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It was fascinating to come back from ALA to this discussion.   The
filtering/censorship is an issue near and dear to my heart.  Here's the way
we are trying to deal with this issue.  We have created a two-semester
required computer literacy course, with one semester taken during the 8th
grade year and one in the 9th grade year (we're 8th-12th grade).  It's a
team taught course (FOUR of us in and out to teach everything from office
applications to information literacy skills -- including Usenet -- to
html).  During the first year, we hit them hard with an ethics curriculum,
then reinforce it in the second year.  You can read about it in an article
we wrote for the March 1998 issue of School Library Journal, currently on
their web site at:  http://www.bookwire.com/SLJ/articles.article$7867.  We
are firm believers in Teach 'em, Don't Block 'em (or
filtering-software-over-Frances's-dead-body).  Our experience?  Ethics
lessons (and I think we have a unique, scenario-based approach) certainly
doesn't turn kids into angels.  But by dealing with the issues head on, we
have fabulous cover-all-bases discussions in class.  It's not superficial
and it goes a lot farther than the acceptable use policy they all sign and
immediately forget about.  We definitely still have problems, though hardly
ever of the pornography variety.  Instead, ours tend to be behavior
problems -- people doing icky things to eachother on e-mail, hacking, etc.

In terms of the control issue, I like to think that informed students need
fewer "mechanical" controls.  No one can pretend ignorance.

Cheers, Frances

Arnold wrote:
>>
>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?
>