Cross-posted from Balanced Filtering in Schools.

Today at the “Building Human Connections in a Digital World” Educational Technology Conference in Missoula, Montana, I attended Terrisa Metzler’s presentation “Balancing Learning and Security in a Web 2.0 World.” I am very interested in the topics of this presentation because of the Balanced Filtering in Schools project (balancediltering.org), the “Unmasking the Digital Truth” project, and my breakout session next week at the “Technology Runs Through It” conference in Missoula, “Smart Networks.”

Terrisa Metzler, regional sales manager for Lightspeed Systems, presented this session. During the session in demonstrating the “My Big Campus” educational / social networking platform Lightspeed offers free to everyone (not just its customers.) Terrisa made a comment I’d like to address which can be misleading. Terrisa showed how teachers can embed “cleaned” YouTube videos on their webpages within My Big Campus, and stated this is good because it protects students from “non-CIPA compliant YouTube videos.”

CIPA is the Children’s Internet Protection Act and applies to all U.S. schools and libraries (both public and private) which receive federal E-Rate funding.

Here is the clarification I’d like to offer: There is no such a thing as “CIPA compliant content” or “non-CIPA compliant content.” There obviously IS content online not appropriate for school, but that determination is not made by the CIPA law, it’s made by local authorities. CIPA requires that each school or library subject to E-Rate rules have a filtering policy in place and enforce it, but it does NOT definitively state specific videos and other webpages which should be blocked and should be accessible on school networks. Tina Barseghian’s recent post, “Straight from the DOE: Dispelling Myths About Blocked Sites” (highlighted in the BalancedFiltering.org post, “Do your school administrators REALLY understand CIPA?”) is an excellent article about these issues.

Words matter, and we need to be careful that our discussions about content filtering, CIPA, e-Discovery, FERPA, COPPA, etc. clarify requirements rather than confuse people.

It is confusing to say, “My Big Campus” keeps your school CIPA compliant by filtering out non-CIPA compliant YouTube videos. CIPA requires a content filtering policy and enforcement of that policy. CIPA does not define “compliant / non-compliant YouTube videos” or other content.

Teresa also said: “WikiPedia is a site of hotlinks, and students can quickly get to inappropriate content” from WikiPedia articles. She then advocated for how Lightspeed Systems lets teachers whitelist (allow on the content filter) just a specific WikiPedia page, but then every hyperlink on that page is blocked from student access.

I have big reservations about this. I understand Lightspeed Systems is a vendor and is creating a product to meet consumer demands, which include IT personnel who want to overblock the web for students and teachers far beyond what is required by US law. I also understand a system in place which lets teachers directly unblock websites for student access, and specifically whitelist websites for student access, is a HUGE leap forward from the “digital prisons” in which many of our K-12 learners live today at school.

The perspective of educators like Matthew Kitchens, who wants to shut down open web publishing of content by students at school and for school, is also troubling. Lightspeed Systems tweeted a link to Matthew’s post and amplified this today. Matthew wrote in July:

I believe social networking has a place in the classroom, when used within a closed, monitored learning management system(s)…

LightSpeed Systems is a big company and has a lot of clout. Terrisa said Alan November as well as Kevin Honeycutt are now presenting on behalf of LightSpeed Systems at educational conferences. I am very appreciative of Terrisa’s session today, but I think it is very important to be careful and scrutinize the words and phrases we use to discuss these issues. These aren’t minor points.

Terrisa said in our session, “Every filtering company today is working hard to block Google image thumbnails, and we’ve done it.” She then went on to describe a hypothetical student who tries to search on the network for ‘Playboy.’

The issues here are both technical and human. Schools need policies in place to protect students and comply with CIPA as well as other laws. There is a significant difference, however, between protecting students from objectionable content and trying to stop all students from searching for anything inappropriate online. We also have obligations as educators to help students use sites besides Google Images which are copyright friendly and less inappropriate image content. I’m tackling that issue tomorrow at the conference in my breakout on Pecha Kucha presentations and ending PowerPoint abuse.

LightSpeed Systems has some good products and services. The ability for IT in your school/district to have access to bandwidth utilization graphs as well as data like that shown below by Terrisa in our session is vital. Many of our smaller/rural schools don’t have this kind of capability and need it. In Oklahoma, NewNet66 is a great organization putting tools with similar features in the hands of its member school educators.

