or Inappropriate Restrictions?
If you read a lot of ed tech blogs, you might get the impression that everyone agrees tech tools should be incorporated
into the K–12 curriculum. Podcasts, wikis, social networking, and MUVEs are lauded as great educational tools to
engage digital natives.
Same goes for You Tube, Flickr, Twitter, cell phones, and
even (gasp!) games like Spore. When used e ectively, such
tools teach 21st-century skills, reinforce inquiry-based learning, and satisfy National Educational Technology Standards.
If you are part of this enlightened set, you probably
yawned or even smirked upon reading the Pew Internet
report this fall that found that kids love gaming. e study
concluded that “virtually all American teens play computer,
console, or cell phone games and that the gaming experience is rich and varied, with a signi cant amount of social
interaction and potential for civic engagement.”
You knew that. We all know that. You probably also
know that games designed to teach concepts from algebra
to environmental responsibility are commonplace.
But did you know this? Many districts’ appropriate use
policies (AUPs) actually forbid some of these very tools.
And many districts block these sites even from teachers
Scott McLeod, who writes the blog Dangerously Irrelevant, discovered that fact during his daughter’s Back to
School Night. McLeod, who is the director of the Center
for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education, was torn about signing the AUP. In part, it read:
Inappropriate use includes but is not limited to online
chatting, shopping, social networking sites (myspace.
com, facebook.com, etc.), games, youtube.com …
He was outraged at the “categorical determination” that
computer games, You Tube, social networking sites, and
online chats are considered inappropriate use.
But what could he do? Not signing would have made
computers off limits to his fifth grade daughter. So he
signed but added a comment stating his strenuous objection. Then he asked what others thought. He got 15
comments, mostly from like-minded educators decrying
Two weeks later, Will Richardson wrote in Weblogg-ed
about his frustration with Web lters that block such sites
at Gmail, Google Earth, and You Tube.
Blogger Doug Johnson created this image to draw attention to
Banned Bytes Week. He writes the Blue Skunk blog.
Richardson’s blog entry garnered 93 comments and was
cited on 18 blogs. Some commenters blamed CIPA, a federal law that requires ltering; others blamed controlling
IT departments, school boards, and administrators. Others
said teachers should be more assertive about demanding
that sites be unblocked. Here’s a sampling:
In my presentations lately, I’ve been reminding admin
types that THEY are in charge of the library—not the
—David Lee King, librarian
If we can’t trust teachers with their own lter override,
how can we trust them with our kids?
—Kern Kelley, teacher
I agree that teachers should be allowed better access;
however, I don’t think that the students should. I think
that the access would be more of a distraction for the
—Aaron H., student
One of the teachers I work with requested to have
Google Earth downloaded onto her computer. e
response from the IT was no, because then everyone
would want it. Well, duh!
—Dana San e, teacher
Dangerously Irrelevant: www.dangerously
Pew Internet and American Life Project: www.pewinternet.org
e Blue Skunk Blog: http://doug-johson.
Weblogg-ed: http://weblogg-ed.com/2008/ lter-fun/
Diana Fingal is the senior editor for L&L. She has been writing for and editing periodicals for more than 20 years.