Blocked For Me, Open For You

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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.

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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.
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  • Mark

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  • http://www.comvigo.com Web Filter

    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.

  • http://www.comvigo.com/ Internet Filter

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

  • http://www.gowebbaby.com Web Designer

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

  • http://www.littleye.com internet blocking software

    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.

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  • Penny Patterson

    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 stop the ridiculous and insulting LA bashing, assuming LAs are in the wrong all the time. In Havering our schools have had total filtering control for 10 YEARS – and we are by no means alone in this.

  • Anonymous

    WHY HAS DISQUS BLOCKED ME?

  • http://www.ranchhandbumpers.org/ Ranch hand bumper

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

  • http://www.k9stud.com Puppies For Sale

    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

    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.

  • http://www.thomasjpitts.co.uk/ ThomasJPitts

    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

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

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  • mikemcsharry

    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

    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 bypass it by logging in as a teacher and even then I will still have difficulty accessing some sites.

    It infuriates me.

  • http://mrportman.co.uk/ Mr Portman

    That's right. It's almost funny!

  • kvnmcl

    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 bypass it by logging in as a teacher and even then I will still have difficulty accessing some sites.

    It infuriates me.

  • http://mrportman.co.uk/ Mr Portman

    That's right. It's almost funny!

  • oliverquinlan

    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 often vitriolic commenting culture that seems to exist around certain topics. This is harder to deal with, but also a necessary part of educating children in the cultures that exists online and how to cope with them.

    We also upload videos to YouTube of projects we have completed and other events in school. These are never accompanied by names for eSafety reasons, but the children get a lot out of sharing them and sharing their work.

  • dughallmccormick

    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 to be less prescriptive over filtering.

    I think that one of the issues will be one of accountability *if* something were to happen. Who would be responsible? The LA? The school? The HT? The Governors? These are not trivial questions and one problem is that people in education tend to imagine the Daily Mail front page headline when formulating policies around filtering etc. If LAs devolve responsibility to schools, will schools have to sign agreements? I'm not sure how all this would work.

    Please note, these are my personal views and not necessarily those of my employer.

  • http://fiendishlyclever.com/ fiendishlyclever

    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 when someone types in a banned phrase (my substance abuse lessons send the software into meltdown I'm told!)

    When students know you have effective monitoring, they tend to avoid accessing inappropriate materials. Perhaps effective monitoring is the way forward if we want to get away from strict or restrictive filtering.

  • http://www.mrstucke.com mrstucke

    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

    “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.

  • http://fiendishlyclever.com/ fiendishlyclever

    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 leap forward.

    Perhaps the most disturbing point is that we have no policy for what to block/allow. 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.

  • tomgbarrett

    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

    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

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

  • tomgbarrett

    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.

  • http://twitter.com/xannov Simon Widdowson

    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 rewritten our combined Internet Access / eSafety / Acceptable Use policy and one of the new sections within it is appropriate responses SHOULD something unsuitable appear on a screen. Rather than make pupils feel that they have done something wrong to cause inappropriate content to display, and try to hide it and say nothing, we are now recommending that they let a member of staff know straightaway, let the teacher take the appropriate action and praise them for reporting it.
    This approach, in my opinion, will be of more benefit to pupils in the future than of filtering so severely that anything new or unknown is just not allowed. That stifles new technology being used effectively, and that hinders pupils potential learning.

  • technoART

    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 an almost daily mail reader type gut reaction.

  • http://mrportman.co.uk/ Mr Portman

    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…

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  • http://ssclc.wordpress.com/ Catherine Elliott

    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!

  • http://twitter.com/Philbradley Phil Bradley

    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.

  • http://twitter.com/janien janien

    For Open Access!!

  • ideas_factory

    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 manager-no. Nobody in school had the login-who had it? The 'contracted-ICT-technicians-who-are-not-in-education-and-only-in-school-once-a-term(if we're lucky)' That sums up the state of 'Block or not to Block'.

    I thank you for starting the campaign.

    Let's hope together the lot of us can educate the blockheads.

  • johnsutton

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

  • willhaywood

    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
  • http://twitter.com/janwebb21 Jan Webb

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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 in their schools are I fear the heavy handed filters will stay.

  • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Tom, have you seen this? YouTube may be coming to Local Authorities courtesy of a £10,000 filter system that merely removes the comments:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style

  • tomgbarrett

    I suppose John there is a lot of money at stake here with LA web filtering contracts etc. You are never going to get advice from the local authority to go at it alone, purely on that basis. Maybe we also need to share UK-wide the processes we use to highlight appropriate content that is blocked and the costs of LA filtering.

    Your experiences need to be heard by more people so that we don't simple accept the norm, but challenge local governance and seek to find better alternatives.

