At 11:41 PM 01/29/1999 -0500, you wrote: >Fellas: > >I bring to your attention the most recent column by Jamie McKenzie from his online >magazine From >Now On. The url is http://fromnowon.org . I've written about McKenzie before, and >I've used his >columns and advice in my workshops on how to best use the internet in classes. He >is a former >teacher and administrator in public schools (New Jersey) who is now in Bellingham, >Washington, as >a consultant and writer. A smart guy who knows the how-to's, the what-works, and >the why-to's, >and writes clearly with good common sense. > >This month's column is about wasted hardware and internet-filtering software. >Regarding the >hardware, McKenzie says that the wiring of schools is a scandal just waiting to >happen, because >many of the many new computers and networks and T1 lines are subject to the >"screen-saver >syndrome," that is, they're just sitting there gathering dust. That's because the >teachers aren't using >them -- mainly due to lack of training. His point is more finely drawn than this, >so go read the >article. I think you'll agree with him. I do. > >His second point is a tougher issue for me. He discusses censorship and >site-filtering software. In >the Worcester schools where I teach we have CyberPatrol installed on the network, >and it does >indeed block many sites, often at random times -- usually just when you need them >most, of course, >or so it seems. I've talked to the people downtown many times, and I still don't >understand how this >thing works, whether it's by keyword, or administrator input, or whatever. But >sometimes it'll block >www.usatoday, or www.cnn, or other good, clean, valuable sites. A month or two ago >I spent a big >chunk of time developing a lesson plan on Alexander the Great for one of my >classes; I did it in the >computer lab, creating a nice lesson plan using three good sites on the subject, >including one from >PBS. A week later I brought the class in to run the lesson plan, and boom! two of >the three sites I >had designated were blocked by Mr. CyberPatrol. I was not too happy, and brought >the class out >of the computer room back to the classroom. > >But that's the exception, fortunately, and not the rule. Usually the software just >does its job nicely, >blocking playboy.com and all else of that variety. Normally it's the teacher's >friend. To call this >software a form of censorship, as McKenzie does in the current column, seems to me >like >exaggerating. I'd be interested to hear some reactions from other teachers, both >to the article and >also regarding the situation on your own school: do you have blocking software? Is >it overzealous? >Have you had problems with it? Could you/would you rather not have it? > >Here's my opinion (you knew this would be coming): the teacher has to be in >control. I know: I've >been moving recently in the direction of relinquishing control in the computer >room, but this is a different story. The teacher has to be firm about not allowing >the students to go where they shouldn't be going. > >1. Have a good Acceptable Use Policy. Have each student and guardian of student >sign a copy, >keep it on file, then enforce penalties promptly when the AUP is violated. > >2. Students should use the same computer each time he/she is in the computer room. >Know who >sits where and when. That way if you miss something that a student does, and >discover some >mischief (settings changed, files deleted, etc.) after they're gone, you can still >enforce your rules. > >3. Use your History file. This is also a teacher's friend. And be sure to >include in your AUP that >students are not allowed to clear the History file. > >4. Have your computer room set up so you can see all the monitors in a second or >two -- all the >computers around the periphery of the room, against the walls. There is no better >configuration. If >they're set up otherwise, move 'em. > >These rules work for me, as I simultaneously obey the bedrock KISS (Keep It Simple, >Stupid) rule. >Let me know what works for you. Teachers must share their best practices, in this >as in other >things. I've learned so much from my colleagues, often little things that I would >never have thought of >on my own. So let's hear it. > >Arnold, At Edison/Fareira HS we've been using SurfWatch and generally its been working well. There were some problems at the beginning when it wouldn't let the kids go into 'breast cancer' but that has been cleared up as the database has become more sophisticated. We can control it to the extent that we can block chat rooms if we wish.. Ron Stoloff If the gods had intended man to fly they wouldn't have given us railroads.