Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Thin Edge of the Wedge?

I am a firm believer that students need to learn to use the Web 2.0 tools that are available to them in a constructive and ethical manner. I also teach internet safety to students, teachers and parents. I am opposed to blocking sites where students can read or post blogs, podcasts, and videos. I'm fortunate to work in a school district that understands my point of view. When things happen as a result of a YouTube posting, instead of a knee jerk reaction to block the site, we try to look at the episode as a "teachable moment" or as an incident that requires alternative discipline measures. So far, that has worked and the site has remained open.

In the course of my recent classroom discussions with elementary school students regarding keeping safe on line, protecting passwords, not discolsing personal information, etc. a number of students have offered to show their website creation work on the service Piczo. Quite frankly, I was alarmed at some of the information being disclosed, the personal identifiers, the photos, both fun and risque. The interchange in the chat/feedback areas with hurtful language. The pages for voting on what kids are hot and who are losers. And, the linking that takes place on these sites, the web of sites one can visit just by having access to one student's page. I don't think a lot of these students clearly understand how visible and public their spaces are.

Although I can make the case to open up website development opportunities for students to create and share, I see no redeeming value in using Piczo as a service to do that. I think it is causing more harm in our classrooms than good from sites that the students create at home.

The wedge has been placed under my values and beliefs about modern day computing and while I don't like it, I have taken the steps necessary to block the site, and its derivatives, from access within our district network.

And, once the block was in place we recorded over a hundered attempts to access the domain. At 1:30 pm. On a school day. What's wrong with this picture?

One thing I have learned this week is that I need to go beyond my plan to teach effective and ethical use of the web tools, but to also take a more indepth look at what students in my district are actually producing from the comfort of home.

1 comment:

David said...


I had the opportunity a week ago to work with Nancy Willard, who is probably the chief guru on net safety. I watched her presentation and then had a great conversation with her afterward, which is posted as a podcast on Connect Learning (

The main message that I came away with was that we should not over react to safety issues. The most important thing that we should do and preserve is having conversations with our students and children (which is what you excel in, Bob). But when we over react, our children see that, and are less likely to want to talk to us about their online experiences.