TESS Article on Local Authority website blocking/filtering

The abridged for online version of the TESS article here Print version is ‘twice as long and not attacking GLOW as some thought’ (Douglas Blane the journalist).

Additional points I’m adding here are in green.

Main points:

Given the importance of this issue, isn’t it time we had national guidelines?” asks Neil Winton, head of English at Perth Academy.

“I put the question to Fiona Hyslop (then education minister) at last year’s Scottish Learning Festival. She fobbed it off as an operational matter – the responsibility of local authorities. But it’s not. There should be a national policy … We have a mish-mash around the country. You can even get primary schools with access to YouTube, when the secondary school doesn’t.”

My points:

“Education authorities vary from highly restrictive to fairly flexible. “Our authority has one of the strictest web-filtering policies in Scotland,” says David Terron, who teaches English at Elgin Academy.

“They’ve even blocked their own Curriculum for Excellence resources site. Many teachers try to use ICT, as recommended by HMIE, but are continually frustrated and have to go through a long process to get sites unblocked. Even then they are often refused.”” (and they often give weak or downright ridiculous excuses that have no basis – ‘Twitter is banned because 1,000s of companies banned it and it spreads viruses’) Perhaps they should look at the bottom of the Scottish Government and Learning Teaching Scotland sites and see the wee blue bird in use by government agencies! The GTC(S) uses twitter as do many schools and educational authorities throughout the world.

and…

The IT tail wagging the educational dog makes the student-centred Curriculum for Excellence harder, say the teachers. How can pupils become confident individuals and successful learners if their hands have to be held whenever they go near a computer? Where is the scope for spontaneity and creativity if the teacher has to say: “Go wherever your investigations take you – but only on these three websites that we’ve checked.”?

It’s not just pupil education that is being damaged, says David Terron. Continuing professional development is also adversely affected: “We can’t access sites such as the one written by Don Ledingham, director of education in East Lothian, who often posts provocative, interesting articles. In other authorities these have formed the basis of entire in service days.” We have no budget so ALL of our CPD is now online or via Personal Learning Networks and Teacher Learning Communities. No access equals no CPD – I refer you to my earlier post about 5 yearly inspections for teachers. They cannot be justified if you won’t let teachers have access to CPD. I expect legal challenges to be based on this simple fact.

Finally

“There is no sign of the culture clash between council IT departments and education being resolved in the latter’s favour any time soon, says Neil Winton. “It comes down to a lack of trust in the professional judgment of teachers.

IT departments are not making decisions for pedagogical reasons; they are making them on the basis of what can’t get them into trouble. But teaching only what can’t get anyone into trouble is no basis for a 21st-century education system.”

I believe the aim of this article is to continue and push forward the debate. Let’s see if it does ! Our ‘leaders’ (government and local authorities etc) cannot keep banging on about ICT and kids getting taught how to use the web etc safely if (a) they don’t get any lnternet safety lessons in the first place and (b) they then access unsuitable sites at home because they want to know why it has been banned at school.

How are we meant to catch up with India and other Asian countries ? In China they allegedly  tell their students to learn two things – English and Computing. They know the future lies with the countries that have these skills. So why do our local and national government claim that they’re pushing the IT skills agenda and then promptly either not provide enough funding for even minimal training or block access to sites the kids and their teachers can use to learn?



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