Tina Barseghian interviews U.S. Department of Education Director of Education Technology Karen Cator and reveals six surprising rules that educators, administrators, parents, and students might not know about website filtering in schools.
- Accessing YouTube does not violate CIPA rules. "Absolutely it's not circumventing the rules," Cator says. "The rule is to block inappropriate sites. All sorts of YouTube videos are helpful in explaining complex concepts or telling a story, or for hearing an expert or an authentic voice—they present learning opportunities that are really helpful."
- Websites don't have to be blocked for teachers. "Some of the comments I saw online had to do with teachers wondering why they can't access these sites," she says. "They absolutely can. There's nothing that says that sites have to be blocked for adults."
- Broad filters are not helpful. "What we have had is what I consider brute force technologies that shut down wide swaths of the Internet, like all of YouTube, for example. Or they may shut down anything that has anything to do with social media, or anything that is a game," she said. "These broad filters aren't actually very helpful, because we need much more nuanced filtering."
- Schools will not lose E-rate funding by unblocking appropriate sites. Cator said she's never heard of a school losing E-rate funding due to allowing appropriate sites blocked by filters.
- Kids need to be taught how to be responsible digital citizens. "[We need to] address the topic at school or home in the form of education," Cator says. "How do we educate this generation of young people to be safe online, to be secure online, to protect their personal information, to understand privacy, and how that all plays out when they're in an online space?"
- Teachers should be trusted. "If the technology fails us and filters something appropriate and useful, and if teachers in their professional judgment think it's appropriate, they should be able to show it," she said. "Teachers need to impose their professional judgment on materials that are available to their students."
Tina Barseghian is the editor of MindShift (http://mindshift.kqed.org), a website about the future of learning.