broken down and both parents presume their assumptions about child custody to be accepted by the child custody issues other parent. Often this is not the case. As a result, many divorcing parents find themselves confused and surprised by the prospect of child custody issues in divorce.

ThomasJPitts
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Have started to work on the spreasheet for Kirklees. Is there any way to sent to list to a wider audience – there are many authorities not touched yet.

Geoprimary
Guest
Geoprimary
6 years 3 months ago

Well done Tom for raising this issue – this is not one I can vote on but I'll be very interested in your findings.

trackback

[…] Blocked for Me – Open for You Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)New Barrett for Wisconsin web site debutsTom Frost and Waitrose […]

mikemcsharry
Guest
mikemcsharry
6 years 4 months ago

Just saw the point about a Blog being blocked by EMBC .. unfortunately I deleted the reason I was given so I might not get it quite right .. 'the web site is not moderated' oops
I've just seen a useful video for youtube in safe mode – just stuck a link on my blog.
Tom – you're in Nottinghamshire aren't you? If so – is it at all possible to call in to see you and actually watch what you do with your pupils and all this good stuff you write about?

kvnmcl
Guest
kvnmcl
6 years 4 months ago
A thought provoking post that needs to be read by as many teachers, educators, LA's and those further up the food chain but will unfortunately be blocked due to internet filters in place.Our e-safety society creates a false bubble of protection – keep everyone safe by blocking, filtering, warning and scaremongering. It's the easy option – block anything that may cause offence, harm, untold stress! Whilst teaching in Spain, I found access to online resources was unhindered, I could use every tool in your list with no difficulty. Now I find many tools in the list are blocked unless I… Read more »
Mr Portman
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

That's right. It's almost funny!

kvnmcl
Guest
kvnmcl
6 years 4 months ago
A thought provoking post that needs to be read by as many teachers, educators, LA's and those further up the food chain but will unfortunately be blocked due to internet filters in place.Our e-safety society creates a false bubble of protection – keep everyone safe by blocking, filtering, warning and scaremongering. It's the easy option – block anything that may cause offence, harm, untold stress! Whilst teaching in Spain, I found access to online resources was unhindered, I could use every tool in your list with no difficulty. Now I find many tools in the list are blocked unless I… Read more »
Mr Portman
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

That's right. It's almost funny!

oliverquinlan
Guest
oliverquinlan
6 years 4 months ago
Youtube isn't blocked in my school, not sure if that is LA wide or just us. Our teachers are pro youtube and we use it a lot. Yes, there is inappropriate content on there, but is better to have that out in the open in my opinion and have teachers who are informed working with children to understand why it is inappropriate and how to deal with it. If we can't engage with it in school, they will only look at it at home anyway and then be less equipped to deal with it. One problem with YouTube is the… Read more »
dughallmccormick
Guest
dughallmccormick
6 years 4 months ago
Smoothwall suggested that a solution could be applied that would allow for, say, a default LA filter to be applied across the board (for schools that wanted it) but that schools could also take more or less control as appropriate. It was felt that in Secondaries (particularly), this would allow releasing of sites (or even bits of sites – such as YT vids without comments) on an ad-hoc, lesson-by lesson, day by day, switch on/switch off basis with either teachers or technicians having the responsibility for these decisions. I think we are hoping to give schools more flexibility and hoping… Read more »
fiendishlyclever
Guest
6 years 4 months ago
Our ICT coodinator is happy with things the way they are (and isn't the most tech savvy of people). I don't generally have a problem accessing sites I want to, and getting them unblocked if need be. As with most schools, our primary concern is back covering and making sure that we aren't going to get into bother for pupils accessing anything untoward. EMBC once allowed us access to their Netsweeper logs for a while but no longer, so we use AB Tutor as a logging mechanism I believe – it also flags up key words and captures screen shots… Read more »
mrstucke
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Someone who line manages your IT Technician needs to have a word. What gives him the right to make the decision?!? We have full control over our filter – it's refreshingly brilliant. Although the filtering software itself (BLOXX) is a terrible terrible piece of software. It can just about manage filtering, but reporting is a big fat joke.

tomgbarrett
Guest
tomgbarrett
6 years 4 months ago

“I didn't realise the internet was like this!” – could imagine that being said can't you! I really like the fact you have given some space in the document to support teachers in what they might say if those situations arise.

I think stifling is the default setting, it certainly seems that way to me.

fiendishlyclever
Guest
6 years 4 months ago
Never mind filtering inconsistencies between authorities, it varies from school to school. I work in the same LA as Tom. We have local control of our EMBC filtering and choose what categories we block (over and above adult sites etc). I can't access twitter (web chat) and even Tom's blog (blog) unless I sign into the LA portal to override the filtering (so the filter knows I'm an adult). Fortunately when I am logged into the portal I can access twitter, blogs and even YouTube. Facebook, tinyurl and a handful of other sites are still blocked but it's a huge… Read more »
tomgbarrett
Guest
tomgbarrett
6 years 4 months ago

Although the web filtering spreadsheet shows local authorities it doesn't take into account the difference in sectors. This only compounds the inconsistency – not only do we have to deal with differences between LAs but also between sectors in the SAME authority!

tomgbarrett
Guest
tomgbarrett
6 years 4 months ago

I would like to think that there is a constant vigil on the development of filtering policies. Could you explain some more detail about the filtering system you refer to? If a school has control, what does that look like/mean in real terms?

tomgbarrett
Guest
tomgbarrett
6 years 4 months ago

Incredible! So this blog post was blocked by the LA filter?

tomgbarrett
Guest
tomgbarrett
6 years 4 months ago

Empowering learners is always going to be hard if you have someone else's version of the web. Blocking is just papering over the cracks.

