This is the Internet, and it’s Out to Get You!

I work with kids in a number of schools around New Zealand, and as part of my work, I send them links. If they can’t open the links, it’s usually because of a school internet filter rejecting the link on the basis of being in a broad-but-undoubtedly-nasty category. I expect “adult material” may be one of the categories, but I wouldn’t know, because I never send them links like that.

However, just in case, like me, you didn’t realise just how much of the internet was out to get you, here are some categories that you could avoid too:

  • Blogs. All of them. Even ones by other schools. Really.
  • Pictures. Especially Flickr, one of the easiest sites on which kids can search for Creative Commons licensed material that is clearly labelled showing the conditions under which they may legally use them.
  • Search Engines. It seems schools specify a default search engine, and the filter blocks all the rest. Even CC Search, a portal to several search engines set up to help users search them for CC licensed material, is blocked at many schools.
  • Humour. Notwithstanding that Finding Humour is one of the 16 Habits of Mind that are somewhat popular with teachers, we clearly can’t allow kids to read funny posts on the internet. They’ll just have to find that humour somewhere else.
  • Streaming Media. Because if a picture is worth a thousand words out to get you in a thousand ways, imagine the damage a really educational video could do!
Brick Wall

Ahhh! Somewhere to bang my head…
Photo CC BY-NC Paul Barnett

I am often left wondering whether we really need to be this safe? What do you think?


About Mary St George

I teach in gifted education, both online and face-to-face.
This entry was posted in E-Learning, education, online resources, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to This is the Internet, and it’s Out to Get You!

  1. I’ve seen in my web stats what looks like some schools sucking my entire website onto their private server. I guess that’s one way to limit browsing.

    • I guess it fits with US Fair Use regulations. They couldn’t legally do that here, unless it is CC licensed. Learning search skills is not the same if students are using privately backed up copies.

  2. Sue NZ says:

    I can SO identify with this! We’ve recently had to change our gifted class internet over to use the school’s server and it’s almost not worth having now. Cannot access images, YouTube, blogs, wikis, games of any sort, even TED talks are blocked. Used to be able to reset the filters myself when necessary, but can’t do that anymore, so am really stuck.

  3. If there were a top ten sites that you felt should be enabled on school internet sites regardless of category, what would be on it? TED would certainly be something I feel should always be enabled in schools, even if their broad settings include a streaming media ban, for example.

  4. Steve Voisey says:

    Agreed. Also reject all gmail (this is idiotic!).

  5. Mona says:

    Sometimes I think that filters such as these are there to mitigate poor oversight.

    • I think there seems to be a process of making decisions about what to allow through once, and then forgetting that decisions can be made, too. So you’re stuck with access to great educational sites of the past (which may no longer exist), and nothing new is added.

  6. Sean Lyons says:

    We did a survey of new zealand educators that showed more than half of them felt that filtering in schools either made no difference to, or restricted student learning. So you’re not alone!

    You can read the research in full here

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