Showing posts with label internet filtering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label internet filtering. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Strategies for Getting Access to Websites Blocked By Your School

For those hoping that this post might teach you how to bypass filters, I'm sorry there is nothing in this post about bypassing filters. That's not a strategy that I endorse. 

I can't tell you how many times I've presented a website or tool at a workshop and a teacher has said, "that's great, but my school blocks everything." Having useful sites blocked is frustrating for everyone. I've been there. In the fall of 2009 I returned to school after the summer break to find that all of the sites (VoiceThread, Wikispaces, Blogger, Animoto, and others) that I had planned to use were blocked by the new filter that had been in place. Fortunately, my principal was willing to listen to me and some of my colleagues and he overruled the network administrator. If you find yourself in a similar situation, try these things before throwing up your hands in frustration.

Tactics for getting access to the websites that you want to use.
1. Attitude: don't sit back and complain quietly, don't sit back and complain loudly. Rather you should go to the top with research and a plan. Straight Talk from the DOE is a good place to start that research.

2. Relationships: if I didn't have a good working relationship with my principal I wouldn't be able to walk into his and have him seriously consider what I ask for.

3. Persistence: changing a school's or a district's policy isn't going to happen overnight.

4. Recruit supporters: if it's just you leading the fight you might be looked at as "that crazy teacher," if there is two of you you might be looked at as "those crazy teachers," but if you can get a third supporter then you've started a grassroots movement. This is an idea that I borrowed from this Ted Talk by Derek Sivers and from Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.

Update: Shortly after this post went live Doug Johnson emailed me with a link to something he wrote on the same topic a couple of years ago. Doug outlines ten steps in his post. But what I like best about his post is the chart that he uses to show the correlation between "knowledge of educational uses" and "permissiveness of internet use." Take a look at Doug's chart here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ProCon Content Filter for Firefox

ProCon Latte Content Filter is a Firefox add-on designed to prevent users of your computers from accessing sites containing objectionable content. It can filter any type of content you specify by keyword. Password protection means that only you can change the filter settings. This could be an add-on that parents might want to add to the browser on their home computers. Of course, educating students about what they should or shouldn't access is the best policy, but the ProCon Latte Content Filter is a nice back-up plan. The Tekzilla video below offers a little more information about this Firefox add-on.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Internet Filtering - Does It Work?

Today, while looking for an image of an Internet filtering company's logo (for a presentation I'm giving in about a month) I came across the image you see below. I was going to just post the picture with the caption, "that just about says it all" but then I changed my mind. I changed my mind because I know that there are many schools that do believe that strict filtering of the Internet is the best course of action. Fortunately for me, I work in a school that doesn't use strict Internet filters. So my question for those of you who work in schools that strictly filter the Internet, does it work? Or will it result in more scenarios such as this one that Scott McLeod shared today.
Image Credit: Flickr User Sally06


Monday, August 2, 2010

Family Shield - Filtering for Your Home Network

Family Shield, powered by OpenDNS, is a service that can be used to filter the content accessed by anyone on your home network. Family Shield is designed to filter adult websites, proxy and anonymizer websites, and phishing websites. Step-by-step directions are provided for setting-up Family Shield on your home computer(s) and router(s).

Applications for Education
I generally prefer to emphasize education about the Internet over blocking access to the Internet, but I also understand that a lot of parents would still prefer to have a way to restrict the content their children can access from home. If you're asked by a parent for advice on Internet filtering at home, consider referring that person to Family Shield.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Phishing Detection Education
A Thin Line - Digital Safety Education for Teens
Safe Computing Tools for Kids - Windows Based

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fighting the Locked Net Monster

Today, during Mario Armstrong's presentation at ISTE 2010 he introduced four challenges facing teachers and their use of technology in the classroom. One of those challenges is the "Locked Net Monster." The "Locked Net Monster" refers to school administrators and IT administrators who lock down teachers' and students' access to the web and the wonderful tools it offers. In the last year I've written a couple of posts addressing the challenge of dealing with the "Locked Net Monster." You can read one of them here and the other below.

What follows is a repost of my Least Restrictive Environment for Educators post.

In my work with special education students over the last six years, I have consistently heard from special education teachers and administrators the refrain of "creating a least restrictive environment for students." The idea being that in a least restrictive environment students have the most opportunities to experience new things, explore their creativity, and grow personally and academically. I completely agree with these ideas.