Traffic by Protocol

I’m really interested in advocating for more balanced content filtering in our schools. LightSpeed is doing some good things to address overblocking, but I’m concerned about advocacy which would push everyone onto the “closed web” and discourage learners from publishing on the open web. See my notes from Karen Fasimpaur’s session, “Open Educational Resources: Share, Remix, Learn” at the 2011 ISTE conference for more on that topic. I’m also concerned with definitions of WikiPedia like “it’s mainly a hotlist of inappropriate links” which perpetuate misconceptions about the site rather than clarifying what the value of the site is and how it should be used AND authored by our students. I’m finally concerned about phrases like “CIPA complaint content” which are misleading and do NOT help others better understand the actual requirements and terms of the CIPA law.

On a related note: Two free websites which can be used to show “cleaned” YouTube videos “live” to students are VideoPure and QuietTube. These weren’t mentioned by Terrisa, but I want to share them since they relate to the topics of this post. Those sites don’t stop students from visiting other “related” videos on YouTube, but they do eliminate related videos, comments, etc. when showing a YouTube video to students live in class. I included those sites in the Video chapter of my eBook,”Playing with Media: simple ideas of powerful sharing.”

What’s your take on these issues?

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , ,


Check out Wesley's new ebook, "Mapping Media to the Common Core: Volume I." (2013) It's $15!

If you're trying to listen to a podcast episode and it's not working, check this status page. (Wes is migrating his podcasts to Amazon S3 for hosting.) Remember to follow Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also "like" Wesley's Facebook pages for "Speed of Creativity Learning" and his eBook, "Playing with Media." Don't miss Wesley's latest technology integration project, "Mapping Media to the Common Core / Curriculum."

On this day..

Share →
  • http://twitter.com/engaginged Engaging Educators

    Wes, thanks for such a valuable post. Misinformation and misunderstandings about important issues like CIPA really get in the way of real progress. I really feel a little uncomfortable about people using CIPA (with a side of fear-mongering) to sell their product. Change is needed in education. Stuff like this just interferes with educators who are sincerely looking out for students. Remember them? The people we should be be most concerned about? Stopping my rant here. Thanks again, Wes.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for providing a clear and cogent analysis of CIPA and related governmental regulations as they apply to educational environments, Wes. It is easy to become confused and err on the side of caution, which does our students a great disservice as you’ve noted here and elsewhere. I always learn something from your blog posts and this was no exception. I’ll be sharing this post with other educators and administrators.

  • Teacher

    6. Teachers should be trusted.Under the current political environment this is the last thing I feel in my classroom. 

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanferrell Jonathan Ferrell

    I agree that it is concerning the way that Lightspeed / MyBigCampus seems to be limiting access to important resources for our students. The idea that teachers would need to specifically unblock a Wikipedia page for student access is absurd. Not to mention that all the links on that site would be unavailable for students. Without links the internet becomes a lot less useful.

    Confused as to why respected and wise education leaders such as Mr. November and Mr. Honeycutt would sign on with such a system. Must be more to the picture.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • http://www.techsavvyteacher.com Jason

    Wes: Thank you so much for taking this issue on straight up.  You are absolutely correct that no such thing exists as “CIPA-approved” and to report otherwise is at best misleading and at worst a dishonest sales tactic.  The significant problem I have with this vendor is that what they repeat as sales mantras often becomes defacto policy in district.  Without clear voices in state departments of education, as well as federally at the Department of Education, to help interpret this law, these myths will continue.

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/joel Joel Heinrichs

    Wesl,
    Thanks for your attendance at Terrisa’s session, and your thoughtful consideration of the content. We, too, try to educate schools on what CIPA does and doesn’t require [http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/joel/2011/03/31/cipa-compliance-de-mystified/] and to promote the benefits of wikis, blogs, social learning, videos, and more in schools.
     
    The fact is, though, no matter the benefits most schools aren’t going to open up the whole of the Internet to students and allow publishing on the open web. The recent MO legislation shows that. There are too many concerns about cyberbullying, inappropriate teacher-student relationships, inappropriate content, and more. And many over-burdened teachers and IT staff don’t have the time to effectively teach and monitor behavior in those open arenas.
     
