First, Doug Johnson has a self-described rant of his own:
There is long held belief in libraryland that one selects a resource on the basis of it having some things of value rather than censored a resource based on it having some parts without value or which might possibly cause offense. In choosing to block YouTube, you are a censor. You violate your staff's and students' intellectual freedom, their rights to view. By arbitratily blocking other sites, you are violating your staff's and students' right to read. You are denying them their rights accorded by the First Amendment.Doug’s post appears to have been spurred at least in part by this post by Miguel Guhlin:
Over the last two weeks, there's been a rash of emails from Texas Tech Directors asking, "How do you handle the use of YouTube videos by instructional staff?" Often, YouTube is blocked in school districts, but teachers (and others) find they want to use the content in their lessons. I enjoyed responding to these questions by other tech directors by pointing them to different resources they could use to get YouTube videos and save them to their computers.You should also check out Miguel’s post for one way to fairly easily save videos from YouTube and similar sites locally. I have found several ways to do this, but this may be the simplest and the one least likely to get broken by updates to the hosting site (since Zamzar will presumably respond quickly to changes). (Note that you still have to be able to access the video site to get the URL of the particular video you want, so that requires accessing from home or overriding the filter at school if you have that option.)
A related post by Miguel then led me to two posts, one by Tim Stahmer:
In my spare time this week I’ve been submitting requests to have a long list of sites unblocked (fortunately, my boss approved them) but it’s not that effort that bothers me.And, from a comment on Miguel's post, this post by Kurt Paccio:
It’s the totally inconsistent classification and blocking of web sites which is very much symptomatic of the arbitrary, sometimes knee-jerk rules we often impose on students in the name of keeping them safe.
Instead of using the electronic filters sparingly (there are certainly sites that need to be kept out of the classroom) and then teaching the kids how to evaluate and filter the rest for themselves, we throw up a porous chain-link fence, offering administrators a false sense of security.
I am a primary decision maker for web content filtering in a school. We continually see comments with the groans, and the sighs about schools who "over filter" or block entire sites. We also hear the frequent "they don't get it!" label slapped onto the decision makers.The comment that led me to Kurt’s post was by Jim Gates, who adds to the conversation (coming full circle by talking about my post) with this post:
I'd like to point out something of interest. Not one of those who sigh or are critical of filtering decisions has their job on the line should Johnny access inappropriate content. Would those who are frustrated sit beside me in court or defend me in the court of public opinion? They certainly would not have to sit in the principal's office and explain to the sobbing mother who is clutching her book of faith.
For those who can't believe that YouTube is blocked, have you approached the Superintendent and volunteered to assume liability for the District should a student, parent, or family launch a lawsuit? As it stands today, many AUPs identify the Technology Coordinator, Technology Director, or Superintendent as the individual responsible for safeguarding students.
What's that? Allow teachers to override the filter? HERESY? An OUTRAGE? Impossible?... WONDERFUL! FANTASTIC! Imagine giving control of the internet to those people with whom we are entrusting our children and assuming that they will use good judgement in their choices. What's the worst consequence of this great idea? You might have a teacher who uses poor judgement, or you may have one who decides to follow her stocks all day long or to monitor their ebay account. What then? I liked what one principal said in a meeting recently. He said, "I want to KNOW which teachers are doing that when they should be teaching a class. At least that way I can get rid of them. But, to restrict the Internet to such a point that it interferes with the education we're trying to provide to our students just to protect the teachers from themselves doesn't make sense."
And then this article came to me in the old fashioned way via email (yes, email delivery of a link to a web page is now “old-fashioned,” if not downright quaint):
The University of California, Berkeley, is posting course lectures and other campus happenings on YouTube.
Finally, Carolyn herself had a post recently where she talked about similar issues:
I find it upsetting because there are teachers out there who are committed and excited about education, and who really want to bridge the gap between the world many of their students live in (wired, connected, “on all the time”) and the world of education(me being one of those teachers). These teachers are pushing the envelope, eagerly trying new things, and trying to use the best tools they can find to connect their students with a world beyond the classroom walls.
Yet too many of these teachers are met with roadblocks, and an ever mounting frustration at being unable to convince administrators or their IT department, or their district leaders..or someone in their district, that what they are doing can be done in a safe manner and is valuable, very valuable for their students.
So my fear is, naturally, that we are going to lose some of the best teachers we have in the country. Because you can only stand expending half your energies “convincing” people for so long. And no one finds it rewarding to have their genuine love and enthusiasm for teaching reined in and constantly met with roadblocks.
And I’m sure there are many, many others. But this is just one set of examples of the many good conversations going on as we try to figure out how best to meet the needs of our students.