The irony I see in school leadership with regards to technology in the classroom is that often, by imposing strict internet filters, school leaders don't create a least restrictive environment for their faculty. Some of the most restrictive environments that I've heard of include the blocking of wiki services, gmail, and Google image search (which recently added Creative Commons search). By restricting access to the internet, including such innocuous things as Yahoo mail, schools limit the ability of teachers to use their creativity in lesson planning.

I understand that schools are worried about lawsuits arising from student access to the internet. At the same time if school leaders are filtering the internet out of fear or misunderstanding of the law they are not helping their teachers prepare students for life after high school. (Please note that I did not say "prepare students for the 21st century." We're a decade into the 21st century we should stop saying "21st century skills" and just say "skills" or "skills for academic and professional success.") To address these fears and misunderstandings, Wes Fryer and others created Unmasking the Digital Truth. If you're a school administrator or a teacher who works in a district that doesn't create a least restrictive internet environment, please visit Unmasking the Digital Truth.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Willie Nelson and What the Web Can Answer Today

It seems that whenever I go somewhere to give a presentation about teaching with technology, there is someone in the audience who will say something to the effect of "this is great, but all of those sites are blocked in my school." This then leads to conversation about strategies for convincing administrators to relax strict filtering policies. One of the places I usually direct people to in those conversations is Unmasking the Digital Truth created by Wes Fryer. Yesterday, I had an experience that led me to drafting an activity that could possibly help critics of open access to the web to understand how valuable the web can be in education.

Yesterday, as I was listening to Willie Nelson I got the urge to look up some information on the web about the hole that appears in his guitar. This led me to thinking about the number of questions that pop into my head every day and how many of those questions would have either gone unanswered or taken a long time to research before the advent of easy Internet access.

Here's my activity idea:
1. Have a person opposed to open Internet access in schools record the number and type of questions they encounter in a given school day or week.
2. Have that person then record the number of those questions that can be answered by resources located in five minutes or less without Internet access.
3. Have that person then record how many of those same questions could be answered by resources found in five minutes of less with Internet access.
4. Compare answers to #2 and #3.

Yes, it's a simple activity that has some holes and plenty of room for "yeah, buts," but the purpose is not to answer all of those "yeah, buts" it's to demonstrate how much more students can discover in a day today than they could just ten years ago.

Image credit: Bob Tilden

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Edition: Least Restrictive Environment for Educators

Believe it or not, I'm actually taking a couple of days off from going online. I know that not everyone celebrates the same holidays that I do so I am reposting some of the most popular posts of the last two years. This is one of them.

I usually don't write much about the philosophy and politics of school leadership because it doesn't really fit with the purpose of this blog. But Dr. Scott McLeod put out a call for all edubloggers to post their thoughts about school leadership today. This post is my contribution to Leadership Day 2009.

In my work with special education students over the last six years, I have consistently heard from special education teachers and administrators the refrain of "creating a least restrictive environment for students." The idea being that in a least restrictive environment students have the most opportunities to experience new things, explore their creativity, and grow personally and academically. I completely agree with these ideas.

The irony I see in school leadership with regards to technology in the classroom is that often, by imposing strict internet filters, school leaders don't create a least restrictive environment for their faculty. Some of the most restrictive environments that I've heard of include the blocking of wiki services, gmail, and Google image search (which recently added Creative Commons search). By restricting access to the internet, including such innocuous things as Yahoo mail, schools limit the ability of teachers to use their creativity in lesson planning.

I understand that schools are worried about lawsuits arising from student access to the internet. At the same time if school leaders are filtering the internet out of fear or misunderstanding of the law they are not helping their teachers prepare students for life after high school. (Please note that I did not say "prepare students for the 21st century." We're a decade into the 21st century we should stop saying "21st century skills" and just say "skills" or "skills for academic and professional success.") To address these fears and misunderstandings, Wes Fryer and others created Unmasking the Digital Truth. If you're a school administrator or a teacher who works in a district that doesn't create a least restrictive internet environment, please visit Unmasking the Digital Truth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Password Protect Your Google Safe Search Settings

Today, Google announced a new search setting that all parents and educators should be aware of. Google now allows you to lock-in your safe search settings with password protection. If you choose "Lock Safe Search" in your search preferences you will be locking in strict filtering for all of Google's search products including web search, image search, and video search. Watch the video below to learn more about Locking Safe Search.


Applications for Education (and Parenting)
When the safe search setting is locked large red, blue, yellow, and green balls appear at the top of the search page. This provides a large visual reference you can use from across the room to make sure that kids are locked into strict filtering while searching.