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Marco Koene

Filters.

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In another thread Graham wrote that he was kicked of lists because of

'offensive' language. This raises a question. Do so-called webfilters serve a purpose? Eg. If you ban the word sex many sites with contents for biologylessons are not availble. On the other hand you can ban a little bit of the offensive contents of the internet. So what is more important; protecting people from offensive contents or free access to information? What is the use of a so-called filter?

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Filters are probably essential in schools to prevent children accessing sites containing offensive material, but some of the filters are pretty stupid. For example, when running a workshop in a Birmingham school I could not access google.co.uk as it was filtered out - presumably to stop kids/teachers(?) searching for porn - but google.com worked! There is also the story of caving clubs in schools being unable to access pictures of stalactites and stalagmites because of filters that look for certain shapes and flesh-coloured tones! I have had several bad experiences in running workshops in schools which had installed such sensitive filters that one site in three was inaccessible. This makes a nonsense of the WWW as an information resource.

To repeat what I wrote elsewhere:

I have been locked out from discussion lists several times by automatic filters accusing me of using "offensive language". I had my knuckles rapped for using the phrase "black bitch" - which actually appeared in the following context:

"I love greyhounds. I have adopted three retired racing greyhounds over the last 20 years. I currently own a dog called Swifty, and my daughter has a dear little black bitch called Millie."

You can view pictures of Swifty and Millie (racing names "Groovy Guzi" and "Mother Cluck"), together with their pedigrees, at http://www.greyhound-data.com/

On another occasion a colleague used the word "cocktail" in the context "a cocktail of different approaches to teaching" and was locked out from the same list. Finally, one member in exasperation blew the whole system apart by sending the following message to the list: "Ah, cocktails for two, followed by a bumper meal in Scunthorpe. Bottoms up!" Shortly afterwards the filter was removed.

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I really can't agree that filters has a purpose. Internet is not only available at schools or at libraries (the only places where you can have filters) but at the homes of most childrens. So if they don't watch "offensive" pages in school they will do it somewhere else.

I think it is more important to stress "netiquette" and internet ethics in school, i.e. to discuss with the students what is appropriate behavoir and what is not.

Internet has opened up a whole new dimension in life - everything is available for everybody anytime. We need to learn to cope with the fact that that is the world which we live in. And not by censorship but by seriously discussing moral matters with our students.

There is also the problem about how to decide which words should be filtered (and who should take those decisions?). I have just spend six months at a school in New York City (otherwise I teach at Fredrika Bremergymnasiet in Stockholm, Sweden) where they have filters, and sometimes the situation was absurd. One class was involved in a discussion about terrorism in a forum with some of my students in Sweden - and if they used the word "terrorist" in their replies the forum wouldn't accept it. Other offensive words included homosexual, lesbian and gay... What does that teach the students - that being homosexual is as bad as blowing up the World Trade Center?

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Filters are necessary in schools as part of our 'duty of care' to students. However, 'common sense' use together with whitelists allows a school to work well. After all, not particularly strict url filters will simply block any content from Essex, Sussex and Middlesex LEAs (Educational Authorities) - and that's before we even mention Scunthorpe. The guidance for UK schools can be found at http://safety.ngfl.gov.uk/schools/

As with all things like this a balance is needed. With control of such filters being wrestled away from schools this is a major issue. Filtering needs to be different for sixth form students (16+) as compared with primary school students (under 11s). With some county school internet providers a 'one size fits all' solution is the only option. This just doesn't work. My online lesson about the Rise of Hitler was serverely limited a few years ago with the word Hitler being filtered. :(

At my school we keep control of the filtering and are able to offer different levels of filtering to different age groups. It would seem appropriate to educate students in the dangers of the internet and hence avoid all filtering. Unfortunately this simply cannot happen in schools. With these sick *astards who run sites with similarly misspelt urls to common children's educational sites and suchlike some limited enforced protection is essential.

Filtering does not work if left along - but with combined use of a whitelist for 'allowed' sites, where teachers can request sites to be permitted and so on, a workable balance can be reached.

Edited by Andrew Field

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I agree very strongly with Andrew here - filtering is essential in schools. The best "solution" would appear to be the one he has in his own school viz. in house control of the filter set to different levels of control. External filters are very annoying and often pretty unresponsive to requests for change.

What also strikes me is the need for dialogue with students when they encounter something innappropriate either deliberately or by chance, and the very pressing need to train them to be "internet savvy" about what could happen if they are not careful.

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I agree with the dialogue part. Talking to students about the possible hazards is very worthwhile. Most of them do not realize the dangers. The ones that do cannot be stoped by any filter anyway. :(

Edited by Marco Koene

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I believe that the school has to be a part of society, with the same rules and regulations as the world outside. Yes, it is true that the students might come across offensive material by mistake on the internet but that can happen anywhere. I think it is better to prepare the students for these kinds of things than to ignore and/or hide them. The school should prepare the students for a life outside of school and how to use the internet in a responsive way should be a part of their education.

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The school should prepare the students for a life outside of school and how to use the internet in a responsive way should be a part of their education.

I could not have said it better myself! :D

However do you support dialogue/ filters or only dialogue?

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As with all things like this a balance is needed. ...  Filtering needs to be different for sixth form students (16+) as compared with primary school students (under 11s).

I do agree with Andrew about the need for filters with young students.

The Italian Ministry of Education offers schools advice and information at

http://www.istruzione.it/innovazione/tecno...nsapevole.shtml

I think it is even very important to debate the issue with older students (16+), who always seem to know more about the Internet than myself and provide me with up-to-date information about the most recent "opportunities" you find on the net.

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I think it is even very important to debate the issue with older students (16+), who always seem to know more about the Internet than myself and provide me with up-to-date information about the most recent "opportunities" you find on the net.

Very true - and I honestly don't think there is much difference of opinion here. The general 'duty of care' together with the UK government internet guidance [see links from http://www.ictadvice.org.uk/index.php?section=ap&cat=004004 - similar sites to the one you mention for Italy ] make any argument for not using filters professionally incomprehensible.

Filters have to be used in schools - but as part of a combination of measures to help students become aware of the internet.

As has been said you do need discussion with your students - and this is essential to help them appreciate the dangers of the internet. It is a two way process also. How else would I have found out about sites such as 'Anonymizer' where the student can just type in any URL and totally bypass any filters.

Edited by Andrew Field

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The general 'duty of care' together with the UK government internet guidance  make any argument for not using filters professionally incomprehensible

Well i better close this thread then. :rolleyes:

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