Saturday, September 25, 2010

I am not sure this is an either or question...

Is it more unethical to allow threats to students/schools or to deny students/teachers access to instructionally-relevant Web-based tools and content?

I think it would be unethical to not allow students (K-12) unrestricted internet access if the web was a necessity. However the web is not a necessity in a K-12 setting. I believe using a computer to do research is a necessity but there are many alternate means that are much more educationally focused for which to obtain information using a computer. When we are asked to do assignments, it is expected that our outside sources be scholarly in nature. As of now full web based scholarly outlets are still burgeoning. The number one resource for scholarly materials is journal databases. Even the poorest media centers have access to one or two journal databases.

With that said I believe we are moving to a place where unrestricted internet access will be a necessity and at that point it will be unethical to deny students access. Because of this transition state I think it is more unethical right now to deny teachers unrestricted access to the internet. Teachers need exposed to the possibilities now so that when we reach the time when unrestricted access is a necessity, they will have the skills to lead and guide students.

Having IT experience I know that it is possible to differentiate restrictions. It is possible for teacher computers to be defined in a large network and have open restrictions while student computers (or login accounts) have needed restrictions. There could even be a process for the student to engage in that would allow these restrictions to be lifted once the school’s liability was substantially reduced for that student

School districts would really much rather have unrestricted internet access. Unrestricted access is cheaper, there is less maintenance of equipment and fewer hardware/software compatibility issues. They are forced to restrict access because they have not been able to free themselves of the liability.

I believe that at an appropriate age or mentality a student’s actions should be able to be gauged. If it can be proven that the student intentionally abused the internet then the educational institution should not be liable. I think the best course of action for schools is to work towards getting students to an appropriate understanding of the dangers of the unrestricted internet usage thus removing the legal liability that fuels so much of the reasoning for blocking access to the internet. I believe that ISTE’s NETS standards lay out a really nice framework for moving in this direction.


  1. When i was thinking about this question i to thought this can't be an either or question. It's got to be a bit of both. As with most things in this world we just need to find the right balance of being able to expose children to unrestricted content, but at the same time training them as to what is appropriate to view in the context of the school setting. I proposed enforcing digital media ethics and combining that with basic internet security options. Teaching students to watch out for fishing for information and pop ups that might carry virus's that could be dangerous for the system. The students on their own outside of school will be exposed to the unrestricted internet and we should provide them with the tools that they will need to browse safely.

  2. Wow, great insight into the question. I liked how you answered the question for both the student and the teacher. It is nice to have an answer from someone who has IT experience. I had no idea that, “Unrestricted access is cheaper, there is less maintenance of equipment and fewer hardware/software compatibility issues.” That is another good point about why we should allow students unrestricted access to the internet once they become mature enough to use the internet safely.
    I also liked the idea that we should use the school library for resources and not rely so much on the internet for scholarly information. I think as teachers every time we give the students an assignment we always think we should go straight to the computer lab to access the computers. My media center has about twenty computers and thousands of books, yet every time I give a research assignment I tell my students to use the computers. Next time I give a research assignment, I will have my students go to the library to find books to use instead of the internet.

  3. You make a very good point here. Even though we may not be able to allow our students to access certain sites on the Internet using our classroom computers, many schools provide students more access through the media center or in computer lab activity time. I agree that it is important for us as teachers to ensure our students safety, which includes making sure that they are not allowed access to unsafe sites which open their personal information up to hackers, and also to block their access to educationally irrelevant sites (such as Facebook or Myspace) and sites that contain inappropriate or unmoderated materials. Although this does sometimes leave us facing a situation where we would like to be able to use a certain video or site in the classroom and are unable to, perhaps we can present a request to administration or the IT team at our school to temporarily allow access to certain sites for an activity (as long as we are able to justify why such access would benefit our students). In my teaching experience, I have never really found a situation where I was unable to teach a lesson based on content being blocked on the classroom computers. There are many alternative options available for us and our students to use in the wide world of the web.

    Megan S