Monday, January 22, 2007

Web Sense

The recent install of a new web filter in my district forced the discussion of best practice in web filtering, acceptable use policies and enforcement, and training on digital discipline. This topic has been discussed in many publications and on more blogs than can be aptly linked to here. However, this post in particular attempts to capture the range of sentiment and tenacity of arguments regarding web filtering. The key is coming up with solutions.

A team of district and school employees came together to try and address this issue for our district, in the short-term, and hopefully for the long-term. We debated from our various polemics for awhile and then settled in to stake out some common ground. In the absence of effective teacher supervision of students, no accountability for students signing the acceptable use policy, and little discussion of digital discipline in or out school we resolved to do the following: (1) adopt conservative parameters for filtering, (2) design a lesson for teachers and students on the acceptable use of the internet, (3) begin enforcing the policy with consequences, and (4) raise the urgency to implement the K-12 I-Safe curriculum.

We are not naive enough to believe that we will prevent students from accessing objectionable material on campus. By Wednesday last week (one day after the new filter was installed)students had a reliable method for circumventing the filter. However, we limit the accessibility to pornography and other blocked sites for the most students and send the message that they are violating some rule (even if we have never fairly explained it to them or followed through on effective enforcement).

We believe that to be effective the district has couple the clarification and enforcement of the acceptable use policy and teaching of pro-social use of the internet and other modern media. Improving the effectiveness of the AUP and teaching pro-social web skills is going to be a work in progress.

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