Absence of Trust


From: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vagawi/3155400274/

Nothing says, “I trust you”, less than blocking websites in organizations and schools.

I recently read how Rhode Island has now outlawed social media in schools (at last glance their legislative assembly currently has 11 likes on their Facebook page they must have a total understanding of social media) and it is just amazing to me the giant step backwards we see in some areas of education.  Now the purpose of law is a valuable one, as they are trying to limit cyberbullying and some of the implications it can have on the well being of students.  I am all for safety, and cyberbullying does exist, but does it help when we don’t work with our students in places that they will go anyway?  The article goes on to talk about how the “federal filters” may limit access, but only for a limited amount of time:

And we’ve seen that students, running into the filter, just shrug and access the content at home or on their phones or laptops, making the filters serve no greater purpose than to push students to the same content that is supposedly risky, except in places where there aren’t teachers to help them.

This slightly strange video (the voices are just off and weird) does bring up a good point about the blocking of these tools in schools.  The one character wonders out loud how she can become a journalist when schools are blocking the sites that journalists use to connect, learn, and share information with other.  We want students to be immersed in the real world right?

It is not only students have have this access blocked, but educators as well.  I could not even begin to tell you the number of educators that have shared their frustration with me that they cannot access valuable content at their schools, or connect with many in a real-time relevant way. I was actually working with a group this year in a school when Superintendent Chris Kennedy’s blog, “The Culture of Yes”, was actually blocked when I tried to access it.  I wonder what filter keywords stopped it? “Positive and upbeat” or “highly valuable information”?  Now I know it was probably remedied quickly after, but how it got caught in a filter scares me.  Were “blogs” being blocked because of the component of chat that can happen through the comments?  When we have resources like this sharing awesome information that most likely only educators would access, there is a major problem.

From a work study in 2009, it was actually noted that productivity did not decrease when sites such as YouTube and Facebook were opened:

Study author Brent Coker, from the department of management and marketing, said “workplace Internet leisure browsing,” or WILB, helped to sharpened workers’ concentration. “People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration…Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days’ work, and as a result, increased productivity,” he said.

As noted in the study though, the people with Internet addictions obviously had less productivity.  Although this problem is real with some, is it the majority?  Do we need to continue making rules for the majority when it is based on the actions of a few?

My own beliefs however tell me that people are not only missing out on the connection that social media may bring to them at their workplace (do we also ban phone calls home to family?), but it is the morale that is most highly impacted.  We should know that great organizations are built first upon trust, but by saying “we trust you”  and then shutting down websites that can actually enhance learning is simply a misalignment of actions and beliefs.

Recently I shared a YouTube video and I received a thank you from a teacher who said they were looking forward to watching it at home since  YouTube was blocked in their school. What? Really?

Someone said this to me and it really stuck in my head:

…there are two places that are making efforts to ban social media in the world; China and schools.

How accurate that statement is, I am not sure, but are schools rushing to open sites that have been continuously blocked.  The talk of “21st Century Learning” is so prevalent in our conversations yet teaching and working with our kids to ensure their safety is much more important than pretending the world outside doesn’t exist.

You see countries such as Egypt begin to block social media as revolutions begin; is there one coming the way of education?


  1. CStaude said:

    Great post, Kevin!! From your lips to the tech-coordinator’s ears !!!

    August 19, 2011
  2. SophieB said:

    Blocking social media from adults in Egypt is not the same as blocking social media from children in schools. To justify the latter by citing the former is an apples to oranges logical fallacy. The internet is not now, nor has it ever been a mirror of the real world. I want my children immersed in neither. Not until I’ve had a chance to exercise my right to review the material they will be exposed to. This is the kind of parent you want me to be, too.

    After that, don’t be a victim. Tether your iPhone. Get a Clear modem. Arrange with your IT staff to provide you with access to a subnet with fewer restrictions. Education happened before the internet. Educational material was distributed long before the web existed. Even before gopher, WAIS and Archie, there were libraries with microfiche and paper. Be resourceful. Be self reliant. But don’t whine about content filtering. It’s a necessary evil we all have to live with.

    August 19, 2011
  3. JosieB said:

    I think we need to keep in mind the place. Elementary schools need different kinds of access than high schools. Our elementary school has a sonic wall that works well for keeping out most inappropriate content and we don’t block anything specifically except for Facebook. To become a Facebook user students are supposed to be 13 years old. Since we don’t have elementary students who are 13, we shouldn’t be using Facebook in elementary schools. Everything else is open for us. The elementary vs. high school distinction is important.

    August 19, 2011
  4. Sue King said:

    Wonderful post! I am troubled by the lengths we go to “protect” our school children by these taking these types of measures, yet have no problem as a country when we rank so low in infant mortality and deaths of young people due to unchecked violence.

    August 19, 2011

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