Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blocking? Unblock the good stuff. Who says it is good stuff? We do.

I am confused.

Yes, I am getting old and get confused easily.

This is not due to that. Today I sent out some plurks bragging about some things my teachers are doing with technology. One of the teachers is using Skype to do collaborative work between groups in different schools. A second teacher is doing a math project with her 6th grade class using a wiki as one of the tools.

All of this is great, and I want to show it off to other schools, and maybe help others do similar projects in their schools. One teacher says that Plurk is blocked at her school; another says they cannot use Wikis in their district. Why? That is a good question, that and by whom?

What I hear from the teachers and from other tech directors who do the blocking tends to be either “bandwidth considerations” or “Security” or whatever. As many bloggers have noted in the past, my self included; why do we have computer networks and other technologies in our districts? The only answer that I can come up with is ‘to facilitate teaching and learning’. Why are these site blocking decisions being made by the technology people and not instructional people?

Who is in charge of a school network? Who is in charge of everything in the district? Generally it is the School Board and Superintendent. Technology people are hired to work with the network so it is useable and secure. But who decides what sites and tools are to be blocked in a district? I believe if the technology people have a robust network, and have their security in place, there are few sites that need to be blocked. If bandwidth is an issue, buy more or get a packet shaper. If security is an issue, then the security needs to be improved to a point where it is not an issue.

Wikis are wonderful education tools, it allows for student created content and collaboration. Skype is a good tool to connect with other people from around the world. Why would a district not want to use these? If any of you are having useful tools blocked, fight to get them unblocked. If your tech people start mumbling about bandwidth and security (yes we tend to mumble and use jargon to confuse the unwashed), have them contact me, I can straighten them out.

Remember we are here to educate, to open students minds, to help them gain knowledge of the world, learn modern learning and collaboration tools. Blocking is not a way to do this.

OK time to catch my breath.


Brent Jones said...

I think that we should block only the truly bad stuff. Never wikis or Web 2 sites. Even MySpace and Facebook can be used to teach/learn.

tsakshaug said...

I agree, we have some community pressure to block MySpace and Facebook, working on some training to show it is a good site to use

Brian C. Smith said...

As Gary Stager says they'll do everything to protect the hardware but not the students. What I think he means is that we are hurting students by not grAnting them access. Frustrating for sure.