BYOB is not just convenient, it can mean survival in the 21st century educational technology and information landscape. After trying to pull up my workshop curriculum and handouts site today at the school where I’m presenting 4 workshops this morning, I was greeted by the following screen:Access to this site is blockedAfter trying 1 more time to reach the root domain of pbwiki and trying to access Flickr once, appently a network “3 strikes and you’re out” rule was applied to my DHCP address on the network and I received this lovely greeting for the morning:Banned - Workstation SuspendedThe website’s explanation for this BAN from all Internet access is the following:

This Workstation Temporarily Suspended for Abuse or Repeated Attempts at Restricted Content=> Non-educational and/or bandwidth intensive content has been restricted by your school’s administration=> Internet sites that may seen harmless can contain content that is harmful to computers or may invade your privacy.This workstation/user has been only been temporarily suspended from Internet.Please contact your school’s Technical Director if you feel this is in error.

Fortunately, I’ve come prepared today with my own high speed Internet connection:AT&T Sierra Wireless USB Laptop Connection Card on my MacBookTo be fair and in the spirit of full disclosure, the district where I’m presenting DID request that I submit websites I wanted to access during my presentations today, and I did NOT submit them in advance. I’ll admit that knowing I was following the procedures of BYOB, and this is a “metro area” school district which should be (and is) well covered by the AT&T 3G wireless network, I decided NOT to submit my websites in advance because I wanted to conduct this exact test of current content filter settings in the district.I am pleased to report my blog, VoiceThread, and PollAnywhere are all accessible from the school network. I gave up testing additional sites, since I’m sure I’ll show over 100 different sites during the course of my 4 presentations today and I don’t want to waste prep time before we get started testing sites.Now that I’m online by bypassing the entire school network, it’s time to start teaching….. I’ll post links and most likley podcast recordings of some of my sessions later in the week here. My sessions this morning for teachers are:

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On this day..

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  • http://www.langwitches.org/blog Silvia Tolisano

    Wes,
    Way to go of being prepared!

    Just yesterday I was reading a post and commenting on Darren Kuropatwa’s blog about these kind of stumbling blocks when presenting. How can we show the power of the network and the potential within the classroom, when the very sites and tools are blocked? Learning from your and Darren’s posts make all the difference in the world for the rest of us. Your quote “Now that I’m online by bypassing the entire school network, it’s time to start teaching…..” is one for the books that I will be saving to share. :)
    Silvia aka Langwitches

  • http://www.mindoh.wordpress.com Amy Strecker

    This happened to me all the time as a teacher. I would make sure to get one of the TWO projectors my school had reserved ahead of time to share some sort of online content. I would test the site the day before even from my school desktop, but by the time I needed the site the next morning — it’d be blocked. SUCH a pain. Ones that stick out as being blocked that I just didn’t understand were http://www.teachforamerica.org and the site for Oprah’s Leadership Academy — and of course all video streaming was blocked. Yet, I would constantly get lewd spam sent to my school email inbox. School internet “safety” still has a long way to go.

  • http://durffsblog.blogspot.com/ mrsdurff

    You go Wes!

  • Danielle Abernethy

    One thing I always did was email a list of links once a week that I KNEW I was going to access for that week’s lessons. I also provided a list of links I knew I would be using all year. For instance, for an EXCEL project my students were working on, they needed access to ESPN – which was blocked for many reasons my district felt appropriate. My network admin asked me how long did I need it open for. I gave him the dates. The day after the project should have ended, I went to the site to demonstrate something and it was down. He had already gone back to blocking it. Another site I wanted was denied before the lesson began. I took screenshots of the site, wrote up the reason I was using it in a formal letter and sent it to my principal, instructional leader at the district, my Superintendent and the network admin. The site was approved because the others got behind it. The techs are looking at it for their reasons – they may not even uderstand the educational value of a site they are blocking.
    I think it’s important to keep that line of communication open between the teachers and the network admin. Send them a list of links periodically and have them test them or tell you why they will be blocked.
    BYOB though. WOW! What a way to go! Wouldn’t it be nice if each teacher had that to pull out of their magic bag of tricks when needed. :-)

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Danielle: I think a basic thing we need in our schools at this point is “differentiated content filtering,” where teachers are filtered more permissively on the network than students. I only know of 3 public districts in Oklahoma doing this now: Tulsa, Enid, and Alva. There may be more, but given that we have over 500 public school districts clearly these are the exception to the rule. Whitelisting sites in circumstances like this is a waste of precious time for professional educators. I know it is reality but I really think many of our IT departments are continuing to make decisions which serve their own interests, rather than the broader learning interests of the school or the students. This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course, I wrote the article “Wagging the Dog in Educational Technology: Elevating ‘IT’ Into the Classroom” in 1998 and many of the issues are the same. Sylvia Martinez points out eloquently that most IT departments define success by minimizing trouble tickets. This is the case with those running content filters in many cases too. I don’t think differentiated content filtering is the end goal, but it is certainly a situation which can provide teachers with more autonomy than many have today.

