Well, the NSW DET has finally gotten up to blocking the last place we had left to blog, edublogs. Along with everything else.
Any site that can be classified as a blog or wiki is blocked to students from years 6-10 at best – most are blocked for senior students too. The constant fear that we all now must live with of our students having any interaction *whatsoever* with the outside world lives on. Forget using edublogs, pbwiki, twitter, edmodo, wordpress…the list goes on.
Add to this the continued blocking of two of the most used/useful sites on the whole internet – Google apps and YouTube – and what is there left on the internet to use??
The DET released a new version of guidelines for creating blog sites in December 2008. Though it is hard to understand the point of this, when the sites are blocked anyway. Am I missing something here? And, while I understand the importance of ensuring student privacy, consider the following requirements included in the guidelines:
- All users must be registered and password protected to prevent anonymous contributions.
- All contributions are moderated by the Teacher Administrator before publication.
I can see where they are coming from. Honestly. But guidelines like this make it either untenable or just plain uncomfortable to use a blog with a class. Students who have problems signing up, logging on, or remembering a password will be disengaged with the blog and class management becomes a joke in blogging lessons where kids can’t get onto their blog. And moderating comments before they are published is just too much. This is like asking kids to run their classroom answers past you before they say them out loud!
Using online learning spaces provide students with opportunities to learn about cyberbullying and ‘netiquette’ – shielding students from online environments will not adequately prepare them for the world of work into which they will enter post-school. School rules, student welfare, and sound pedagogical practices are not abandoned in these online spaces – if anything, the transparency of these sites (your Principal, or your student’s parents, could decide to take a look at any time!) is more likely to promote professional practice.
#1 by cj on February 11, 2009 - 11:37 pm
They are relatively stupid (perhaps well-intentioned) bureaucrats taking up space and resources better spent on more useful activities in classrooms, i.e. helping kids to read/write/spell….. I have enough contacts inside these mad places to sense that it is less about the enterprise… i.e. education and more about pleasing one’s higher up. It’s worse than fiddling while Rome burns. These are taxes at work… It’s a simple game. Track where teachers/kids are going and block it. Then wait till folk complain enough and then open it up. They want to regulate the net! There are sillier aims in life but not many. They, as John Perry Barlow noted ages ago, just don’t get it. It is like, as he suggested, trying to talk to folk on the deck of the Titanic who were playing shufflebaord and arguing about the angle of the deck.
#2 by kellimcgraw on February 13, 2009 - 2:27 pm
The bureaucrats are indeed well-intentioned, but they are just not seeing the forest for the trees.
Yes, a student could write something inappropriate – that would be dealt with as any other case IRL.
Yes, parents may not want their child to be working in a public space – so issue permission notes to find out who isn’t allowed and cater for them in other ways.
Yes, there is a risk of members of the public talking to students online – just like on a excursion, but we run them anyway.
Yes, teaching online leaves a public record and leaves teachers open to public scrutiny – don’t you think this would improve the quality of what goes up?
It would be one thing if our school computers and networks were good enough for us to NOT NEED to use external providers, but alas, the DET just isn’t keeping up the pace. Filtering $$ could certainly be better spent helping us all to install and learn to use Moodle, or something similar.
#3 by kellimcgraw on February 13, 2009 - 2:29 pm
And I wonder…has anyone actually asked parents what they think??
#4 by scott on February 28, 2009 - 10:44 am
that is nuts! conroy’s mission seems more logical in the light of policies such as this … and don’t ask parents conroy already did (yes, I’m a parent … too, but not one of those … )
#5 by Michael Dear on May 13, 2009 - 2:33 pm
It’s interesting to read in the DET’s Side by Side newpaper (Issue 25, May09) how Belmore South Public School is doing fantastic things using edublog and how blogging is at the centre of the “Classroom of Tomorrow” (p12-13). According to the DET’s web filter check accessed through the portal the edublogs.org domain is blocked for years 7-10, but accessible to years 11 and 12. I’m not sure how Belmore South are getting around the web filter. At the same time the web filter checker returns a blocked status for http://www.funbrain.com, but my junior students use it all the time without any issue. I have no answer for the whole web filtering problem. For the moment I’ve personally abandoned any ideas of using blogging as a teacher despite the huge possibilities of the technology.
#6 by kellimcgraw on May 13, 2009 - 5:23 pm
You’re right Michael – the filter check is not always reliable. They have said this much themselves. Which is a real pain when you try and do the right thing and check your materials before class, only to find out the filter check info is sometimes inaccurate.
Edublogs continues to be blocked for year 7-10, but you can request that your class site is unblocked. Belmore South PS would have certainly done this. This has also worked for me, although I do now have to moderate comments, which slows everything down.
Another option I have since heard about is using a site (such as a wiki) that can be viewed by registered users only. This involves a bit of organisation at the start while kids all get their usernames, but after that they can access the site (e.g. wetpaint for a wiki) and post comments iwithout moderation (because it is not publically viewable).
Might be a good option for those frustrated by blocking/moderating!