  • cliveportman

    We struggle with accessing a few things in Norfolk. Last year I got all the staff using Dropbox to share non-confidential documents, such as planning, newsletters, etc. Two weeks ago it stopped working, blocked under the Online Storage cast. Now we're back to using memory sticks. It's ridiculous! It had been a real breakthrough with staff who weren't confident with ICT. They were really enthused with how easy it was to share files between home and work, and with each other. Now they just see it as more ICT that doesn't work…

    When the head called up the LA, they said online storage was not allowed and then they rubbed salt in the wounds even further by adding “You should be using the VLE for sharing files!” – something that both the headteacher and I predicted they'd say. We both hate our VLE.

  • tomgbarrett

    In the long run it will be safer, I agree – because you are investing time in developing a long term understanding and not just a short term fix.

  • tomgbarrett

    I am not sure the situation with Independent schools – but I would hazard a guess they have much more autonomy and control over their internet access.

  • tomgbarrett

    Is YouTube blocked in Birmingham? Do you think it should be Oliver?

  • tomgbarrett

    Developing that sense of responsibility cannot be done using a pseudo-web, an internet that is completely different than the one they use at every other part of the day. If we, the teaching profession, are to play a real and relevant part in educating young children about the open web, we should have close to similar conditions in our schools.

  • tomgbarrett

    For all the time you have been working with YouTube in the classroom many people including me, have not. If we are to ever have the opportunity to do so, we will need the practical guidance and experience you have gained.

    “Youtube is the authority for online video, it's as simple as that. School districts have to learn how to use this tool to keep content relevant in schools.” 100% agree.

  • dughallmccormick

    We are looking at possibly devolving some of the filtering away from a central, generalised system to something more flexible. We were given a presentation by Smoothwall before Christmas where they described a very flexible system that would allow for very granular filtering from LA down to classroom level.

    Some of our schools (primaries on the whole) may be happy to have filtering 'taken care of' and are satisfied with the LA solution. Others do occasionally express frustration at blocked sites/content. I don't think we are alone as an LA that is reviewing the whole filtering policy.

  • tomgbarrett

    Sounds a responsive system though Will. Do other schools have the autonomy you have?

  • tomgbarrett

    It sounds like a good situation at your school – in which teachers are the ones deciding the content available. I hope that the positive stories and examples that come from schools such as your own unblocking those sites that are widely filtered, will serve as useful leverage for others.

  • tomgbarrett

    It would be really useful to hear more about the flexible filtering system you refer to. In what ways is it “flexible”?

    In regard to your realisation that Hampshire is much more open than others – this is exactly the sort of thing we should know. Hopefully the spreadsheet will help people compare their experiences in LAs.

  • http://www.timrylands.com/blog Tim Rylands

    An excellent and thought provoking post Tom.
    Our LAs are the one who need to do the thinking and be provoked. The aspect of training students effectively is so important. We filter so heavily, in some places, that they are given such a false sense of security, it is no wonder they stumble across undesirable content, when they go home, and search in an unprotected environment.
    The internet is a vast resource; a wonderful wilderness of opportunities. There are some dark, unsavoury corners that we need protect our children from, through careful advice as much as monitoring.
    This is a wonderful time to be alive. The internet offers very powerful tools for research, collaboration and interaction. If we, as teachers, come across sites that are truly innocuous and harmless, but enhance good teaching, we shouldn't sit there and complain without taking action. There are the possibilities of unblocking such sites, on an authority level perhaps.
    In our travels around the country, I am always amazed by how varied access is. I am also startled by what is blocked and why: In most authorities, though not all, Noughts and Crosses is blocked! Why? Because it is “A Game”. Evil incarnate.
    All power to your elbow for investigating “what and where”. And, for raising your voice in the “to block or not to block” debate.
    Interestingly, your site, and mine, are sometimes blocked because we are “personal and social networking sites”. After this… … it was good knowing you Tom… they're coming to filter me away a ha… …

  • http://daviderogers.blogspot.com/ David Rogers

    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.

    I think that the argument for unblocking will be stronger if we also talk about responsibiloities. So although we have the right to information we also have the resposnibility to protect classes from inapropraite material and to support them inj accessing information.

    Also, is the argument one of censorship? Using the language of rights sugests that schools and LA's etc are censoring information.

    To them, it's more about trusting in the profesionalism of teachers – we are best equiped to find information and know which information is useful. There is also an internet safety aspect.

    Great post Tom! Uneuqal acess is the key – this is a post code lottery at the moment. However, the media are not supportive of unblocking sites as they take a very tradional view – what we need is lots of high profile success stories in the mainstream media!

  • johnsutton

    As someone who works in schools in lots of different LAs the inconsistency of filtering is incredibly frustrating. Just one example: I collect bookmarks for schools via Delicious and it's a complete lottery whether I can share the resource with teachers depending on which authority I happen to be working in.

