Social Networking and Community Building

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According to Webopedia, a walled garden “refers to a browsing environment that controls the information and Web sites the user is able to access” (“What is walled garden? Webopedia Definition,” n.d.)Schools around the country commonly employ filters to block students from accessing different types of content that they feel is inappropriate or possibly harmful to students. This comes at a time where more and more focus is placed on connecting students both in school and at home to the internet “In 2013, the Obama administration launched the ConnectED initiative with the goal to connect 99 percent of schools to broadband internet in five years (Anderson, 2016).” This is a well-intentioned program to help bridge the digital divide especially in more rural areas of the country. So it seems odd that at a time where we are trying to get technology into as many hands as possible, we are also being held back by another law passed by Congress in 2000. This law

“mandates all public libraries and schools that receive federal funds for Internet access install blocking software.  The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) specifically requires schools and libraries to block or filter access to pictures and material that are “obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors” on computers that are used by students under 17 years of age. (Anderson, 2016)

Many have raised concerns that in an effort to ensure compliance with the CIPA, many schools and libraries are being overly aggressive in the sites and searches they are blocking. So at a time where we are expanded the amount of technology in use, we are also limiting the amount of information available to those individuals who need access the most.  A student using limited access technology at school, but who can go home to an open access device may go on to find the information they were denied access to at school. The student however who doesn’t have access at home will not have the opportunity to seek out additional information on their own. “Students and teachers need online tools to create projects, dispense information, and deepen their understanding of the subject matter (Poff, 2008).” It’s completely understandable and appropriate that schools take steps to protect students against inappropriate online content as there is certainly a lot it. I do not believe the answer is blanket bans on whole websites and tools. In my opinion, in order to help teach student to become good digital citizens you have to give them access to as much content as possible within reason. Right now if you asked students to conduct a web search and identify appropriate and inappropriate content the only results students would see would be appropriate. Students can’t really learn to identify all of the different ways they may encounter inappropriate content if they know they the filters won’t let them see any. This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any filter at all, but rather that the filters should be used in a common sense way that gives IT professionals the ability to all educationally appropriate and needed site so students can learn the content they are asked to learn.

Resources

Anderson, M. D. (2016, April 26). How Internet Filtering Hurts Kids. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/04/internet-filtering-hurts-kids/479907/

Poff, J.-M. (2008, December 3). Stop Blocking Online Content. Retrieved March 4, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/online-access-internet-blocking-filtering
What is walled garden? Webopedia Definition. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2017, from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/walled_garden.html
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