Posts filed under ‘Web 2.0’
by April Bunn
Most of us have no control over it.
It gets people really upset when they run up against it.
The Internet Filter
Hopefully you aren’t trying to read this at a school computer because you’d probably have your “access denied” with most of my links below.
As a School Library Media Specialist, I am all too familiar with a great teaching moment being ruined by a blocked website. Linda Underwood’s School Library Monthly article “21st-Century Learning Blocked: What is a School Librarian to Do?” (September’s issue-not available online yet) inspired me to think more about this topic. This past week one of my colleagues was blocked from using National Geographic and another was blocked from downloading her Promethean Board software, so I knew it was time to get this done. The technology teacher and I just convinced many of these teachers to branch out and use new technology and this filter is discouraging them rapidly. Just to give you an idea of what it’s like with these filters:
- We can’t use any image or video sites at all (so long to those Google Images on our web pages and for student projects and no-can-do on that great video you found on Abraham Lincoln on YouTube).
- Also, no access to sites that have a shopping cart feature, like Barnes and Noble, making it a serious challenge to place orders when we are registering for conferences, ordering books and supplies.
- No technical or business forums (see below)
Ironically, as I try to finalize this post, sitting at my desk after school dismisses, I am blocked from previewing the post on WordPress with the response screen below:
|You cannot access the following Web address:|
|The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Technical/Business Forums|
|Temporarily override filtering on this computer if you have an override name and password. (Note that your administrator may be notified that you’ve bypassed filtering.)|
|Use your browser’s Back button or enter a different Web address to continue.|
Surveying other Libraries
After suffering from blocks preventing her from using pieces of Web 2.0 in her teaching, National Board Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Integrator Sharon Elin used her blog at edutwist.com, to conduct a survey about which popular sites were blocked and find out what other schools were allowing. Her results, displayed in colorful graphs, represent the more controversial of sites, but even simple sites that include questionable images are blocked from most students.
As Media Specialists, we are responsible, along with our Technology colleagues, for teaching about safe internet searching and strategies for effective information retrieval. As one of Elin’s responders wrote, “Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.”
So why do we have to have them?
In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). As a result of that Act, many schools and libraries got grants for technology or joined the E-Rate program, a discounted pricing system set up by the FCC for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections. One requirement of these programs was to certify that you are using computer filtering software programs to prevent the “on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or material that is harmful to minors”. Nobody is really arguing that schools against schools being a safe place, away from highly offensive material. As librarians, our collection development is monitored by administration and the purchasing has to be supported with some curricular connection. What we as educators are saying is that the filters that are in place in schools are blocking educational information that could be inspiring to a child. Parents must understand that their children are losing out on dynamic learning communities created by Web 2.0 developments.
We’re being forced to bypass the filter
In most cases, educators are waiting for technical administrators to release the block after explaining how they are going to be using it in they teaching. By the way, these tech administrators are NOT teachers or librarians; they are IT people and network security experts that are now responsible for evaluating things like 5th grade students’ research on endangered species. Are we even speaking the same language? I don’t think so. In my school, those requests are only read once a week.
As a result, we’ve (older students and teachers) resorted to bypassing and unblocking the filter on our own. My Google search returned over 1 million hits when using the search terms “how to bypass school internet filters” and the responses included videos and instructions galore. A large portion of these requests could be from students as well.
A few examples are:
is just one of the many sites giving step by step directions how to bypass the filter. They call it a “circumvention” of the block and don’t make any attempt to discuss the issue: “Whether or not these blocks are justified or a waste of time, whether they are a form of censorship or a method of managing resources, are topics that can be debated another time.” They give 3 sets of directions depending on what you’d like to use: a translation service, URL redirection service, or web proxy.
Quick Online Tips (www.quickonlinetips.com) has a page called “Top 10 Ways to Unblock Websites”
We know about it but won’t widely risk it
Most of the school librarians that I spoke to knew that these methods existed, but many had only used it once or twice, or were scared to be caught. The law specifically states, “An administrator, supervisor, or person authorized by the responsible authority [i.e. school, school board, local educational agency, or other authority with responsibility for administration of such school] may disable the technology protection measure concerned to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.”
