Don’t know? Just say, “No!”

There seems to be a pervasive attitude in tech support circles … among administrators … indeed, the human condition. If we don’t know about something – have never thought about the concept – don’t want to change … we just say

Nofotogail

I hear about this happening in many K-12 schools (and some community colleges) when it comes to access to online tools. I am very blessed to be at a university that has an open access policy – I have never been blocked from accessing anything online. But many schools restrict what their students, faculty, and staff can get to on the Web.

Some use the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) as the reason to block:

… filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene, (b) child pornography, or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors).

… adopt and enforce a policy to monitor online activities of minors.

… adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:

(a) access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
(b) the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications;
(c) unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
(d) unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
(e) measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.

I don’t see anything here about blocking all social networking and Web 2.0 tools. But many schools do just that. Is it really about safety? I think for many it’s more about control, being overwhelmed, and just plain lack of knowledge. If they don’t know, they just say, “No!”

A couple of years ago one of my master’s students put her entire 1st grade reading curriculum on a blog. But … you guessed it … the blog was blocked in the district. When she approached the district technology director she was told, “If I unblock your site, then other people are going to want special treatment also.”

Why?

Too many districts (and community colleges) have technicians making educational and pedagogical decisions. I’ve talked with educators who can use whatever online tools they deem necessary and most of them have an educator as the technology or integration director – they have another person taking care of the nuts and bolts.

Fear can also result in the blanket blocking online tools. Fear of predators is the main issue that arises. This connects back to, if you don’t know, just say “No?” Why is it not ok for students to have personal information published on a website when it’s a common practice to publish their personal information in the newspaper? What is the difference? Can’t a predator read a newspaper and find the child, school, schedule, etc.? And what does that all have to do with blogs, wikis, nings, social bookmarking, Twitter, etc.? (NOTE: I’m not suggesting we make students’ personal information accessible, this is just an example.) Again, we’re back to … if they don’t know, they say, “No!”

What are some other reasons? What have your experiences been?

So … how can we change things?

I need to make a much more concerted effort to recruit Ed Admin students – those who are going for their administrative certificate. Since they are the future decision-makers, they need to be learning about the effective uses of online tools.

We also need to make sure that our K-12 administrators are being invited to the state technology conferences. That’s where they will be exposed to all that is good about using online tools.

Instead of blocking, we should be educating. We need to teach students how to be safe online, how to be good digital citizens, and how to take responsibility for their actions – teachers, administrators, and parents need to know these skills and principles also.

What else can we do to change the culture? What do you suggest?

2 thoughts on “Don’t know? Just say, “No!”

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