    Good or bad? There are arguments either way, obviously. But it’s the way it is. So, to help schools minimize over-blocking and open up the powerful learning opportunities on the Web, we’ve created a safe, monitored place for them to do it without all the fear and concern. As you note, our filter also has features to let teachers override blocks, expand filtering policies for students without IT assistance, give older students greater access than younger ones, and more – all aimed at providing access, not taking it away.
     
    (As a side note, words ARE indeed important. But I think the phrase “non-CIPA compliant content” could justifiably be used to describe visual depictions that are obscene, pornographic, or harmful to minors — as that is what CIPA requires schools use a technology protection measure to block. Does CIPA call one site or video good and another bad? No. But CIPA does lay out what should be blocked; it’s just a far smaller bit of the Web than most people have come to think.)
     
    We’d love to talk more with you about this, and keep the conversation going. It’s important; and it’s our passion. 
    http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/joel

    -Joel 
     

  • http://wfryer.wpengine.com Wesley Fryer

    I disagree that the Missouri law “proves schools won’t allow open sharing on the web.” That law is an outlier and we shouldn’t act like it’s the norm or will become the norm. Sure there are legitimate concerns about open web publishing, but this is the digital footprint / digital citizenship conversation.

    How are kids (or people of any age) going to take proactive, assertive control over their digital footprints unless they post content they want to claim on the open web? The answer is, they can’t. Establishing and maintaining a professional digital footprint online is important for everyone, not just a limited population of geeks.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanferrell Jonathan Ferrell

    A school that doesn’t allow their students to publish their work to the open web is doing them a disservice. Robbing those students of the opportunity to put their work out there for others to learn from and contribute to is wrong. It is the opposite of what we are trying to teach our students as they become thoughtful digital citizens.Hiding behind a wall and keeping everything hidden isn’t preparing our students for the world today. Sad to see districts being bullied by a foolish law into hurting their students’ chance to show the world the great things they can do.Will encourage all I know to stay away from the Lightspeed / MyBigCampus model.

  • Mark Moran

    I believe that the filter companies purposely propagate misguided notions about CIPA. They want it to be viewed as an incomprehensible, 800 lb boogeyman that they are kind enough to save schools from, for a fee. Their use of contrived phrases such as “CIPA-Compliant Content” plays very well with fear-based administrators who don’t understand the value of the Web anyway. I created this Slideshare presentation, titled “Understanding CIPA to Fight the Filter,” to make quite clear exactly what is required under filter, the fact that schools actually risk violating students’ constitutional rights when over-filtering, the reality that the FCC has never brought a single case against a school alleging that a filter was inadequate, and my belief that a system that allows teachers to override the filter for most types of content is perfectly permissible.
    http://www.slideshare.net/sweetsearch/understanding-cipa-to-fight-the-filter

  • Mark Moran

    The phrase “non-CIPA compliant content” is contrived. CIPA requires that schools receiving e-rate funding certify that they have in place a filter that blocks certain types of content; the FCC makes clear that schools that make a reasonable, good faith attempt to comply can rest easy. The only way to “comply” with CIPA is to file a certification. The FCC expressly stated that it will “rarely, if ever” look beyond that certification, and I haven’t found any evidence that it ever has. The FCC clearly hoped the parental and community pressures would help guide schools in deciding what to block; this pressure is something that all schools understand, and it is what schools should primarily be concerned with.

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products/ Amy Bennett

    (Disclaimer: I work for Lightspeed Systems.)

    Sometimes kids need a training ground. We protect them from bad stuff all the time, gradually easing them into the sometimes-harsh realities of the world. In the physical classroom, we use video cameras and metal detectors and background checks and trusted adults watching at every turn — keeping them safe, keeping them on task, preparing them for the real world in a controlled environment. Why should the digital world be different? 
     
    On the other side of the situation, teachers (and IT and administrators) are scared. While we all agree it’s not the everyday occurrence the media would like us to believe, all it takes is either the reality of or the fear of one kid from your school getting bullied on Facebook or a blog and committing suicide or one teacher being accused of inappropriate messaging to make you flip on ideals and lock it all down. Should fear dictate policy? No. But should an understanding of the potential consequences (positive and negative)? Yes.
     
