Monday, July 23, 2007

5 Whys

  1. Why can I not go here from school?
  2. Why is it so hard to get past this?
  3. Why is there no educator making decisions on this?
  4. Why is it my job to request access to it?
  5. Why has nobody else where I work realized it's blocked?

...for those who can go...
Scott McLeod

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 3:48 PM   13 Comments


At July 23, 2007 , Blogger Jim Gates said...

Five excellent questions. Number five brought a smile to my face, but with a touch of sadness at what that implied. And number three is a good one that almost demands an answer, doesn't it?

At July 23, 2007 , Blogger Wesley Fryer said...

I was delighted today to find my first Oklahoma school district which actually does different Internet content filtering for teachers than students. When teachers login to their computer they can get to Flickr, wikispaces, pbwiki, etc. Student accounts can't. I think this is one way to approach this: Teachers should have greater latitude in accessing Internet websites than kindergartners. This is something I'm encouraging school district leaders to do here in Oklahoma and elsewhere. If teachers are already logging into active directory or another authentication scheme, the IT department can set things up on the content filter so teachers are treated differently... with greater levels of access. That might be one way to approach this problem.... It certainly IS frustrating, I deal with this in virtually all schools I work in, and have to request "whitelisting" of websites we want to use for professional development in many cases, since the websites we use are read/write websites permitting "user created content," considered the GREAT TABOO by most school districts these days.

I dream of the day I'll have a cellular network card that will go into my laptop, and I'll be able to get on a high speed Internet connection from basically anywhere and completely bypass the school's content filter. That day is coming.... my iPhone is a sign of things to come!

At July 23, 2007 , Blogger Mark Ahlness said...

Jim, thanks for your reassurances that these were rhetorical questions.

I am very happy to hear there is progress where you are. Last year my school district did the same thing. Sounds great, right? But it meant absolutely nothing to me and most of the teachers where I work....

1) teachers were not notified that they could access stuff kids could not - were they supposed to get this news in the newspaper?
2) teacher access to "relaxed" filtering could only happen on the "teacher workstation"
3) I have 18 computers in my classroom. Three belong to the district, the rest I'm in charge of. Guess which is the slowest, in terms of processor speed and memory? Guess which one logs you off automatically after 10 minutes? Guess which computer is used the LEAST in my room?... the teacher workstation.
4) and of course, my kids couldn't use it, even if I did...

It's a much more complex problem, and the fix is not the simple one that looks good to the press...

Yes, wireless access is the thing that will put those filter knickers in an unfixable knot. Already, my personal laptop can connect - in my classroom! - to the Internet via neighborhood unsecured wireless access.

I'm thinking back to the days when my classroom connected via a personal (shared) dial-up connection. Filters were not even invented back then. Now it'll be wireless... and what can they do? - Mark

At July 23, 2007 , Blogger Brian B said...

I implemented flexible levels of filtering this past spring in my school district. Unlike Mark's experience, I have notified our teachers and will be doing so again this fall. Not only do they have more access then students, they can attend a workshop to learn about Federal law, our district filtering policy, and cyber-safety and walk away with an override account. This gives them even more leeway when looking for educational materials. The intent of the flexible filtering and override accounts is to give the power to the classroom teacher while still remaining in compliance with the Feds.

At July 23, 2007 , Blogger Graham said...

Gee, that image looks very familiar.

At July 24, 2007 , Blogger Scott McLeod said...

Well... either it's just my blog being blocked (probably lots of reasons for that!) ... or maybe it's all TypePad blogs ... or maybe it's all blogs. I've seen the latter two in any number of districts. It's very sad.

Question 3 is the one I keep asking districts. Principals and superintendents would NEVER abdicate oversight responsibility for the financial operations of their school organizations, yet they seem quite willing to do so when it comes to what is arguably the most important influence on modern society: digital technology. Not good.

Whether you were posting this literally or metaphorically, either way I appreciate the post!

At July 24, 2007 , Anonymous David Robb said...

I understand the need for some kind of filtering for adult sites. However, I feel your pain. These filters are not "smart" as your district's software indicates.

I have the same frustration with my district. The logistics of getting sites that have no business being filtered, unblocked is ridiculous. My school system filter is currently blocking (btw, a great PD tool). Why? The filter says it's a "Game" site. I have to fill out a form and wait for it to go through an approval process to get the site unblock. Someone can look at the site and tell in 2 seconds it's not a gaming site. Why is a whole "approval process" necessary? Where is the common sense?

At July 24, 2007 , Blogger Mark Ahlness said...

It's amazing how much passion there is on this issue and how little impact it has on changing anything. What does encourage me is how I'm reading more lately about higher profile folks getting blocked, like Graham's pic of Stephen Downes' block (at a recent conference in Australia? - yikes, it's spreading), and Andy Carvin's mention of a personal experience on his PBS blog.

So Scott, I guess you're in good company. And no, my post was no metaphor. The image was a screen grab from a student computer in my classroom yesterday. Besides, I grew up in Minnesota, and I always thought metaphors were kinda scary :) - Mark

At July 26, 2007 , Blogger Scott McLeod said...

Hey, you should ask your tech person these questions and post the answers!

At July 26, 2007 , Anonymous Dean Mattson said...

I'll one up you. Last year I created a webpage for parents at my school and I put it up on my .Mac account. When I tried to access it from school, it was totally blocked; I got the same type of message you did. So I went to the trouble of "submitting it for review." And I never got any response! Not a yes, not a no, not an explanation, nothing! I asked everyone I remotely knew in the IT department asking for assistance, they all said they would pass my request along. Nothing happened.

Eight months later, I discovered they finally started allowing webpages from that domain.

If a school district is going to block sites that's one thing, but then to be too totally inflexible, secretive and non-responsive about it is really maddening.

At July 26, 2007 , Blogger Mark Ahlness said...

Thanks for the comment, but you can't possibly one-up me. ( I feel a meme coming on...)

At the start of school last year, the following were blocked in my school district as of September 1, 2006. If you don't want to follow the link, it includes all edublogs, technorati(!), all wordpress blogs, David Warlick (among many other high profile individuals), all wikispaces sites - and MANY, MANY more.

Deep breath....

Scott, thanks for your encouraging words, but the reality of the situation precludes my putting in a (one more of many) request. Those in control of the filter are not in any way held accountable to an educator or an educational group, like C&I...

I have endured too many hand slappings and veiled threats. I am not looking to lose my job, and I DO think about that as I write here...

My neck is out there on this. Thank goodness nobody where I work will read it :) - Mark

At January 14, 2008 , Blogger doug0077 said...

This post has been removed by the author.

At January 14, 2008 , Blogger doug0077 said...


If you and your readers are interested, I am doing an ISTE SL presentation tomorrow (1/15/08) 6PM SLT called Maintaining Intellectual Freedom in a Filtered World. Join use.

Resources that support this presentation are at:

All the best,



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