Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Irrational fear of blogging

I was dismayed to read yesterday on Miguel’s blog that the State of Alabama is actively banning all blogging in schools and blocking network access to all blogs. 🙁 Sounds like the chilling effect of DOPA is moving forward, even without the legislation becoming law. According to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, interviewed by Miguel, the Alabama Supercomputer Authority is currently blocking blog access in the state of Alabama for all schools. Educators are being told they would “violate a state mandate” if they access a blog from school. Ridiculous!

Something similar is going on here in Oklahoma, but in our case it appears people are spreading inaccurate information with regard to the legality of school blogging. At our state Encyclo-Media conference last week in Oklahoma City, Howard Hobbs (Technology Director of Checotah Public Schools) shared a session on Friday titled, “The Blog: Is it Consuming Our Students?” In the session, Howard told participants that new Oklahoma Department of Education technology plan guidelines “require schools to block different types of blogging.” Some participants of the session left with the perception that their school’s E-Rate funding would be jeopardized if their students were involved in a classroom blogging project. After a phone call to Howard to clarify what he said and a phone call to the Oklahoma State Dept of Education’s Instructional Technology division, I confirmed THESE STATEMENTS ABOUT BLOGGING BEING ILLEGAL IN OKLAHOMA SCHOOLS ARE NOT TRUE. Technology plan guidelines for schools in Oklahoma have been updated so district tech plans can be eligible for Federal Title IID grant funding, but NO WHERE in these guidelines is anything mentioned about changes to CIPA, blog filtering, or E-Rate funding being in jeopardy for schools whose students are blogging.

Is this metaphorical classroom blogging “glass” half-full or half-empty? The answer depends on our responses. I think it is half-full. These situations provide opportunities for us to engage in important dialogs with others about the value of safe school blogging environments for our students. Just as the hoopla over MySpace provides opportunities to talk about both the dangers as well as the opportunities of digital social networking, so also do these situations provide new opportunities to talk about educational blogging with people who many not be “informed” on the facts and the positive potential of educational blogging.

In many cases, the answer to “irrational fears” can be more information. This also highlights the importance of showcasing positive results from classroom blogging initiatives in local and national press circles, however. Parents and other community members need to hear regularly about the positive impact blogging is making and can make in our classrooms, when our students are invited to safely write for a global audience.

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On this day..







5 responses to “Irrational fear of blogging”

  1. Brandi Caldwell Avatar

    This is news to me. I am at a large school that just got a new server last year. I know that our IT director said that our system takes a different route for filtering. I think they are somehow not dependant on the AL Supercomputer Authority. This “state mandate” sounds scary. I am just gonna keep on blogging with my kids until the site comes up blocked. Then you may see a very upset woman!!!! Thanks for the news.

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    I immediately thought of you when I heard this, Brandi! I’m glad your school is using a different filtering service. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail on this!

  3. Anthony Avatar

    It is interesting as I read this article, I think to myself ” How can I set up a blog in my school for students to write more in the curriculum?” I find it interesting that some states, who are banning the use of blogs, don’t see the potential of blogs as a responsible and effective learning tool. Internet access to web browser can be inappropriately used and can do more harm for students. Why not set up a controlled blog, where filters are in place to create an educational environment where motivated students will express themselves?

  4. […] An understanding by all educational stakeholders that learning does not begin and end when the school bell rings, and that technology can and will remove the barrier between school and the world. Therefore, mobile technology, like laptops and handhelds, as well as the Internet can be great tools for teaching and learning as they have the potential to make learning seamless. This also means (as Wesley has said) that learning should be measured by MUCH more than standardized tests, and administrators are finally starting to realize that (see e.g. this example from Laredo, TX). Unfortunately, the backlash from the passing of DOPA is already raising its ugly head, with the banning of all blogging in schools in Alabama. […]

  5. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach Avatar


    Cathy Gassenheimer, of the Alabama Best Practices Center had a chance to speak directly with one of the Assistant Superintendents of Education who immediately checked into this issue. He assured her that the network administrators at the department were not aware of any SDE issued mandate blocking all BLOGS. They stated that the determination as what to filter was decided by the local school system. And that the Alabama Super Computer Authority would be asked to open up the appropriate BLOG sights to support the 21st Century learning effort.

    So now we are not certain who said what to whom to get that information circulating to the schools. Bottom line we have now been assured that it indeed is false and that the DoE in Alabama will continue to support educational blogging in schools that feel it is important to student learning.

    Whew! Glad we dodged that bullet!