Last week I received an email that made me chuckle. Apparently, Banned Website Awareness Day is spreading across the web. Educators nationwide are arriving at work everyday to find that they can no longer access websites that support their classroom instruction and communication with students and families.
Blocked sites vary from school district to district, among the blocked sites are Wikispaces, Ning, Glogster, CNN, History Channel, National Geographic, Google Docs, Dropbox, Teacher Tube, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and various blog sites. The policy of filtering these sites inhibits teachers from fully meeting the needs of Digital Natives and 21st Century learning.
Students in classrooms today have never experienced life without the Internet, it is their primary source for communication, information and exploration; except at school. Schools are often zones of Internet isolation with students having limited time and exposure to digital technologies. It is the equivalent of living in two countries, crossing the border each day and having to speak two languages. The students in America’s classrooms speak “Digital”. Teachers are too often speaking “Pre Digital” and the two conflicting ideologies about digital technologies, cause students to tune out. This clash of cultures leaves many students disconnected, frustrated and uninterested in school.
Teachers maximizing the use of technology are also frustrated by these policies, they may spend hours uploading plans, resources and images to a site for classroom use only to discover without warning that they can no longer access that material from their classrooms. While some school districts have procedures for unblocking sites, busy teachers seldom have time to tackle the layers that are required to gain access to sites, some teachers have reported needing to write lengthy rationales that include lesson plans with timeframes just to have sites unblocked for a couple of days. Teachers frequently give up and revert to using less effective methods of teaching.
Learning how to use websites responsibly and effectively must become a priority; policies need to be adjusted to support teachers as they model and teach students appropriate uses for digital technologies.
The irony in all of this is that students know how to bypass most blocked sites and the teachers end up being “blocked” from using better means to teach.