Can’t we just block the students’ computers?
No. The FCC’s E-Rate program is specific that every computer have the filter engaged, “The FCC is imposing the requirements on ALL Internet-accessible computers used by the schools and libraries, including public, student, staff and administrative workstations on the Internet because the law made no distinction between school and library computers that are used only by adult staff, and those used by children or the public.” If we’re hoping schools will allow us to have more access than our students, it looks like we’ll be waiting awhile. If you refer to Elin’s survey, the communication service Skype is almost the only site that was allowed on more teacher computers than student ones. That wasn’t true in my school this month when a teacher was blocked from Skype or Google Video Chat to demonstrate communication across the world with her son who is teaching English in Korea.
What can we hope for in the future?
I’m trying to be optimistic in how I think filters will be used in schools of the future. Otherwise I’d feel like my degree in Library and Information Science may not be best suited for a school library career. My dreams are for:
- Trust from our Administration that we are professionals and will use the internet wisely in our teaching
- Filtering programs that are created by educators and parents
- Websites designing “school-safe” versions for filter approval
- Open access to dynamic information online without lurking viruses and predators
- Faith from the parents whose children we inspire on a daily basis that we are working to create better global citizens
by April Bunn, School Library Media Specialist in a PreK-6th Grade School
Pete’s last piece on future issues reminded me to post my summary from an intriguing talk I heard in late October ’08 while at the ASIS&T conference in Columbus Ohio, I was delighted that one of the plenary speakers was Genevieve Bell, an ethnographer, who is a Senior Principal Engineer and Director of User Experience with Intel’s Digital Home Group.
In her charming Australian accent, she promised to give a provocation rather than a speech. See what you think of her ideas.
She posed the questions: “What comes next for Web? For the information/knowledge economy?” Here are a few of her predictions/observations:
- The Net has gone “feral,” now gone well beyond the PC and laptop – to cell phones, TVs, GPS, game consoles, embedded devices with IP backbones. Some people will never encounter the Web on a PC, but through consumer goods, smart printers, etc. Web usage models will continue to change shape – more transactions, but much less surfing.
The Net will increasingly bring us things we didn’t have time to attend to in real time (like those all important TV shows we missed).
The Web continues to collapse time and distance and will increasingly be used for staying in touch with people. She noted that 10% of people in Tanzania have a cell phone, 90% have made a cell phone call. She also said that blogging will continue to experience exponential growth, some underrepresented voices now being heard. Most people blogging are women from 23-45 yrs. old (Hey, I’m almost young enough to have made this group ;) Many people are interfacing with the Web through intermediaries, for example, some illiterate people living without electricity in 3rd world countries are getting daily “email” deliveries, read aloud to them via cell phones by children and friends.
There will be an end to the “anglosphere.” In 2008, Chinese internet users overtook US users by about 253 million. English will soon end as the dominant language. New sites, new experiences, new services will arise. With this brings the inevitable incommensurability because it is difficult to make translations, especially for slang and idiomatic expressions.
There will be different modes of connectivity, new experiences will require more bandwidth.
Different payment structures are evolving, e.g., pay as you go vs. all you can eat, vs. capped downloads (up to a certain amount will be included, but then large fee is charged for more).
There will be more government regulation for the Net, controlling it, limiting access, regulating practices. Massive regulation is already happening across the world.
Increased socio-technical concerns – new anxieties, old anxieties. The list of things we are concerned about is growing. (OY! More to worry about in 2009).
Disconnection and switching-off are an interesting phenomenon (some people are now planning vacations around “dead spots” so they can switch off).
Hmm, “spring break” cruise anyone? Our family is planning one to the Caribbean this March in search of a “dead spot” (and, BTW, some warmer weather, NJ this winter is appalling – lots of icy treachery this week).
