Tag Archives: content filtering

Ontario Meetup: Are We Asking the Right Questions?

The recent Ontario Meetup online session provided the anticipated engaging discussion of educational directions. This particular session was led by @courosa. The discussion centred around the intersecting tensions in the K-12 educational environment between building online communities, embracing the value and power of social media tools and content filtering.

@dougpete captured the key points in his recent blog post  Getting Priorities Straight.  I have had the pleasure of having many engaging discussions with Doug around this very topic. I think he hit the nail on the head with his statement “From what we can see, there’s a real tightrope to be walked to reach the other side and keep the organization’s needs and the needs of the end user in balance”.

As I listened and participated in the online session, which wandered between the benefits and challenges with each of these areas, and since reflected on the nature of the discussion, it struck me that there may be a ‘new lens’ in the midst of this discussion. I am beginning to wonder if we are focusing on the right questions. It is my observation that there is a trend developing in these discussions:

  • building learning communities is the right thing to do in an educational environment
  • building a culture of sharing is important
  • content filtering policies can get in the way of reaching these goals

What I find troubling in these discussions, is that they often narrow to a focus on YouTube and Facebook, almost implying that the only way to achieve these goals is with the specific use of these tools.  I think the ‘new lens’ or focus on this topic needs to look at this from a different point of view. I am thinking more about change at the system level to embrace this in a more holistic way. Certainly, simply unblocking a site or two does not mean an education system of several thousand staff and students is ready to change and be instantly successful.

Assuming that building learning communities and establishing this culture of sharing are important, and fundamentally the right place to ‘get to’, perhaps the questions that need addressing are:

  • How do we get more people involved?
  • How do we make them comfortable in their journey to ‘jump in’ to this new world?
  • How do we best teach, practice and embed character development and digital citizenship for both students and staff?
  • How do we keep training costs to a minimum so that this does not become a barrier?
  • How do we move this agenda forward with or without the specific use of  ‘magnet’ sites such as YouTube and/or  Facebook?
  • How do we select some free/low cost tools so that
    • cost is not a barrier
    • there is some elements of consistency as teachers change grades and/or schools
    • the integrity of the environment (the ‘network’ = internal + internet) is reliable for all to use for both learning and business functions
  • Should there be some thought put into the ‘gradual release of responsibility’ concept being applied to social media use as there is in other curriculum areas?
  • As things change, and opportunities present themselves, we are promoting and celebrating the change(s)

These are the questions whirring though my mind. I want to extend a thank you to my PLP group and the participants of the Ontario Meetup group for continuing this important dialogue and keeping the discussion going. More thinking and planning to do!

~ Mark

Advertisements

K12 Content Filtering: centralized or distributed?

Content filtering is always an interesting topic for discussion because it is so multifaceted. In my earlier post I listed the points below as part of the discussion arena. In my context, the framework is K-12 education.

  • filter or not?
  • if you do, how much?
  • if you do, is it done centrally or at the school level?
  • how do you align content filtering with educational resource selection processes for print, video etc.?
  • block or allow social networking?
  • keep students safe
  • sufficient band width
  • how do you define ‘educational content’ in a way that makes sense in a K-12 context?
  • should content filtering be more age or grade appropriate?

There are no easy answers. It is easy to find valid reasons to sit on either side of the fence for each point. More importantly, there is a growing need to keep learning about what is right, what is doable and keeping the agenda moving forward in an appropriate fashion for K-12 education. Further reflection on this post has two aspects of content filtering churning around in my mind.

1. Copyright: Content filtering must respect copyright and your country/jurisdictions laws and regulations. This whole aspect of internet use is blurry in the global community. At face value, what you see in your browser is relatively consistent from your vantage point on the globe. The internet seems like ‘one place’. The reality is the servers, and therefore content are in different countries. What you are able to do with content (copy, download , redistribute, use in a school classroom setting etc.) will likely vary, depending on your regulations and these need to be respected.

2. Equitable access: A couple of weeks ago, I was having a meeting with @socmediatrust (Twitter) discussing Digital Citizenship and his work at schools presenting Internet safety sessions to students and parent groups. At some point in the conversation, we landed on content filtering. As mentioned above, there are many approaches to dealing with this. The focus of our discussion was bullet #3 – centralized or distributed to the school level systems. This led to an interesting talk framed around consistency and equity of access.

