Today, I asked if it would be alright for me to come to school to get some work done while the building was open for PETE&C pre-conference sessions. Our tech director had no problem with it, so I was quite happy. Of course, I wasn't just here to get work done for my classes, I was also here to help out with any issues that may have popped up during the sessions, especially since I knew how particular our filter could be. Lo and behold, we have quite a few issues with the filter, which has led us to learn quite a bit about how it runs and acts.
Days like this are nice and frustrating all at the same time. It's frustrating due to the issues that the session presenters and attendees encountered. I know the feeling. Anyone who does anything with technology knows the frustrations. Especially educators.
Educators are placed in a tough position. We have to make sure that students do not access inappropriate materials while in the building. Sites such as YouTube, Flickr, and others might be blocked due to some objectionable content on those sites. However, there are many great educational uses for these sites, as well. How is the balance found? How do filters assist or add to the problems? Why do some schools open up access to all, while others open access to teachers, and others yet do not allow anyone access?
The best thing these sites could do is create an education format within their programming, or something similar to Google's safe search. (Can you believe that Google was once blocked in many districts?) Why not have SkoolFlickr? There's already a TeacherTube.
In the end, there will always be a need for filtering. The internet is just too wide open. Yet, even though there is a filter, there will also always be people who find ways around it. There will always be that next great thing that can't be accessed for a while. And, as educators, we need to be patient. We need to educate our students as to why we need to filter and proper uses of the technology, so that the importance of a filter diminishes. School has changed so much in the past decade, and it's only going to be changing quicker and technology advances.