Today I am back on the road in Oklahoma, starting a series of seminars around the state related to the E-rate program for U.S. schools and libraries. Last week when I was in Shanghai, China, presenting at the Learning 2.0 conference, I reflected in a VoiceThread digital story about some of the differences in accessing the Internet from my hotel room in China compared to the open access I’m accustomed to from my home high speed Internet connection. I observed from China that the level of content filtering / censorship enforced by the central, totalitarian government was actually LESS severe than the content filtering enforced in many U.S. public schools. This perception is confirmed today, as I’m in an Oklahoma school district and attempting to access a variety of Internet websites I regularly use to both consume as well as create/share information. The following table shows a comparison between Internet content filtering I experienced last week in China, and the Internet content filtering I’m experiencing now in a U.S. public school district:
|Website||Accessible in China?||Accessible in my U.S. school
district location today?
|PBwiki sites (like
my workshop curriculum)
(can access the site
but all images are blocked)
|Blogger.com sites||not sure|
(used to bypass
and it works)
(can’t download, if already
installed it does NOT work)
|# Blocked Domains:||5||9|
I am sure this is not “news” to the majority of teachers in public schools today, who deal with this reality of blocked websites every day, but I wonder how many parents, community members, and policymakers are aware of this comparison? In China, proxy service websites like proxify.com were readily accessible and NOT blocked, which permitted me to access blocked websites like WikiPedia and others which I needed to get and share information. Here in a public U.S. school district on their network, proxy service websites are generally regarded as an EVIL which must be blocked at all costs.
It is both interesting and instructive to note that CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act in the United States, does not mandate specific content filtering for schools. CIPA does not mandate that school districts block proxy sites. Most school districts in which and with which I now work are essentially choosing to block proxy websites, or are choosing to pay commercial providers who provide content filtering services which block proxy websites. The law does not mandate this.
Many school technology support staff members, as well as administrators, are engaged in an ongoing “digital war” with students as both sides struggle to access or block proxy server websites. Interestingly, although the WikiPedia domain IS accessible from the Oklahoma school district I’m in today, any search on WikiPedia, Google, or any other website for the word “proxy” IS blocked.
The issue of content filtering in schools does have multiple aspects, and the security threats posed by some websites with malicious code to Windows-based computers susceptible to various types of malware should be acknowledged. In this post, the main thing I want to conclude with is the observation that the extensive content filtering highlighted above in this school district makes the Internet almost useless to me as a knowledge worker today.
I can’t check or send my Yahoo email on my laptop. (I can access it via my iPhone, using the cell phone network not controlled or filtered by the school district, but I’d really prefer to process email on my laptop since I can’t copy/paste URLs into email on the iPhone.) I can’t update the Google Notebook page I created last night teaching an education class at a local university. I can’t access Flickr Creative Commons to insert relevant images into this or other blog posts. I can’t link to a blogger blog referenced by Clay Burrell in a comment to one of my recent blog posts. Conversations I want to continue, communication messages I want to send via email and several other modalities are blocked.
As a knowledge worker, the available Internet connectivity in this school district is almost useless to me. As I’m sitting here listening to a presentation about the E-rate program in the United States which provides for Internet connectivity in many schools, the impact of content filtering on the usefulness of the actual bandwidth being provided today is dramatically visible to me today.
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On this day..
- Seeking Funding for an Oklahoma School NCLB Left Behind - 2013
- Adding Audio to a WordPress Sound Blog - 2011
- Using Social Networking Tools to Increase Discussion in the Classroom by Karin Perry - 2010
- Did You Know 4.0 - The Mobile Revolution is Here - 2009
- Chinese Parental Expectations, Creativity, and Chinese Film Recommendations - 2009
- Podcast284: Media Literacy as Literacy for the Information Age by Dr. Renee Hobbs - 2008
- Podcast283: Dr. Cathy M. Roller's keynote at the 2008 OTEP Reading Conference - 2008
- EverNote iPhone Voice Memos - 2008
- Proof a T-1 line is insufficient - 2008
- Podcast85: A Safe and Engaging Digital Destination for Kids: Imbee.com! - 2006