Providing content filtering from a centrally run system provides equitable access to resources deemed suitable for use by all students/staff/sites within a system. To me, this makes the most sense. Deem the content that is acceptable for use in a particular system through a fair mechanism to select and align content with educational needs. Then you can work away at fine tuning needs in a strategic way.  I can see value in having a ‘sliding scale’ effect for content filtering so it is adjusted for age levels – maybe something along the lines of  tightly controlled (young students), medium access (maybe grades six to eight) and more open for high school. Validate readiness for each level with a strong Digital Citizenship program to teach ethical, responsible, safe use and digital literacies.

Now, imagine a system where access is controlled at the school level. This could potentially be a dogs breakfast so to speak. Two (or more) schools serving the same age group of students may be serving up completely different content and access to web tools. This leads me to many questions about equity of access, lack of consistent approach within a large system, lack of consistent expectations and use by staff and students and awkward to dialog with parents when the rules (access) varies from site to site. As curriculum leaders, do school administrators bring their own ‘rules of access’ with them as they move site to site over their careers?  Hmmm.

My View: It seems to me, at least at this point in my thinking, the distributed model leaves more questions than answers. I would cast my vote for a centrally run system that allows for the ‘sliding scale’ fine tuning approach that is well aligned with curriculum needs and resource selection processes.

~ Mark

K-12 Education: Content Filtering

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the first Central Ontario Computer Association (COCA) for the 2009/2010 school year. COCA provides a forum for ICT educators representing approximately 25 school boards to dialogue and collaborate face to face 5 times each school year. I always look forward to these meetings as I know the dialogue will be rich and engaging – a tribute to the forward thinking, action oriented people in these roles. Hats off to you for making a difference!

The agenda for this particular session was organized to provide an opportunity to discuss current educational issues and topics including:

  • Report: Ministry of Education licensed software for Ontario school Boards (OSAPAC committee)
  • Brainstorming: What would a Ministry of Education integrated ICT document look like?
  • Presentation: ICT Ethical Use
  • Presentation: iPods in the classroom project with a research component
  • Discussion: Twitter in the Classroom
  • Discussion: Round Table

I will be interested to follow Mike Redfern’s work on his Ethical Use of ICT project which will provide an in depth look at technology and social networking issues in the K-12 educational setting.  I will provide some information about our (WRDSB) iPod projects and research initiative in a future post.

As I anticipated, I found the round table discussion particularly interesting. Many points were raised, but the one that really stuck with me was content filtering. Content filtering is always an interesting topic for discussion because it is so multifaceted.

  • filter or not?
  • if you do, how much?
  • if you do, is it done centrally or at the school level?
  • how do you align content filtering with educational resource selection processes for print, video etc.?
  • block or allow social networking?
  • keep students safe
  • sufficient band width
  • how do you define ‘educational content’ in a way that makes sense in a K-12 context?
  • should content filtering be more age or grade appropriate?

There are no easy answers. It is easy to find valid reasons to sit on either side of the fence for each point. Oh yes, how do you apply content filtering to keep everyone (students, teachers, school administrators, technicians, parents, school board officials) happy?  That is a $64000 question!

Now, throw another huge component into the discussion: copyright, digital rights, document ownership. Yikes. A few people commented that their Board had recently opened up YouTube as part of the progressive move toward more openness in the content filtering in an effort to teach online safety and digital citizenship.

BUT – What about the YouTube end user Terms of Use policy? Section 5 (see below), in the terms of use policy contains some very specific language. I have emphasized some of the areas that I feel need careful consideration from school Boards when making a determination to allow or deny access to this site.

5. Your Use of Content on the Site

In addition to the general restrictions above, the following restrictions and conditions apply specifically to your use of content on the YouTube Website.

A. The content on the YouTube Website, except all User Submissions (as defined below), including without limitation, the text, software, scripts, graphics, photos, sounds, music, videos, interactive features and the like (“Content”) and the trademarks, service marks and logos contained therein (“Marks”), are owned by or licensed to YouTube, subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights under the law. Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the Website and the Content.

