Tech Director Chat #024 – Who Controls the Web Filter?

This week’s episode gave Pete and I a chance to delve into a topic that was mentioned in last week’s podcast, and it’s one that certainly deserves not just one good conversation, but many. Web filters can be both a teacher’s bane and blessing while navigating the internet with students. Yes, they are often heavy handed in what they block (most web filters pull from pre-built lists of “block sites” that are updated constantly via computer algorithms), but they also provide safe comfortable boundaries for teachers that want to ensure certain areas of the web stay dark for students. It’s a constant struggle trying to find the happy medium between providing a secure walled garden for students, yet poking enough holes through the walls for learners to explore beyond the walls.

We repeatedly come back to issues, conversations, and arguments about what we allow through our school filters, and I’m glad that we do; as the social web continues to evolve, web sites that were once branded as educationally irrelevant  (YouTube, Twitter, Forums, etc.) have begun to poke their way into the classroom in many meaningful ways. Videos, tweets, and dedicated discussion forums are all a part of many classrooms, especially blended learning environments, and the default “we must block these spaces because anything could be going on there” sentiment is falling away to a much more digital and social media savvy culture. Whether it helps move the line of what gets blocked in the short term, I would urge all teachers, administrators, and tech directors to have regular conversations about what gets blocked and why; not from the standpoint of complaining and nagging either. The conversations should be educational, aspirational, and above all sense moderated with a good dose of reasonable expectations and some common sense classroom management structures in place for dealing with a more “open” web at school. To be clear, there are many areas of the web that will always be blocked at school, and I will always say “no” to certain segments of social media and the web (I’m looking at you Tumblr).

We certainly didn’t get into that much detail in the podcast, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on control over the web filters, and what sort of balancing act should be in place for managing it.

Timestamps for this week’s questions:

1:00 What has Pete been up to today?

2:47 Wanda from Twitter wants to know, can teachers have access to the web filter?

4:29 Could you see a special group of individuals that have the same web filter rights as the Tech Director?

7:10 Will teachers have the option to purchase their old laptops that are being replaced?

9:24 Elvis wants to know, is Pete moving because he just got married?

10:45 Jason from Twitter wanted to know, what should the bare minimum device be for a student to be successful in a 21st century classroom?

13:50 Is Chrome OS a real Operating System?

15:17 Stump Pete!

15:52 Does Ben censor Pete?

16:20 Elvis wants to know, what’s the hardest song you’ve ever tried to play?

18:35 Wait, Ben doesn’t listen to music?

Tech Director Chat – Who Controls the Web Filter?

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