    Middle ground, compromise, safety – these aren’t bad words.

    Speaking more directly: given that schools are required to implement a technology protection measure (web filter), would it be better that they choose one that doesn’t recognize these issues, that doesn’t provide these options? Schools that choose to be more open can do so with the Lightspeed filter. (Birdville case study: http://www.lightspeedsystems.com/resources/CaseStudyDetails.aspx?Birdville-Implements-Innovative-Filtering.) Schools that are ready for the safe middle ground of My Big Campus can do so with the Lightspeed filter. Schools that want to block it all…well, we’re all working to persuade and educate and assure them that it can be done safely. “No more overblocking” is our mantra, and we mean it.

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products Amy Bennett

    Mark,
    Maybe some filter companies do this, but I like to think Lightspeed Systems is not one of them:

    http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/joel/2011/03/31/cipa-compliance-de-mystified/
    http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products/2011/04/29/6-truths-about-web-filters-and-blocked-sites-and-cipa/

    If you poke around a bit, in addition to these posts about CIPA you’ll see posts about blogging and learning and classroom flipping and redefining web filtering and a lot more.

    Amy

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products Amy Bennett

    Mark,
    Maybe some filter companies do this, but I like to think Lightspeed Systems is not one of them:

    http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/joel/2011/03/31/cipa-compliance-de-mystified/
    http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products/2011/04/29/6-truths-about-web-filters-and-blocked-sites-and-cipa/

    If you poke around a bit, in addition to these posts about CIPA you’ll see posts about blogging and learning and classroom flipping and redefining web filtering and a lot more.

    Amy

  • Matthew Kitchens

    [Disclaimer: I'm a My-Big-Campus Coach]

     

    Student
    safety is my top priority – period.

     

    A close
    second is the safety of my colleagues.

     

    I’ve
    witnessed the effects of cyberbullying in my classroom. I watched an energetic,
    confident sixth-grade girl bounce into her desk on the first day of school in
    August. By November, she had wilted – confidence replaced by self-doubt -
    energy transmogrified to listlessness. By June, she still hadn’t recovered.

     

    In my
    hometown, a 12-year-old boy, whom I know personally, met, without his mother’s
    knowledge, a “friend” online. Within weeks of the meeting, the
    “friend”, a male in his early 20s, had taken a bus all the way from
    Ohio to Texas. He rendezvoused with the 12-year-old and escorted him on foot to
    a local motel – a pit stop before heading back to Ohio. Passersby recognized
    the boy but not his “friend”. They alerted his mother. The police
    were called. The man was arrested. Crisis averted. Thank God.

     

    Some of my
    students agonize over where they are going to sleep at night. Absentee parents and
    no real home life force these kids to bounce from house to house, relative to
    relative, and friend to friend with the frequency range of an AM-radio dial.
    These kids are angry – rightly so – and lash out at the world, even those like
    me who offer help.

     

    I’ve taught students who go to war with each
    other over a miscued look, an accidental bump in the hall, or a misinterpreted word.
    How are these children going to handle criticism on the open web? Here – on
    this site – we’re having a professional disagreement without being
    disagreeable. Many of my sixth- and seventh-graders do not yet possess the maturity
    to handle criticism constructively – yet. Several are more than apt to let the
    acid in their tongues and the fury in their fists gush on to the web – causing
    severe harm to their digital footprints. Why? They’re kids – notorious for
    doing foolish things. Each of us – myself included – has foibles of youth for
    which we are not proud. I thank God my youthful inhibitions were not published
    on the web for the world to see.

     

    That’s why I
    appreciate the Lightspeed/My-Big-Campus model. I recognize the need for
    learners to develop digital citizenship and a digital footprint. With MBC, l
    can do my job effectively. I can coach learners on proper and improper posts,
    including post substance, word choice, and, even, subtleties like the meaning
    of ALL CAPS. When I determine student work is appropriate for the open web, a
    couple of mouse clicks will publish the pages for the world to see –  though no one outside MBC can post comments -
    a safety net I, and I’m sure parents, appreciate.