    I think we're tackling this from completely the wrong end. If you monitor what kids are actually up to on your network it's possible to open up your web connection much further than you would think. The technology has existed for ages to monitor keystrokes on networks and scan web pages and as long as you have individual pupil logins it will quickly highlight attempts to access inappropriate content. Once the the children realise that their web activity is monitored they quickly start to use the web responsibly and teachers have the freedom to teach with whatever tools and content they see fit to use. All it takes is making the jump from an LA filtered web connection to a private one (it'll probably save your school a few quid too) and investing in a monitoring system. In four and a half years as ICT co-ordinator at a large Manchester primary school I can only recall a few incidents where children deliberately attempted to access inappropriate content – and I knew exactly when and what they attempted to access, cue letter to parent and a lesson learned.

  • http://jasontbedell.com/ Jason Bedell

    I think that students will be much safer in the long run with an open-web. It is what they will have when they leave school and they need to be prepared. We need to teach them how to harness the power of the full Internet and how to handle it when they come across inappropriate content, because it will happen eventually.

  • http://blog.3dbloke.com 3dBloke

    Not in teaching myself, but interested from an IT perspective (and very much pro-openness, Google Docs and so on) and as a parent of a Y8, I wonder what the situation is in the UK's independent schools. Do they have more autonomy or does the LEA still interfere?

  • oliverquinlan

    I used to find lots of useful sites were blocked in Birmingham LA, but these days they are a lot more open. I have come across a number of blocked sites, but the LA team have been helpful in unblocking everything I have asked for so far..

  • kathysanders

    I find it very interesting how various governments deal with the issues of Internet filtering and cyber-safety. Many of us worked long and hard in the US to convince Congress to adopt a more moderate approach to Internet content filtering versus blocking all Web 2.0 sites. The resulting legislation allows more local control and decision making, but requires the teaching of Internet safety lessons in the curriculum. However visual depictions of pornography is still required to be blocked, in order receive federal funding for our networks. That being said, it does became a local district decision and there are school districts that have made the choice to block more widely as part of their acceptable use policies.
    I personally believe if we are asking our students to be responsible global citizens in the future we as educators need to teach them what responsible use is.

  • http://drezac.com drezac

    I've been using Youtube unblocked for 3 years. My kids have rarely, if ever, stumbled on inappropriate content. When you embed videos, you get very little ads. I also have learned to create my own channel, http://youtube.com/misterrezac, which is ad free. Also tagging videos is important, and I've figured out that if I tag my videos correctly, students won't see inappropriate content even if they don't go to my channel, and just go to the basic YT page. It is all about training, I guess. It does take a little experience and…leadership.

    I work in a quite conservative district, so the fact that YT is unblocked is, quite actually, a mystery to me. I suppose since nobody has been hurt by it, than we haven't reacted to anything yet. Google is also getting better since most videos are listed by authority, educational videos will rarely show up next to inappropriate ones simple because of the way it's organized. Youtube is the authority for online video, it's as simple as that. School districts have to learn how to use this tool to keep content relevant in schools.

  • http://nwinton.wordpress.com/ Neil Winton

    Hi Tom,
    This is an issue I've been grappling with for a goodly while now. I've actually put a seminar proposal in for this year's Scottish Learning Festival on the topic… though I doubt it will be picked up. Anyway, I though you might like to cast your eyes over this post from Mrs W about duty of care. You'll find that some of the arguments put forward by authorities are spurious in the least. http://clinicallyfedup.com/?p=306

  • willhaywood

    At my school anything which the network is picks up as being related to a blog/social networking is blocked, as is youtube, although common ones such as facebook, youtube etc are unblocked on teacher laptops. However if we want our students to use any of these all we have to do is ring the ICT helpdesk (outsourced to the LEA) and they will unblock it there and then. I work in an academy though, and although we're using the same ICT people I'm not sure if the rest of the LEA share our policy.

  • http://learnerham.org.uk/ Alan Hamilton

    I teach in a Secondary in Scotland. We are lucky as we have 2 in-house technicians who are able to unblock websites and categories when we ask (not perfect as we have the issue of pupils searching and deciding the value of any given site for themselves still to contend with). We had a meeting about websense (our dictatorial Internet filtering system) last week. The meeting had a positive outcome as it was agreed that certain categories (such as Entertainment) would be unblocked for a period of time. We will meet again to look at any issues. I argued for far more, but it is a start. Youtube, wordle, wallwisher etc were all blocked last year but are now open. You are quite correct in your argument for more consistency. Many of the other secondaries near me, and all of the primaries, are less fortunate. My big, selfish, worry, is that great consistency for all could ultimately mean less control for my school.

    The is a debate that will go on and on!

  • http://twitter.com/ianaddison ian addison

    As I mentioned to you in tweets during the week, I have always thought that Hampshire was very strict with regards to filtering. I know that teachers across the county mention it all the time!
    But after hearing about some of the other authorities, I think we are very lucky. Google/Bing Images and youtube are blocked, but most other sites work without problems.
    Also if a site (such as Voki) is blocked, then we can persuade the powers-that-be to reconsider their decision. It doesn't always work, but sometimes they listen.
    We are trialling a new flexible filtering system too and this should give even more powers to teachers to decide what to show to their children.