A couple years ago, I made a commitment to take my classes virtually paperless. Aside from the occasional in-class exam, my students and I rely on our class website and various online tools to move documents back and forth, to have asynchronous discussions, and to create and view presentations. Of course, the catch is that we need the internet, but my school has campus-wide Wi-Fi and I teach in a big city where hotspots and 3G are ubiquitous.
So it’s easy for me to forget that I’m lucky. On my campus the web is available in virtually all of it’s unfiltered glory. On top of the essential tools like our LMS, Dropbox, and Google Docs, we also have access to Web 2.0 sites like Blogger, Ning, VoiceThread, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Sure, we’re concerned about our students finding offensive content, but we’re also committed to helping our students and teachers make wise online choices. If we’re preparing kids to be in the world, why not educate them about it?
So I’m reminded today that many teachers and students aren’t as lucky. I’m at a Model U.N. conference at a large suburban school in a well to-do area. The school has Wi-Fi, but the filter is so aggressive I can’t access sites my students and I use daily (I’m writing this post on my iPad on 3G).
Others have made the argument against filtering, so I won’t go into that in detail (see excellent arguments here and here), but I’d love to get your opinions. Is filtering necessary? If so, why filter so aggressively? Is there a way to filter effectively that both protects students and allows them to use the Web to its potential? Aren’t we doing students a disservice by blocking the full internet? As my PLN colleague @WackJacq told me this morning: “I’ve students who instead of experiencing epiphanies & wonders, learn about bureaucratic gridlock, & stubborn fear! When/Where shall our students begin to learn how to use the internet as a learning tool?”