    I am considering writing an article about our Oklahoma school districts that are doing this now and seeing if I can get it published, sort of a comparative case study. I agree it would be great if all teachers had a cell phone wireless card to be able to access the web as they want– but the crime would be we’ve spent over $20 billion in our country on E-Rate and teachers shouldn’t have to circumvent the network connectivity which tax dollars are paying for to teach….. Reality checks and pragmatism are needed however– this drove me to go the BYOB route. At least the costs for me should be tax deductible since I am most certainly using this for my work/job!

  • http://aquaculturepda.edublogs.org/ Sue Waters

    I’m fortunate enough that my educational organisation is one of that doesn’t block websites; however it does use a filter. So worrying about if a site is block doesn’t even cross my mind.

    Imagine my incredible stress after basing a whole lesson around an online simulation to find that logging into the student network that it was blocked because the filters thought the site that contained inappropriate information. All because the site was about Sex and The Single Guppy – definitely not something our students should be exposed to. Our IT staff have had a good laugh about this one over the years.

    Educational websites need to leave the word sex out of the URL.

  • http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

    Here’s the killer line:

    ‘Now that I’m online by bypassing the entire school network, it’s time to start teaching…’

    Wait ’til students start doing this instead of just you, Wes!

    ‘Now that I’m online by bypassing the entire school network, it’s time to start LEARNING…’

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Exactly, and that day is not far off! As teachers schooled in the 20th century we are so used to the paradigm of CONTROL. The disruptive influence of technology is something we haven’t had to deal with in the past like we are now and will in the future.

  • Pingback: » It was going well until… Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts

  • http://www.udel.edu/sine Pat Sine

    I certainly have also experienced this when presenting, but I’m wondering about your solution. I know the sites we choose have great educational application and we have lots of examples to show.

    But, what is the message we want to convey? If all of your sites were blocked, will the teachers walk away just saying “see we can’t do that here?” I think the real solution for this kind of problem is not to show how to circumvent the district’s restrictions – an action that could get teachers in serious hot water – but to have a deep enough bag of tricks that we can show another way that demonstrates the same educational benefits.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Pat: I agree that a multi-layered approach to this is needed. One of the main things I recommended during my presentations, including the first one which was attended by the district’s superintendent, is providing differentiated content filtering for teachers so they have more permissive rights on the network in terms of content filtering than students. This is becoming a common message when I present now: Just 3 of our public school districts (we have over 500) in Oklahoma currently do this as far as I know.

    I am certainly not advocating that teachers do things which land them in trouble and hot water: As teachers we need to work within the system and advocate constructively for change. I was presenting my first session on cell phones for learning in the classroom, as an example. Cell phones are banned at the high school where I was presenting. My message was not to get in trouble using banned devices, but rather explore how those devices could be used constructively for learning, and work together to see if those instructional uses could be permitted.

    Having a cell phone data card is a matter of survival for me at times, however. I don’t want another situation like I had at our state technology conference at the beginning of the month, where I am asked to present in a room where NO internet (wired or wireless) is provided.

    Also, it can be very powerful to demonstrate the value of websites which are currently blocked on the district content filter. An example is YouTube. As I pulled up a YouTube video example during one of my sessions that day, I heard a teacher in the front row remark “that’s blocked, he won’t be able to show that” and then exclaim in amazement when I did. (Using the cell card.) It is more powerful to SHOW rather than just TELL in many cases, and the cell card can and has let me do that to a greater degree in some situations.

  • Laura Beckham

    So true. Yesterday I had an experience that proved I too may need to check into this option. I needed wifi in the HS auditorium — which existed, but my laptop didn’t have the appropriate certificate (all district equipment BTW) and the laptop that had a connection didn’t have flash — which was also needed. Argh!

    We were actually using poll everywhere in the meeting — kids LOVED it.

    PS (I noticed you name it poll anywhere — but link it to poll everywhere FYI)

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