     

    My students
    often inquire of my home life – wondering if my wife and I have children of our
    own. Throughout the year, I’m asked, “Mr. K., how many kids do you
    have?” My standard reply is, “110″ – the average number of
    students on my roster each year. I teach kids at school; carry them home in my
    thoughts; worry for them to the point of sleeplessness; and offer prayers for
    them to God. If that makes an educator worth the important word “troubling”
    - I’m guilty as charged.

     

    Incidentally,
    Missouri SB54 is no outlier. There are other laws – in the works and recently enacted – governing ed tech. It’s little wonder why educators are scared.

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products Amy

    Jonathan,
    There was a time when Mr. November and Mr. Honeycutt agreed with you. But they discovered that Lightspeed is different. Maybe you will, too?

    Here are the videos they made (without scripting or payment):
    http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/video/2011/07/15/kevin-honeycutt-at-iste-2011/
    http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/video/2011/03/10/alan-november-testimonial/

    Kevin’s video in particular shares that at first he dismissed us as another filtering company….

    The Lightspeed and My Big Campus filtering model are specifically about allowing access — access that can be customized and changed depending on a school’s comfort level; student age; and more. It’s a way to safely introduce social media and prepare students that can be adjusted over time. We developed My Big Campus to provide access to dynamic content, wikis, blogs, videos and more — things that many schools were blocking — in a way they could feel comfortable with.

    If you have specific questions, we’d be happy to address them.
    Amy

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanferrell Jonathan Ferrell

    Is there a need for a student to begin building a positive digital footprint on the open web?

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products Amy

    Hi Jonathan,

    Yes, absolutely! When? That depends on the individual, I think. In Unmasking the Digital Truth Wes compares teaching kids to act appropriately online to teaching them to drive…. Maybe it’s like the difference between learning in a parking lot. You practice where it’s safe to make small errors and learn with less risk; then when they’re ready, you move to the road!

    Amy

  • http://wfryer.wpengine.com Wesley Fryer

    I think the analogy to driving is a good one. We need to help prepare students to make good choices independently. We definitely provide “protected spaces” for them to learn how to drive, but eventually we go out onto REAL roads and highways with them. They go out eventually by themselves. The same should apply for open web publishing.

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products Amy

    Exactly. We envision My Big Campus as a similar training ground. And My Big Campus has features to let admins/teachers gradually open things up to other districts or the public. It’s a process of training, that can and should be unique to the student. Through our filter and My Big Campus, access to the open web can expand over time as a student gets older, more prepared, more net savvy.

    Interestingly, as much as students need this training ground, many districts do, too. As you point out, there are many reasons: fear, control, liability, CIPA misunderstanding, etc. Whatever the reason, right now many district continue to overblock the learning opportunities of the Web. Like you, we’re trying to overcome those hurdles by listening to and working with districts. My Big Campus gives them a way to feel comfortable with Web 2.0 and collaboration. In this case, it’s very much a middle ground: a district that is currently blocking all wikis and blogs and mail sites and video sites and social media is going to be a hard sell for the open web. They can, through My Big Campus, feel safe and secure while gradually opening up more opportunities.

  • http://wfryer.wpengine.com Wesley Fryer

    I understand all those things, and the use of a ‘closed web’ digital sandbox can certainly be a good thing. Here’s what I still maintain needs to be addressed and I’d recommend vendors & others do:

    1- Stop using the phrase “CIPA compliant content.” That is misleading. Instead, highlight how CIPA requires that each district have a policy to block locally defined inappropriate Internet content and enforce it. 

    2- Stop playing the fear card to discourage students as well as teachers from publishing on the open web. If advocacy for “My Big Campus” encourages teachers, students, and students to abandon open web wikis en-masse, the situation in K-12 for OER will be hurt. Already in higher ed, most faculty are encouraged (for a variety of reasons) to publish/post all their curriculum, syllabi, etc on the CLOSED web in learning management systems like BlackBoard, WebCT, Desire2Learn, Angel, etc. This is understandable but ultimately harmful for the causes of collaboration, accessibility, and education for all.

    We need more advocates for “blended learning” and this should include publishing as well as interaction on both the open and closed web. I understand how, as a company, LightSpeedSystems would like to see every K-12 school in the country using “My Big Campus” because that would significantly increase the chances they’d pay for your commercial services. I get this as a marketing strategy. I also understand you are providing a free service which MANY schools don’t have today, and trying to encourage educators to be MORE open to balanced content filtering. That is a good thing.

