Internet Content Filtering

After listening to a few speakers lately (Will Richardson and Alan November) we are considering unblocking MySpace.com as well as a significant number of websites that fall into chat or discussion forum categories. We have identified a significant number of students who are continuing to find ways around our filtering system in order to get to MySpace.com. This is a fight that we are never going to win, we need to educate the students about what websites are appropriate for school and which ones are not. This past Friday I met with our Student Advisory Council and asked about the fascintion with MySpace and other sites that are similar. The answer I got was that it’s an environment in which they can customize every inch of their space, and they have fun doing it. They are actually learning HTML code while doing so (so I guess you could say it’s educational). The students felt that if we unblocked it, there would be a mad rush of students flocking to MySpace.com in order to update their profile and check their messages. The feeling was that the novelty would wear off in a week or two, and everything would be back to normal.  Right now the students are searching the web trying to find anonymizing proxy servers so they can bypass our filter. The students have all day long to find a way out, and they admitted that it’s kind of a rush when they find a way. I only have a limited amount of time to stay ahead of the students, of course they are going to win.

So, over the next few weeks we may be conducing an experiment. We will go through and unblock most websites (except sites that absolutely must be blocked) to see what happens. I would anticipate that our bandwidth utilization hits 100% for the first few days. Hopefully the novelty wears off quickly and life gets back to normal. It would be nice to find a teacher who is willing to setup their own MySpace page and post school-appropriate content out there. Maybe they could post their classroom activities out there for students who are out sick. I’ll keep you posted…

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