If you haven’t read it already, get thee over to ALA TechSource and read Michael Stephens’ interview with John Blyberg. Lots of good stuff–I’m sure I’ll be returning and re-reading this piece for inspiration in the future. A points that jumped out at me (quotes are from John unless otherwise noted):
- I’ve come to realize of late that if a change in library services, technology-based or otherwise, isn’t well grounded in our core values and mission, it just looks funny. (Michael)
- [I]nformation use has become an expression of self–that’s not something libraries ever accounted for. When I talk about this, I refer to it as the “information experience” because, for the growing number of us who participate in the hive, we build our own network of information and interaction that accompanies us through our lives. We literally construct highly-personalized information frameworks and place a huge amount of personal reliance upon them. Ten years ago, this wasn’t the case.
- It’s true that we are the voice of authoritative knowledge, but we can package that in ways that are not so paternalistic and present ourselves as partners in discovery. None of this requires technology, but technology has become the nexus of collaboration.
John also discusses how the Darien Library is big on Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table, which defines and makes a powerful argument for the value of hospitality. In one of those weird bloggy synchronicities, I randomly went from reading the TechSource post to Char Booth’s Infomational post, “Manners v. Hospitality“, in which she also references Meyer’s book (which I have also blogged about in the past.) One of favorite passages is:
“In every business, there are employees who are the first point of contact with the customers (attendants at airport gates, receptionists at doctors’ offices, bank tellers, executive assistants). Those people can come across either as agents or as gatekeepers. An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. We’re looking for agents, and our staff members are responsible for monitoring their own performance: In that transaction, did I present myself as an agent or a gatekeeper? In the world of hospitality, there’s rarely anything in between.”
So when you’re done soaking in the TechSource post, take a look Meyer’s book. I’ll soon have a follow-up post on hospitality and customer service based my experience with customer service training at the Trump Taj Mahal this past week.
All of the finalists for the Webware 100 have been announced and polls are now open for voting. I have found several new sites and applications to play with already and plan to spend some more time this week and next exploring before I cast my votes. You can view the finalists in one handy alphabetical list or by category on the ballot form. Even if you don’t plan to vote, this is a great list to help you stay current and find new “freebies” to use at work or home.
The contest, now in its second year, is organized by CNET and has an interesting companion blog. Voting will run until March 31 and winners will be announced on April 21. Almost a million votes have been cast in the first few days alone according to their vote tracker.
Over at ReadWriteWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick writes,
Imagine a future when you go to the library with a 5 minute video you’ve just made about last night’s Presidential debates and that librarian says to you:
“You should upload it to YouTube and tag it with these four tags – two broad and two more specific to existing communities of interest on YouTube and the topic of your video. Then you should embed that video in a blog post along with some text introducing it and linking to some of your favorite posts by other people who have also written today about the Presidential debates. Make sure to send trackbacks to those posts!
“Now, I think this is a particularly good video on the topic, so if you’re interested I will vote for it on StumbleUpon (as a sexy librarian I have a very powerful account there) and give it a good summary explanation. Any of those are steps you can take that will make your work all the easier for people to discover.”
I’ve previously made the point that all librarians should understand RSS because it’s an information literacy issue. Reading Marshall Kirkpatrick’s post made me wonder how well the average librarian would do if asked to help someone embed a video and catalog, er, I mean tag it, digg it, furl it, stumbleupon it, or otherwise advise on how to make the information discoverable.
Aren’t these also information literacy issues? And if librarians are going to be relevant and help our customers kick ass, don’t we need to know how to do this stuff (or at least know enough to figure it out quickly on the fly?
In days of yore librarians took pride in our information literacy knowledge and in our ability to instruct others, and help them navigate through the myriad of resources and finding tools (indexes, handbooks, specialized encyclopedias, etc.) I am hopeful that we can tap into that shared professional passion for connecting people and information and continue to manifest it by learning how to navigate through the NEW myriad of resources and finding tools.
I agree with Marshall when he says, “wouldn’t that be great.” Yes it would. And sexy!