    I still “hear” the fear card in some of what you’re saying, however, and we all need to STOP (in educational as well as political discussions) using fear as a primary motivator to change constituent behavior. When it comes to vendors and content filtering, that’s a tall order. It’s possible though.

  • Matthew Kitchens

    Wes, I hear what you are saying. I agree. We should not let fear be an obstacle to positive change.

    I’m a classroom teacher – a trench grunt in the war on ignorance. I take in loco parentis very seriously. I’m the Papa Bear of my classroom, and I have a responsibility to protect students.Suppose the 12-year-old boy in my example above was a student in my seventh-grade reading/ELA class. Suppose, as a part of an assignment I gave him, he created a blog highlighting aspects of a novel we were studying in class. Suppose he met the “friend” through comment feeds on that blog. How do I discover the friend is there? How do I prevent the “friend” from meeting my student? How do I monitor other student blogs to prevent them from meeting “friends” through their comment feeds?

  • Matthew Kitchens

    Incidentally, I forgot to say thank you for an engaging debate. I love corresponding with other educators who are passionate about tech ed and education itself. Together, we can be instruments for positive change. 

  • Pingback: Learning@Lightspeed - The Lightspeed Systems Blog

  • Pingback: Creating a Training Ground in the Digital World

  • Jason

    Listen… I have started a half dozen responses to both you and your boss and each time the effort feels futile.

    We all agree that some, perhaps many, districts overfilter.  We all agree that CIPA is misunderstood, maybe even abused, by some or many.

    You are apparently advocates for “balanced filtering” (which I think likely means something different than I would believe those words to mean, buy anyway…).

    But how much are you making these arguments where it counts?  It is one thing to have your CEO blog about how difficult these issue are and stress your belief in education (a theme I see everywhere in your marketing materials, blog included).  But, if an administrator comes to you at a conference on the sales floor and repeats clearly wrong interpretations if CIPA, are you correcting him/her?  What when you are talking to a school board?  How about a parent that factually doesn’t understand the laws and its application?

    How about blocking sites for teachers?  Are you telling districts that they should keep sites like “weblogs” (a category in your standard block list open for teachers because of the critical nature they can serve in developing personal and professional networks?  What about email, the world communication infrastructure?  What about Twitter, where you called Wes out on this?

    The filtering issue is complex, but, it is incredibly disheartening  to teachers trying to prepare their kids for the 21st century to run into overzealous filters whenever they step out and try to innovate.  Perhaps that sounds like I am overstating the problem, but I know more teachers that have given up on technology projects due to filtering than I know teachers that feel like their districts helping them do the incredibly complex job of teaching in a changing media and social landscape.  Is that your fault?  Perhaps not.  But I know more districts that use your product for stopping discussion and innovation than I know districts that are using your product to create a balanced filtering environment, or, a way to implement “mobile and social learning” (http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/05/05/lightspeed-systems-announces-results-of-i-want-a-web-filter-that%E2%80%A6-campaign/).

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/products Amy

    Jason,
    First of all, I don’t want you to feel like a response is futile. I am passionate about this discussion — and open-minded. Your response is appreciated, as is Wes’s original post and the rest of the discussion. We’re listening…. This weekend these topics ran through my head as I nervously let my 7-year-old climb on top of the monkey bars for the first time, as I watched my kids google “Will Santa bring me presents if I lie?” and as I read the newspaper and cooked dinner and worked.

    I spent several hours today considering your post, giving real thought to your questions, reading through your blog, and deeply weighing whether my honest response was the same as my marketing director response. I believe it is.

    In all fairness, there was a time when our web filter was focused on blocking and limiting access and protecting students from the dangers of the Internet. But as times and needs have changed, we have adapted (and will continue to adapt). We listen to our customers and listen to schools and are listening to you. As the role of technology in schools has increasingly shifted from a supportive infrastructure to a learning tool, we have grown and changed our product line to make sure that we are supporting educational needs.

    Focused on an IT audience for years, talking to an audience of educators and participating in these discussions with ed-tech thought leaders like you all is relatively new to us. But that is exactly what needs to happen: the chasm that often exists between IT and educators (the one that led those teachers you refer to to give up on their projects) within a district has to close. (I do not mean to suggest that this is always the case; but it is this division between ed and IT that leads to the overblocking, the frustration, the giving up because you can’t get anywhere.) As a vendor in this middle space, we are trying to do our part to close the gap. 

