Magazine article District Administration

To Block, or Not to Block: Education, Not Filtering, May Be the Best Answer

Magazine article District Administration

To Block, or Not to Block: Education, Not Filtering, May Be the Best Answer

Article excerpt

Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, had a problem. Some of the students at his first-year public high school had begun using the iChat instant messaging program on their school sponsored laptops in various inappropriate and disruptive ways. Students and teachers at the school were becoming upset by the messages, and, as Lehmann wrote on his Weblog, "we saw a creeping loss of a sense of safety" at the school.

For many school administrators, what happened next would have been a no-brainer: flip a couple of switches and say goodbye to iChat. But Lehmann took another tack, a much messier yet potentially effective one: start a conversation, and let the school community work toward a collaborative solution.

Lehmann is not alone in facing these types of issues, brought on in large part by the way recent technologies have facilitated the creation and publication of content and online communication. But in this Web 2.0 world where districts are grappling with everything from Wikipedia to MySpace to YouTube, to about a million other sites where unedited, user-generated content is popping up, what is the best solution?

A number of factors are muddying the waters, not the least of which is the extent to which many students have made tools and Web sites like these a part of their daily practice outside of school. A recent Pew Internet and American Life study showed that 87 percent of students ages 12-17 use the Internet, and over half go online on a daily basis. Three-quarters use instant messaging programs like iChat, and an estimated 50 million teens have MySpace accounts. In other words, these tools have become a part of their culture, an expected and effective way for them to communicate and learn.

Ubiquitous Connections

In addition, the nature of these fast-evolving Web technologies is decidedly social and collaborative. Wikipedia is just one example, now boasting over 1. …

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