70.3% of students we surveyed did not know what web filter their school was using, if at all. ALL of the students we interviewed were unaware as to what sites were prohibited on their school’s network. Teachers themselves are often surprised and irritated by blocks to YouTube clips planned for class lecture. Both teachers and students feel that they waste time trying to navigate their school’s web filter. The solution is simple: greater transparency.
Transparency may seem counterintuitive; isn’t the whole point of web filtering to screen content? Well, teaching the school community about their web filtering system will optimize internet safety features and help students/teachers maximize web resources. Students seek knowledge of the categories of websites that are blocked, which they feel would preempt incidents of being surprised upon being served a blocked page. In fact, majority of students understand the rationale and support the concept behind web filters and safety measures that schools have put into place.
By the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), schools are required to 1) employ technology protection measures and 2) educate students on appropriate online behavior. The latter should:
- Include a tutorial on how to properly conduct online research and list reputable sources students can use
- List blocked sites or categories
- Detail best practices for good digital citizenship
- Teach students and teachers how to handle cyberbullying
- Outline rules and ramifications of violating the online safety policy
In addition, IT Admins should notify teachers of protocol for whitelisting sites. Each process is different depending on the specific web filter. Most school web filters require approval from the IT Admin, others allow teachers to temporarily whitelist a website using Google Apps for Education.
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