Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Internet Filtering in the Age of Insanity

I like to follow the writing of Seth Godin, Kathy Sierra, and Guy Kawasaki through their blogs. None of these writers are work in education (though Kathy Sierra was a trainer with Sun Microsystems), but we have a lot to learn from what they have to say about the world of customer service, software development, and entrepreneurship. Kathy Sierra recently posted on those little things that businesses do to make you smile (see this post to smile along), but the message I glean repeatedly from her writing is that the role of any organization (business, non-profit, or government agency) is to ensure that our users, clients, or customers can kick ass by using our product or service. In the end our users, clients, or customers need to feel like it is all about them, not about us. We in public education should learn from the sage musings of these leaders. We in administration should really pay close attention to what it is we do that allows our customers (schools, students, and the community) to kick ass and what we can do additionally that will bring that little smile.

Today was one of those days when it all went bad. Our district installed a new fire wall and with it new web filtering. The web filtering expands on what was previously used (websense) and immediately caused me a headache. I start my day by using 30-60 minutes to read my email, catch up on my RSS aggregator, and make a to do list. http://www.bloglines.com/ was blocked. add to that Flickr, technorati, any blogspot site, google and yahoo images, itunes, podcast alley, del.icio.us, stumble upon, digg, slashdot, wikispaces, pbwiki, and the high student council page.

I would have laughed if I had not been so annoyed. The Educational Technology advisory committee was not alerted prior to this change taking place and when we complained we were told to provide a list of sites to unblock. What is we and every other school district in the country are facing is the constant push and pull of open authentic environments versus closed artificial environments. When have a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to monitor and sanitize some Internet traffic. With that said, we must also have a professional obligation to work with our colleagues to create reasonable parameters for this cleansing. For the most part my district has been open (with the exception of blocking myspace and facebook), but they suddenly and detrimentally decided to turn closed without the slighest consideration for what that means for users (including students) in the schools.

Several education bloggers have previously examined this subject in depth and have touched on a variety of the issues. Blue Skunk and Moving at the Speed of Creativity have good discussions of the issues.

If you are within my district firewall you cannot read this blog or any of the sites listed above.


David E. Weekly said...

What can we do to help you get PBwiki unblocked? (I'm the CEO of PBwiki)

Joseph Miller said...

Dear David,

Thanks for the comment. I will be working with the technology services in our district to create a more thoughtful and 21st century approach to web content filtering.

I love your product and what you are doing with the modern web. I hope we have more of a chance to get teachers and students involved in using wikis in the classroom.

Thanks, Joe