AccessDenied-700127 The discussion about web filtering in schools has been going on for quite some time. These powerful conversations have pushed thinking and ignited important dialogue as we consider the level and depth of filtering required and/or necessary to meet the learning needs of our students. 

This week, I received a letter from a young educator that has fueled new questions and concerns with this issue. I hope sharing it with you, will lead me to a better response and understanding of what I fear is a growing trend – Filtering Our Teachers.

She writes:

Dear Angela,

Today commenced my 2010-2011 school year with the first rounds of teacher meetings and professional development before students start next week.  In the first meeting, my principal went through the school district’s new policies regarding Social Networking.  It is only because of these new policies that I’m writing you to seek advice. 

Facebook and Twitter are completely forbidden during school hours.  This includes using the network to gain access, which still has Twitter unblocked mind you, and personal phones.  It was explained to us that none of our time throughout the day could be spent accessing these types of social networking sites, including our thirty minute lunch.  It is this last part with which I’m struggling the most.  According to my contract, I am due a thirty minute, duty-free lunch every day.  Therefore, it is my time.  I have the right to leave the building if I need to run an errand or grab lunch.  I should therefore also have the right to check my phone, right?  Not according to this new set of rules.  The words that my principal used were   “serious disciplinary action that could result in something as bad as termination”.  I could get in significant trouble for using my phone to check what new things my PLN is discussing during my lunch break?

Many colleagues who know me also know how passionate I am about my own learning through the use of Twitter, my blog, and being involved with various Nings.  They were all quick to condemn my use of Twitter and remind me of how much trouble I could get in if I were to use my phone while at school to access my account.  My administration also knows this and will be monitoring my activity in the coming weeks and months, along with others from the district office.

I can’t help but feel trapped.  Not only can I not help prepare my students for their own future as digital learners by responsibly teaching them digital citizenship, I can’t even continue my own learning through other educators.  My district is considered somewhat progressive with standards that focus on multiple literacies, including digital literacies.  This simply contradicts any “progressiveness” that this district claims. 

I do not want to play the martyr because I am so desperate to be on Twitter or read useless posts on Facebook.  What I do want to bring attention to is the threat of big brother or dare I say, Gestapo like policies, which I must adhere to in order to maintain employed.  Is that even employment or is that type or threatening considered a breach of certain rights that I’m predisposed to as an American citizen?  I hate to sound so dramatic, but I don’t like the idea of being monitored where I must watch everything I say, do, tweet, post, blog, or check on my phone whether I’m at work or at home.

What are my options?  How do you advise me as someone in this position?  All your help would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Frustrated and Afraid

After reading, I have more questions than answers to offer this young educator. These immediately come to mind:

  • Is this standard policy?
  • Is it required by law? 
  • If not, why not give teachers access to the web and make it easy for them to connect with other educators, resources, and powerful tools that could enhance teaching and learning?
  • Do we not have enough trust in our teaching staff or respect for the professionalism of educators to make their own decisions with regards to the web? 
  • What are we doing here? What is our goal?

It is so frustrating to me. As an advocate for technology as a tool for professional and personal development and more importantly as an advocate for teachers; this makes little sense to me.  We ask teachers to move forward, to embrace new standards, new tools, and technologies, and then bind them by rules and regulations that prevent this change from happening.

Is this good for the kids they lead everyday?
How would you respond?

Please advise!

Photo on Flickr by moscovitch

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