Saturday, 21 May 2011

To filter or not to filter?

I can't remember in which John Holt book he suggests that the big wide world is far too dangerous for our children so we are inclined to surround them by walls. However since they need to know that the real world is dangerous we spread broken glass around . Why not just pull the walls down and give our children a taste of the real world?
The temptation to demand the filter walls to be pulled down is strong. Surveys suggest that many of our students will go home to completely unfiltered internet access. Filters in school seem to be there to assist with classroom control rather than for the safety of  students. They can actively obstruct good teaching and increased digital literacy.


What makes most sense to me is to work from the child outwards. Our job as media educators is to educate our children so that they are their own filters first and foremost. After that schools need to be able to block sites where they are being inappropriately used - and it does happen. Further away still,  the service providers need to filter sites with the  totally unsuitable content.

For schools who cannot afford the time or money to do their own filtering (most primaries) the service providers should be providing a much finer grained filter that allows schools to choose what to filter when they want to filter it. Surely not beyond the wit of someone?
I've complained before about filters. The criteria that are used for filtering are...um...inconsistent.

A recent exchange between myself and a colleague in Devon will serve to illustrate my point. The conversation revealed that Jamendo - a site featuring a huge range of Creative Commons licensed music - was blocked in Suffolk but not in Devon. And when I expressed my delight that Vimeo the video sharing site had recently been unblocked in Suffolk my colleague was pleased for me - but not for themselves,  since it has just been blocked in Devon...
What my colleague was far too professionally loyal to remind me was that a group of schools who worked on the POV project last year have a superb vimeo group of animation videos. A fabulous resource now, I guess, unusable in Devon schools...
Hopefully cloudlearn.net will come up with some persuasive and flexible strategies

Update: 07/06/11
Found a link to this excellent post by Tom Whitby