Recently, my students (mostly sophomores and a few seniors) in Digital World had an in-class writing assignment, and the final prompt they had to respond to was as follows:
"Here at Harker, especially at the upper school, we don’t block as many things on the Internet as other schools do. (Facebook and YouTube, for example.) Sometimes, we get parents, teachers, and even students telling us they think we should block more websites so that students can’t use them here. What do you think? Do you feel there are any sites that should be blocked? Why or why not?"
I got a lot of great responses. Here are some excerpts:
"I feel that these sites shouldn’t be blocked. Harker students, as a whole, are much more responsible than their counterparts at other schools and have a heightened degree of trust in their relationship with the faculty. Preventing us from accessing these sites would say that the administration doesn’t trust us, weakening our relationship and sending us all the wrong signals. Why should students be expected to be responsible when the faculty/parents can’t even trust the students to pay attention during class. Furthermore, Students should have access to these materials because we often have plenty of free time during school hours to use these websites and they are even sometimes necessary for class. I’m not sure of any additional/current sites that should be blocked, but I believe that a lot of the “uncategorized” sites that are blocked can make it more difficult when I’m conducting research for school projects."
"I don’t think that Harker should block social networking sites. If you think about the students’ future -college- they aren’t going to have these sites blocked. The students need to learn to manage their time appropriately. If sites are inappropriate or illegal to view, then yes they should be blocked."
"I think that everyone on campus is given a time in the day where they have a forty five minute break or even an hour break to use the time as they please, and if they were to use it trying to message a friend or shop online I think they should be given the chance to do so. I do not think these websites should be blocked because everyone on campus is old enough and mature enough to know when the appropriate time to use those sites are."
"There are obvious websites that should be blocked but social media and others like facebook should not blocked; permanently at least. Websites like facebook should only be blocked when a student is in class, not during their free time."
"I think we should stop blocking uncategorized sites. Many times, it’s difficult to access a useful site because of the Harker filters. While I understand the means for a filter, it’s not going to help us- students will find a way to procrastinate and not do work, regardless if they are using their laptops, the internet or not. People have not done work long ago, and procrastination has simply evolved from a doodle in the margins to a status update on Twitter. I love the amount of access we are given- it symbolizes a trust between the departments and students. I think that we should remove the filters entirely, with the exception of pornography, for obvious reasons."
"I think that sites shouldn’t be blocked at the upper school. At the middle school, everything and anything that was distracting on the internet would lead you to a blocked page. But at the upper school, I think it’s important for the school to give the students freedom and responsibility to manage what they’re looking at online. What websites and what they do online is the student’s choice and responsibility and it shouldn’t concern parents or teachers as much as it seems to. In spare time, as well, it’s nice for students to be able to go online and give themselves a break by doing whatever they want."
"I believe that Harker has a decent system of blocking websites at the Upper School. However, there are times in chemistry when I am doing research, and the school blocks me. I feel like I shouldn’t have to ask the librarians for permission to go on a learning website. I understand that it’s difficult to filter each individual site, but I’m sure it could be improved."
"After the placement of the barracuda web filter, many more websites got blocked by the school. Even websites that could be useful were blocked to students if they were “uncategorized”. However some websites that should have been blocked were not. I have seen students looking up unruly things on google and being able to access them, however if I try to search up a slang word that I don’t know on urbandictionary.com, it is blocked for adult content. I feel as if there are already too many restraints on what we can or cannot view here, and I do not believe that there should be any more."
"I think we should block less websites because there is really no purpose in blocking anything. Judgement based on time and place should be used in terms of going on websites in school time. The only websites that should be blocked are ones that could potentially introduce viruses to individual computers and the wifi network."
"I don’t think many sites should be blocked unless it’s porn. Everything else like games shouldn’t be blocked because isn’t Harker all pro-stress relief and sometimes these games aren’t stressful? http://www.ferryhalim.com/orisinal/g3/casanova.htm This happens to be one of my favorite games to play when I’m stressed out and it’s blocked here at Harker where most of my stressing-of-the-outing is. If we can read news articles about what violence is going on in Afghanistan and Syria, then I think we should be able to play a few relaxing games. Of course, during classes I can understand how these can be distracting however, if you have a free period and you’re on the edge of doing something really destructive or mean to another person or thing, I think you should be able to play a game about a giraffe stretching his or her neck to kiss other giraffes."
"I feel like this is a good thing that many sites are unlocked, as it leaves the decision to be distracted upon the student, rather than the parents. It allows for more freedom of thought and expression while still allowing for focused study."
"I think that Harker should not have to block any websites because they should trust the students to do what is right. I know that this is a radical idea, but Harker does base a lot of trust in their students already and we should be trusted with the simple task of using the internet responsibly. Harker seems to already trust the students because they do not block sites such as Facebook or YouTube. In addition, these sites can be used as learning and communication tools for students."
"I feel that other than the obviously inappropriate “adult” sites, Harker should not block websites, especially not Facebook or YouTube. I actually find these two sites to be relatively beneficial to my education and school experience. Because I don’t have a phone, Facebook is extremely useful in terms of communicating with fellow students about assignments and classes. YouTube, if used properly, can be a great learning tool and source of information. If a student is distracted by such websites during class, to the point where the teacher can notice, Harker policy allows a teacher to assign detention to a student who is on these websites during class. While outside of class, such as lunch or free period, I believe that Harker should allow students to explore appropriate internet content freely."
What about you? What do you think? I'd love to share your thoughts and your reactions to my students' ideas with them.