A conference write up for the Dark Ages

I'm tired and have got to go to bed, but this post from Ric Murry about a conference topic simply got my blood boiling!

In his post, Ric quotes the conference description of a local ETTC, here it is:

My Network vs. MySpace: Beating students at their own game

Today’s tech-savvy students enjoy taking risks and have easy access to negative content. Richard J.B. Campbell of Securiant will discuss how K-12 organizations can address inappropriate web content and the explosion of social websites like MySpace and YouTube while effectively securing their networks with a limited staff and budget.

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear from an expert and innovator in the education network security industry!

Now, I'm not going to rush to judge Mr. Campbell, actually he and his company, Securiant, seem to be very reputable in the security area and provide services that block hackers from attacking the network but of course, they also offer filtration, etc.

I would challenge Mr. Campbell and his ETTC to demonstration how teachers can have specific youtube URL's and specific URLs of any kind unblocked for valid classroom curricular related reasons. I challenge them to talk about teachertube, private networks at Ning, Youth Voices, classblogmeister and other places that are doing a great job and should be accessed.

I have a problem most of all not with Mr. Campbell, after all, he is a successful businessman and working to promote what he offers. My problem is with the ETTC that wrote about the conference and doesn't seem to be providing information on the valid pedagogical uses of these tools. (I hope if I'm wrong that the ETTC will correct me.)

It is quite the easy way out to sit there with open mouths as we “poo poo” what today's youth are coming too! As educators, we must not promote Dark Ages-related fear tactics but rather reach today's young people so that we can improve the drop out rate and improve test scores.

It has never been easy to educate. It means sacrifice, hard work and creativity and our networks are simply bursting at the seams and not providing many with the tools they need to teach. (Or, as I blogged about last week, they are shutting these tools down in mid stream.)

Yes, there are bad things out there and hackers and inappropriate content. But there are also valid, exciting, amazingly motivating educational opportunities.

If we give up the internet to the hackers and do not educate children on the effective ethical use of the Internet, what kind of world will we inherit!?

I think Ric's thoughts makes sense:

Again I ask, when will the student's future take precedence over a computer network? It seems to me that if Tech people are so afraid of their precious hardware that it would make sense to create 2 different ones – a “secure network” for things that need protection (files, permanent records, grades, and junk like that), and an educational network that if a virus entered, it would mean a day or two of down time to blow away the system and rebuild. No information that is important would be lost, because student work would be saved in online storage, and important system documents would not be a part of the educational network.

So, my toondoo on the subject:

Learning can't be fun

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6 thoughts on “A conference write up for the Dark Ages

  1. I was at a meeting of Minnesota technology coordinators and sat in on an Internet safety presentation by a local school district. The presenter showed all the bad things that were on the Web and talked about various safety precautions (including lots of student education). He said when the district looked at all of their kids’ MySpace pages, 85% or more of them had inappropriate content, so the district decided it had to do something. That percentage seemed AWFULLY high to me. 85%? Is anyone seeing anything even close to this in their districts with their kids’ social networking pages?

  2. Scott,

    85% seems high to me too. I have heard similar “unsubstantiated claims” as well. We recently had a internet safety assembly for all our students (1400+). It was the iSafe program our Student Resource Officer conducted. He did a good job, but it became more of a “scared straight” offering rather than an educational opportunity.

    One scene had a lonely high school boy being approach by a predator after they had talked in a chat room. The boy runs, and the predator follows him through the school and neighborhood. Very theatrical, and effective.

    A few students brought the officer into our Media Center (our one unfiltered school computer) to show him their MySpace page and showed pictures of fellow students who did have questionable material on their site.

    It became a day of developing student informants for the police department. This episode pushed our school backwards several years in attempting to persuade teachers that social networking can work in an educational setting.

    Perhaps we need something like iSafe the police departments sponsor only from an educational slant. Anyone interested?

  3. I like to use the term “educational networking” rather than social networking– kids doing things on their own time is entirely different than networking for learning although we mistakenly lump them together. And I think that the appropriateness depends on the student’s site you can see — there are items only available to friends and items for the whole world to see.

    Sounds like a witch hunt to me, Ric!?

  4. Hi folks, this is Richard JB Campbell, the speaker referred to in the original posting. Just came across this discussion and wanted to add a few thought.

    First I agree with the original poster that “social networking” sites are not all bad. In fact there is a lot (in fact I would say an immense amount) of educational value in using the Internet as a medium. If used correctly and with the right guidance from teachers the net can be an excellent teaching tool/aid.

    At the same time there is a lot that teachers (and administrators) have to take into account when using the net as a teaching tool. Issues such as the accuracy of information found on the Internet, ease of plagiarism etc.

    What I discuss and try to educate my audience on when I present this issue is the “potential” and I stress potential dangers of the internet. We focus on the technical but try to touch on the moral considerations related to blocking. It is not my place to advocate or not advocate blocking My job (and I think the job of technology in general) is to provide the means not the intent.

    We discuss how to monitor usage and enforce soft policies (monitor and alert), enforce reactionary blocks (block when they attempt to access bad content) as well as pro-active blocking (block it completely).

    It is up to the individual school system to decide what approach they want to use. We simply give them to tools to implement.

    The potential for abuse does exists, there are things that the kids can gain access to that is inappropriate and also potentially dangerous. This is simply a reality. Each school must decide how to deal with it and at what level. We have customer in some areas that block EVERYTHING (including words, synonyms and slang that even seem suspicious) we also have customers that don’t block at all and only monitor usage.

    Additionally, the kids try VERY VERY hard to find ways around filters and are very skilled at finding new ways to do so. When we do discover them going around the filters it is overwhelmingly to view inappropriate content (as defined by the customer).

    We give teachers the ability to unblock with admin rights so they can always go to whatever site they want simply by acknowledging they are doing so – regardless of the content. They can even submit sites to be unblocked automatically.

    The summary point here is that I think it is a great thing that this discussion is occurring. Ultimately it is not up to folks like me to decide what should be blocked or unblocked. It is really up to the parents, teachers and administrative folks to decide what they want in their individual districts. Folks like myself simply educate technologists about the potential, capabilities and technology.

    Thanks
    Richard

  5. Richard,

    Thank you so much for joining in the conversation. I think the point for all of us is that nothing will ever replace a vigilant teacher. Children should not be accessing and using the INternet unsupervised Period. But, teachers need to be given the tools to access to begin with.

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