To filter or not to filter? That appears to be a big question for school divisions. My own opinion is that we don’t filter because I find it an insult that someone in an IT department is going to make teaching decisions for me. I think that my professional judgement and education should allow me some decision making power and the respect to know how to teach my students to be digitally responsible. If I don’t teach them who is going to?

Google Australia posted on their blog concerns about an Australian government proposal to implement filtering in all schools:
“Some limits, like child pornography, are obvious. No Australian wants that to be available – and we agree. Google, like many other Internet companies, has a global, all-product ban against child sexual abuse material and we filter out this content from our search results. But moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information. ”

Google Australia goes on to say “Our view is that online safety should focus on user education…” which are exactly my feelings. “The government has committed to important cybersafety education and engagement programs and yesterday announced additional measures that we welcome.”

On ConnectSafely’s blog Anne Collier states “Many young people are using ‘proxy servers’ to get round their schools’ internet security systems, ” the BBC reports, adding that students’ use of these free school-filtering workarounds is on the rise. “It sounds like an obscure, techy area of computing that only geeks would know about. But when we asked pupils in one secondary school classroom who had heard of proxy servers, every hand went up.” I started looking into proxy servers and found blog posts that instructed students how to bypass school filters and for a step by step  directions you only have to look as far as YouTube.

So, our school divisions set up all of these filters and students start a quest to find a way to work around them. It makes me wonder what exactly we’re teaching here. Collier goes on to say “Instead, schools should embrace and teach with these devices (cellphones etc.) and technologies so students can learn and practice wise use…That helps develop the 24/7 cognitive “filter” in their heads that improves with practice and is as flexible as their use of technology is…” And if all else fails you can insert images or graphics on your blogs and wikis to truly express how you feel.

On  Chris Matyszczyk’s blog Technically Incorrect he pokes fun at filters with this blog” School Web Filters Force Beaver into Hibernation.” Matyszczyk goes on to explain that the Canadian Natural History’s magazine “The Beaver” ,established in 1920, has
run into problems with school filters. “… web and spam filters, especially the robust ones employed by schools to keep their students from reading about naked bodies and manual exercise, are rejecting The Beaver’s hardy historical e-mails and other communications.” Now, doesn’t this seem silly?

On the blog Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, Christine C. poses the question “Are school content filters keeping you and your students from learning and sharing information?” Christine discusses the problems that teachers and students are having when their access to social media is blocked. Christine also introduces ” Buffy Hamilton, a high school librarian in Canton, Ga., who argues that media specialists should try to overcome digital roadblocks by presenting reasoned and well-resourced arguments.” Hamilton shares her thoughts on Strategies for Fighting Internet Filtering on slideshare.

I think Will Richardson sums up my feelings about filtering in schools “It insults the profession to not at the very least provide desktop overrides for teachers when they bump up against a filtered site. Have a policy in place to deal with incidents where teachers make poor choices if that’s what the concern is.”