Simon Widdowson
Guest
6 years 4 months ago
Very interesting post Tom, and I've been watching the comments come in with interest. I've been saying for a long time at the schools that I have worked in that filtering is not the answer. Education is. We can filter out all the supposedly evil content on the web, and give pupils a rose tinted view of the world from the cosy confines of a classroom, but once they go home (or leave education and move into the “real” world) then how will they cope with what they are faced with without having been educated in appropriate responses?We have recently… Read more »
technoART
Guest
technoART
6 years 4 months ago
Its not just 2 tier learning it's a huge wedding cake out there. Where i work you can access websites in a secondary school that you can't in a college and vice-versa. We are unable to educate students to responsibly navigate the internet because they can not experience it. You would have though this would be different in 16-19…its not. Sites are often “banned” because of lack of understanding on the part of councils and SMT, if they truly understood the learning resources many of these site are it would not happen, instead they seem to be blocked due to… Read more »
Mr Portman
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Email from me to headteacher, last night:
“Further to our conversation earlier today, have a look at this link [to the story on this page] and tell me what you think. Have a look at my comment, too.”

Conversation with headteacher, this morning:
“Clive, about that link you sent me last night…”
“Oh yes…”
“You'll never believe it!”
“What?”
“It's blocked!”

…as I was saying…

trackback
6 years 4 months ago

[…] that I can now do that I couldn’t do before. Tom Barrett has recently written an excellent blog post about what gets blocked in schools and what doesn’t. He comments : In my opinion it comes […]

Catherine Elliott
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Sadly Yorkshire and Humber Grid for Learning have blocked the spreadsheet since “Weighted Phrase Limit Exceeded”, not sure what that weighted phrase(s) that might be!

Phil Bradley
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I'm interested to see that there's no mention of the School Library Association here, or indeed of CILIP, who both have a vested interest in this area. I spend a lot of my time teaching school librarians, and this is of course a problem that they fight against all of the time (as do I when I'm teaching!) and I'd really like to see both organizations taking a much more proactive role.

janien
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

For Open Access!!

ideas_factory
Guest
ideas_factory
6 years 4 months ago
Great article Tom-Should it really be a back-lash against LA's? Most of the net-nazis are Grids that control numerous LA internet access.What we should be asking is why block sites in the 1st place?Who decides? Is there a 'panel' that sits and presides over making these blocking decisions? I tried to get primary pad blocked by YGFL-getting in touch with them was akin to ringing the Queen. I was then told that there was a 'special' login that would allow 'unfiltered' access-who had this special login? The Headteacher-no. Any of the SMT-no. The ICT co-ordinator-no. Head of Governors-no. School Business… Read more »
johnsutton
Guest
johnsutton
6 years 4 months ago

Great to hear that blanket filtering policies are being questioned within LAs.

willhaywood
Guest
willhaywood
6 years 4 months ago

Yes I think it is kind of the best of both worlds, some blocking but easily lifted when needed. Sadly too many sites get through the games filter for my liking which gives to problems whenever I used a computer room. As to other schools across the LA I'm not sure, will see if I can find out.

johnsutton
Guest
johnsutton
6 years 4 months ago
Jan Webb
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Hi Tom, very valid points made – the biggest danger with this lack of consistency throughout the country is the two-tier e-learning that is going on. It is through educating our children about e-safety that we can empower them to use online tools and resources. Blocking and filtering doesn't educate. It just puts off the learning experience. Have just blogged first part of safer internet day(s), and linked to this article as it explains so clearly what part of the problem is.

Ian
Guest
Ian
6 years 4 months ago

Independent schools do have a greater degree of autonomy. Our school has more open policy than most of the LAs for which you have responses in your document Tom, but there may be several reasons, good and bad, why that is. For the record, Youtube is not blocked at our school; it is simply too valuable a resource – the benefits outweigh the costs. And as others have rightly observed, there are ways of mitigating the potential 'costs.'

tomgbarrett
Guest
tomgbarrett
6 years 4 months ago

Yeah I have seen that before – did you notice one of the comments: “That
£10,000 is depressing I know a pair of coders who could write that script
for free.”

neilwinton
Guest
neilwinton
6 years 4 months ago

For goodness sake, for half that money I'd install Firefox, Comment snob and show them how to switch of comments on Youtube itself.

Is this just symptomatic of the lack of knowledge of how these tools work and can be made to work with minimal knowledge from ICT people?

johnsutton
Guest
johnsutton
6 years 4 months ago
Unfortunately, it's the vested interest that are currently prevailing. And I fully sympathise with schools that don't feel able to take that step and go it alone. My real beef, and I've blogged about it many times, is that the system as it stands allows schools to back off all the responsibility for e-safety onto the LA and as a result, most primary schools have no clue what is going on on their network. Becta are pushing schools to take more responsibility for monitoring their own networks, but until more start taking real steps to understand what the e-safety issues… Read more »
wpDiscuz