    That is what we designed My Big Campus to do: bridge the IT need for safety and security and monitoring with the educator need for access and collaboration. And while I value the open web and public digital footprint for which Wes advocates, I think we all agree that there is a need for a middle ground (for some time, for some ages, for some districts, for some activities) between closing down the web and opening it up.

    I’m glad to see someone paying such close attention to our blogs and other marketing materials :). You asked if we continue our matra on the sales floor? Yes. According to Terrisa (who was giving the presentation Wes originally attended) the topic of CIPA content came up when someone asked a question (“But won’t we be violating CIPA if we open that up?”) and she corrected them. I wasn’t there, so can’t attest to details. Can we always do it better? Yes! Prompted by this discussion, tonight I will be writing up some basics of CIPA to clarify the law and schools’ obligations under it for our sales team, partners, and everyone else at the company. You asked about blocking teacher access. I believe we advocate for very open teacher access and a strong belief that teacher judgment should be trusted; but as I think about it, I agree we can do more to share that message. And so I will do more.

    We continue to discourage overblocking every month in newsletters to our customers, where we share the latest features that they can use to give teachers greater access and to safely allow good content and tools into classrooms. Were our audience to include more parents and school boards, we would share the same viewpoint with them, too. We share the requirements of CIPA and our features for ending overblocking in our customer trainings. We blog it. We tweet it. We write stories and make videos about customers who are using video and doing BYOD and allowing Facebook and using the Web in inspiring ways. (Is that just more marketing? I think not. When I took this position, I shared that I considered marketing (and my own strengths) more “communication” than “persuasion.” That can only be true, I guess, if you have a product that you honestly believe serves a need and stands on its merits. I do.)

    We will continue to find new ways to communicate this message and to expand our audience.

    But, ultimately, we create the tool. Were we to make it with everything open and not able to be changed, we would be doing schools as great a disservice as if we made it with everything closed and not able to be changed. We make a tool that is flexible and customizable because, especially in schools, one size does not fit all. We continue to add features to that tool to make it more valuable — the majority of those enhancements over the last year have been for mobile, social, collaborative, multimedia learning.

    Because of this — because we make the tool that gives districts the ability to customize their own filter and open up learning opportunities as they see appropriate — education and discussion of these topics is especially important, and I’m glad to be a part of it.  

  • Pingback: The Twitter Ten: August 8 – Learn. Teach. Engage.

  • Pingback: Learning@Lightspeed - The Lightspeed Systems Blog

  • Amy

    Thanks for your response, Jason!

    First to address a specific question/concern:

    I agree that weblogs are powerful tools! The weblogs are in social networking and forums because the sites host unmoderated content. As a company we recoginze there are very valuable blogs on these sites alongside of not so valuable or even undesirable content. To address this concern we have several options to safely enable this type of content in the classroom. First, web sites that provide education specific weblogs are not in the generic weblogs category but in the education category (which is by default allowed). Second, we make it easy to differentiate policies for teachers/students. We also created My Big Campus (in part) so teachers can in effect create their own filter, allowing specific sites (including blogs, wikis, and more) for use with students.

    You’ll note from the link you provide that only three categories are blocked by default: Adult, Social Networking and Forums, Security.

    And then to address your points about the general state of the industry:

    I am working on a post about best practices for teacher filtering, recognizing that we need to trust teachers, give them access to valuable tools, enable overrides for them; and also that CIPA doesn’t require filtering for teachers. We will share this with our customers and promote it through all our communication channels.

    We will also continue to promote balanced filtering (No More Overblocking) and similar messages through our blogs, tweets, emails, newsletters, ads, training, and more.

    I have shared this blog with everyone in the company, and have pulled several key points about CIPA for them. As you and Wes point out, it’s important that all of our sales team and everyone else is aware of, and sharing, the real facts of the regulation.

    The transition from fear filtering to balanced filtering is, no doubt, a process. Discussions like this, as well as any education we can all disseminate through various channels, are critical. I’d be open to any other ideas you have.

    Amy

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Made with Love in Oklahoma City