in Technology

Porn in every school? or Why filtering will soon be irrelevant.

The world is a scary place. It’s seemed to become even more so in the past 16 months with the arrival in the world of my one-and-only son, Ben. Young people need protecting from the dangers and perils that we, as adults, either know to avoid or can take somewhat in our stride.

It’s the same online. There’s websites and links I know not to click on as my home Internet connection is unfiltered. At school, however, I’m subject to the same restrictions as pupils, which is annoying. I’m a responsible adult and can navigate to relevant parts of websites for lesson preparation and delivery. There’s no good reason for my having the same level of restricted access as pupils.

I had a discussion a month or two back in which my interlocutor, sounding reasonable at the time, said that wireless Internet access should be opened up to students. It’s filtered, so there shouldn’t be a problem. That’ll be why I keep seeing pupils trying to hide that they’re on Bebo via the newest proxy server to have sprung up, yes? Unless you have a whitelisting system, where the Internet is blocked except for those that are put onto a list, then filtering via blacklisting will never be 100% effective.

But pupils accessing Bebo via a proxy server through the school network is small potatoes compared with what’s about to happen. Here’s the five steps:

  1. Schools allow students to bring in mobile devices that can connect to the Internet, realising that having policies which ban them whilst some teachers promoting their use is problematic.
  2. The cat-and-mouse game of students trying to access blocked sites and administrators blocking them continues.
  3. In the wider world, unlimited mobile broadband data plans become commonplace.
  4. Students from wealthier families start being able to connect to whatever they want, bypassing the school network.
  5. A trickledown and pester-power effect begins; soon most students can access the Internet in this way.

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This is going to cause a HUGE problem. Why? Schools haven’t realised that the only way to have students behaving responsibly online is to teach them how to do so from an early age. We’re going to see reactionary administrators floundering in an attempt try to claw by some type of control, when all along we should have been educating pupils instead of blocking them… :-s

We need to start planning for this eventuality NOW.

Image credit: based on iPorn by jasonEscapist @ Flickr

  • http://www.nstoneit.com nstoneit

    That’s something I hadn’t thought of! Not to mention that students for years have been able to easily bluetooth and text unsuitable content to each other which I’m sure many schools have had experience with already.

  • http://www.dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    What brought it home to me was when I was thinking about what to do when we move house shortly. I need to have an Internet conneciton to mark online during the period we're likely to move.

    If you've got a laptop, <a href="http://online.vodafone.co.uk/dispatch/Portal/appmanager/vodafone/wrp?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=template04&pageID=MB_0001&source=omd&wt.srch=1&lpsrc=Google&lpgroup=05+008+02+B+S+Mobile+Broadband_Branded+Mobile+Broadband&quot; rel="nofollow">Vodaphone do unlimited access for £15 or the <a href="http://threestore.three.co.uk/broadband/&quot; rel="nofollow">3 network do pay-as-you-go if you buy the device for £50. As we all know, the iPhone has unlimited data if you're on a contract with <a href=""http://www.o2.co.uk/iphone&quot; rel="nofollow">O2. It's not going to be long before other networks and devices go likewise…

  • http://blog.larkin.net.au/ John Larkin

    Doug,
    You are quite right Doug. Education is the key. From teachers and parents. Commonsense. I often compare the Internet with a newsagency that sells, in addition to newspapers, all types of publications covering topics such as sport, entertainment, science, photography, hobbies, fashion, gossip and… pornography. Everyone knows it is there and everyone applies commonsense when they are in the shop. A similar approach could be taught to the children as they grow up. May not always be effective. But is is something I use.
    Cheers,
    John

  • http://creativeict.typepad.com John Sutton

    Good analogy from John Larkin. Totally right, Doug. Trouble is there are so many vested interests at work in keeping filtering as the standard policy approach. Loads of gov funding to LAs and regional broadband consortia keeping network admins in jobs (who, incidentally, are never answerable to educationalists for justifying the decisions they make). We might know we’re right, but short of schools abandoning LA internet connections en masse (yes, it can be done, and it’s great (and usually cheaper) when you do it), change is gonna be a long time coming.

  • http://www.gcedtech.blogspot.com Brooksie

    I completely agree with you. Teaching students safety and digital citizenship should be the number one priority NOT the “just take it away from them and do nothing about it” approach. But with the laws in Texas and worries of suing I understand why it is still in place. State filtering Laws

  • http://blog.larkin.net.au/ John Larkin

    Hi Doug and John,
    I wonder if ICANN will ever allow the establishment of a specific top level domain to publish that material so that if filtering is to be used it could be more effective.

    http://tinyurl.com/3392g3

    ICANN keep putting the idea in the too hard basket.
    Cheers,
    John

  • http://themasterplan.edublogs.org Daniel Stucke

    My iPhone brought this home to me, and with the 3G one coming soon that will give more than fast enough speeds for pupils to browse the Net as they wish. Judging from the proliferation of iPod Touches in my school already it can only be a matter of 18-24 months before this starts to happen.