B. You may access User Submissions solely:

  • for your information and personal use;
  • as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service; and
  • for Streaming.

“Streaming” means a contemporaneous digital transmission of an audiovisual work via the Internet from the YouTube Service to a user’s device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be copied, stored, permanently downloaded, or redistributed by the user. Accessing User Videos for any purpose or in any manner other than Streaming is expressly prohibited. User Videos are made available “as is.”

C. User Comments are made available to you for your information and personal use solely as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service. User Comments are made available “as is”, and may not be used, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, downloaded, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited in any manner not intended by the normal functionality of the YouTube Service or otherwise as prohibited under this Agreement.

D. You may access YouTube Content, User Submissions and other content only as permitted under this Agreement. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the YouTube Content and the YouTube Service.

E. You agree to not engage in the use, copying, or distribution of any of the Content other than expressly permitted herein, including any use, copying, or distribution of User Submissions of third parties obtained through the Website for any commercial purposes.

F. You agree not to circumvent, disable or otherwise interfere with security-related features of the YouTube Website or features that prevent or restrict use or copying of any Content or enforce limitations on use of the YouTube Website or the Content therein.

G. You understand that when using the YouTube Website, you will be exposed to User Submissions from a variety of sources, and that YouTube is not responsible for the accuracy, usefulness, safety, or intellectual property rights of or relating to such User Submissions. You further understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to User Submissions that are inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable, and you agree to waive, and hereby do waive, any legal or equitable rights or remedies you have or may have against YouTube with respect thereto, and agree to indemnify and hold YouTube, its Owners/Operators, affiliates, and/or licensors, harmless to the fullest extent allowed by law regarding all matters related to your use of the site.

Independent of the nature of the content posted on YouTube, and whether or not there is a clean adherence to copyright and digital rights management, the terms of use document specifies that the site is for personal use. In Canada, classrooms are defined as public, not private.  As I understand this, personal use sites such as YouTube, do not have a legal place in Canadian classrooms much in the same way there are restrictions on the use of music and video. There is definitely more studying and thinking ahead in the complex arena. For now, I think we are positioned well with our current approach.

Related Reading

View the full YouTube end user Terms of Use

~ Mark

Social Networking in K-12

I was cruising through my Twitter listings last night and found a reference to a Social Networking article by Marcia Connor at THE Journal (http://www.thejournal.com). Of course, curiosity won, and I had a look at the article. The ‘snip it’ below (as received when you select email me a copy) will give you the flavour of the article.

:::::

Beyond Social Networking: Building Toward Learning Communities

Much has been written recently about the impact of social networking tools in teaching and learning and how educators can build on the skills of their students in using these tools. But if educators only integrate the ability of students to connect and socialize, deeper points of learning will be missed. While good teaching and learning rests on effective relationships, in an active learning community, those relationships should evolve into actual idea exchange and knowledge construction.

Among those listed by Connor (quoting from MIT and other sources) are skills in:
• Simulation: the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes;
• Collective intelligence: the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal; and
• Negotiation: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives and grasping and following alternative norms.
:::::

Once at the site, I was interested in the BiWeekly Poll in the sidebar which poses the question: Does your district ban social networking sites?

The currently listed stats show:

No ban – 17%
Yes, banned district-wide for students and teachers – 69%
Yes, banned only for students – 13%
Yes, banned only for certain students – 0%

There is an interesting message in these statistics, and it has got me thinking about the discussions around this very issue we had at our Technology Steering Committee meetings this year. Certainly, there are many aspects to this discussion of access. Some of our discussions included:

– digital citizenship
– embracing it as a way of ‘doing business’
– alignment of content filtering with resource selection policies
– grade appropriate content filtering
– alignment with Acceptable Use Policies
– what needs to be changed?
– what is the process for change in this area?
– how do we achieve a significant change in our systemic approach?
– risks and challenges
– educating not only the students, but teachers, administrators and parents too

I think many of us have a clear notion of where we need to get to, but the path is not necessarily an easy one at the system level, at least in the education field. I believe this is an area the needs to be changed more aggressively and that the positive educational results are with the risks.

At the moment I am thinking big on the change front and pondering strategies.

If interested, the complete article I referenced, is available online at:
The Journal

Happy pondering!

~ Mark