…and then some. I’ve been running around for the past week and a half trying to laminate the fifth grader’s Explorer Card projects so they can take them all home before Thanksgiving (which doesn’t appear is going to happen now), attending the monthly MACUL Board meeting, and making time to prepare for some of the classrooms in my building to communicate online via e-mail and message boards. Needless to say I wasn’t exactly perpared to walk into our district’s technology advisory group meeting last week to hear that the Tech Coordinator and Assistant Superintendent for school improvement are planning on blocking student access to every major search engine. No, not just blocking Google and Yahoo, I’m talking about no student access to MSN, Yahoo, Dogpile, Ask.com, Google, etc. If it isn’t specifically and unequivocally a search engine designed for kids then it isn’t going to get through the filters. Which means every student from Kindergarten to grade 12 would be using the likes of Yahooligans, Kidsclick, and other “kid safe” search sites, with the possible exception of teachers who are working closely with a small group of students that need access to a more robust search engine for their work on a more challenging project.
I didn’t have the energy to mount a worthy defense during the meeting, and will definitely be doing my homework over Thanksgiving break. I’m planning on scouring the Internet and Edublogosphere about the use of search engines in school as well as providing differentiated learning experiences and ways to teach our state technology benchmarks dealing with ethics, multiple search engines. I really don’t want to walk into the next meeting with more than just the typical anecdotes and analogies (using “kid safe” search engines for all searches, no matter what level or age group is often the equivalent of using a ruler to draw a circle). I need some cold hard evidence that we would be doing our students a diservice in preparing them for the real world by limiting their searches at school to sites that aren’t typically used in…well, the real world. When was the last time you saw your middle or high schooler going to Yahooligans to search for something?
This really isn’t meant to be a flame post, or a complaint, merely a way to gather my thoughts about what’s on the horizon, and what I need to do in order to preserve the best learning environment possible for all the students in the district, not just my building. I’m also hoping that the new Internet search that we’re trying out might be worth replacing access to some of the more “rest of the world” oriented search engines. We currently have a trial account for NetTrekker D.I., which is proving to have excellent learning resources and well categorized websites, but is severely limited in other areas, not to mention the fact that we would have to pay for every student to have access. While I love what NetTrekker does, I’m hesitant to say it should be the student search engine of choice for what it doesn’t do. Namely, provide a robust search of images and local information, something that we could get for free on other search engines and/or local media sites. Perhaps this break is just what I need to recharge the batteries, think about the direction of censorship and filtering in schools, and look more deeply into what NetTrekker provides.
Sorry there isn’t something more inciteful or useful today, but i thought it would be best to leave for the Turkey day break, and a break from blogging, with something to ponder.