Posts filed under ‘Education’

Access denied

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

access deniedHopefully 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:

_______________________________________________________

filter blockedblocked

You cannot access the following Web address:
https://librarygarden.net/?p=2399&preview=true
The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Technical/Business Forums
You can:
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.”

edutwist quote

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:

eHoweHow (www.ehow.com)

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 tips graphic 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.

SKype Chart

Skype Chart

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

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September 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm 15 comments

Teaching Generation M handbook–"hot off the presses!"

Teaching Generation M: A Handbook for Librarians and Educators, edited by my New Jersey librarian colleague Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic (Rutgers University-Camden) and me (Robert J. Lackie, Rider University), has hit the bookstores and is now available for your reading pleasure! Neal-Schuman (N-S) Publishers promised delivery by June 30, and true to their word, yesterday afternoon, UPS rang my doorbell with two copies, still warm from the printing press. 😉

I am especially happy to announce this publication on the Library Garden (LG) blog, since four out of the eight senior contributors to LG were willing and able to take time out of their busy schedules to write chapters within the handbook: Amy Kearns, Karen Klapperstuck, Tyler Rousseau, and, of course, myself.

I know that I also speak for lead editor Vibiana and our project development editor at N-S, Sandy Wood, when I say that we sincerely appreciated the hard work and diligence of all our two dozen-plus chapter authors. We hope that you find our handbook about working with and devising quality educational resources for “Generation M” – today’s group of teens and young adults born in the early 1980s through the mid-to-late 1990s – to be interesting and helpful.

-Robert Lackie

Technorati Tags: Gen M, Generation M, educators, librarians

July 1, 2009 at 9:46 am 6 comments

Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) Provides More "What Works" Than You Probably Knew


Last week, Patricia Dawson (the Science Librarian at Rider University) and I (the Education Librarian) did a library research instruction session together at our Rider University Libraries for students in a math curriculum course in our the Master of Arts in Teaching program. We, of course, discussed, demonstrated, and provided hands-on time for several databases and Web sites that we subscribe to or visit regularly to keep up with various reports and research on improvements in education. Besides looking for articles by particular authors on the topic of teaching fractions, they were also looking for substantive intervention reports and proven practical information guides regarding various teaching strategies. The students were very pleasantly surprised by several database findings and sites, including our EBSCO ERIC database, and what replaced the AskERIC site–The Educators Reference Desk. Both were extremely useful in their research, and it was the reminder email I received from ERIC News earlier today about their newly redesigned Web site that reminded me that many education students, current teachers, and professors in undergraduate and graduate education programs are not familiar with particular valuable publications available via ERIC, even if they have previously used the ERIC database. I meant to blog about this earlier this week, but it is never too late to share valuable information!

Because we subscribe to the ERIC database via EBSCO now, I don’t regularly go to the free ERIC Web site, but I was reminded of its usefulness. Earlier this week, ERIC provided detailed information on its new Web site structure and design at http://www.eric.ed.gov/.

The new ERIC Web site features several enhancements that will make the experience of using the site easier and faster for individual researchers, along with improvements to aid librarians in supporting ERIC users. These enhancements include improved navigation, expanded help and training, an information area for librarians, and a lighter visual design.

More detailed information on their new look and feel is available at their site, and I must say that I did appreciate the new Information for Librarians section of their site; however, it was the full summary of and full text reports and articles from one of two of ERIC’s special featured publication sections that really impressed the students and professor, and I wish to highlight it: The What Works Clearinghouse, housed at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) site, which “brings rigorous and relevant research, evaluation and statistics to our nation’s education system” since 2002 and also features four famous research and data IES Centers, as well as funding opportunities and the other ERIC special publication: The Regional Education Laboratories–all worth exploring.

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) began in 2002, and its newly redesigned site provides exactly the type of information researchers and teachers are looking for–a central, trusted site for full text reports and articles on the scientific evidence for what really works in education. Our students loved this site, especially for its topics of Elementary School Math and Middle School Math. Check out the “Topic Report” and “List of all Intervention Reports” links under each of the topics, which in addition to math provide fantastic info on Beginning Reading, Character Education, Dropout Prevention, Early Childhood Education, and English Language Learners. Useful explanations of the difference between Topic Reports and Intervention Reports, although very related, are provided (linked above)–this question came up often in the research sessions.

Being a very practical researcher myself, I like to point out other very interesting areas of the WWS site: their Practice Guides (providing recommendations and strategies for classroom teachers on several challenging topics) and Quick Reviews (providing, well, quick reviews, of “timely and objective assessments of the quality of the research evidence from recently released research papers and reports,” K-12+).

I found myself just as enthralled with this WWS site as the students and professor, and was happy that I revisited the new ERIC site. I believe you will find this site and other related ERIC sites very practical and useful as well. If you have other different “favorites” to share with readers of the Library Garden blog, please feel free to comment and get the word out!

-Robert Lackie

Technorati Tags: Education Resources Information Center, education, Institute of Education Services, What Works Clearinghouse, Library Garden

August 6, 2008 at 9:30 pm 5 comments

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