Wingate Policy Paper


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Wingate Policy Paper

  1. 1. Internet Usage 1 Running Head: INTERNET USAGE AT SCHOOL Internet Usage at School – The Challenges of a Web 2.0 World Mary “Nicole” Bennett Wingate Georgia Southern University FRIT 7132
  2. 2. Internet Usage 2 Abstract This paper focuses on the obstacles and challenges created by the Web 2.0 World. It addresses Internet filters and Acceptable Use Policies when determining the best way to educate students in a technology centered world. The paper suggests teachers embrace the opportunities created through new technology, rather than banning it for fear of inappropriate use.
  3. 3. Internet Usage 3 The look and focus of today’s media center is drastically different from the media center during the Leave it to Beaver era. Years ago, students went to the media center to check out books, find resource information from encyclopedias, or read in a cozy corner. Today, students visit the media center to print out their research papers, use Galileo to find information on their research topic, or use Internet sites to prepare for tests; or at least that’s what we, educators, want our students to visit the media center for. All too often though we catch students finding a “backdoor” into MYSPACE, or playing an online hunting game when they still have three pages of a research paper to complete that, by the way, is due the next day. With all of the opportunities the Internet has provided for education, it has definitely created some roadblocks as well. So, how do we overcome these roadblocks to ensure our students are receiving the technology-focused education they need, without distracting or endangering themselves? And more importantly, how do we tell the difference between an “opportunity” and a “roadblock”? The all too common answer to this Internet usage issue has become the installation and use of an Internet filter. Internet filters can be used to block inappropriate or unwanted sites off of school computers and thereby gives educators more control over what students can access from a federally funded school computer. However, there are issues. First off, there are sites that help students get around these school filters. As Doug Johnson states in his article “Rules for the Social Web” (2007), “Do you know about Trust me; your kids do – and they use it and other blocker-busting sites” (p. 11). Websites like allow students access to sites that are typically blocked on school computers. Therefore, when a student uses a “backdoor” site such as this, the effectiveness of the Internet filter is greatly reduced. And not only are Internet filters easy to “hack,” they also have problems with the materials they do sensor. Filters come with a setting that allows the user to determine how
  4. 4. Internet Usage 4 restrictive they are in allowing site access. A common misconception is that the more restrictive the filters are, the safer the Internet experience becomes for the student. However, filters that are set at levels that are too restrictive not only restrict the inappropriate sites students are allowed to access, but they often times restrict the educationally sound sites as well. For example, students at my school are commonly asked to include pictures in their presentations. One particular example I remember was when the Spanish students were asked to find pictures of common household furniture and label them in Spanish. However, any image search on Google was blocked by the Internet filter. The students therefore had a harder time finding images to use on their poster boards. In this case, the Internet filter actually hinders the educational process rather than making it safer. A second “answer” to the Internet usage issue that often accompanies these Internet filters is an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Students are commonly presented with these on the first day of school. The policy outlines acceptable use of computers, technology, and the Internet while on campus. Students are asked to sign the policy, have a parent sign it, and return it to school administration. However, students often forget to have these policies signed, and as a result, are not allowed to access the Internet. So how does a teacher conduct Internet research in the library when half of her class is not allowed to use the computer? This issue is addressed by Judi Repman when she states (2008), “I noticed that the media specialist was doing searches in the OPAC and GALILEO for some students and handing them the print outs…When I asked why I was told that she had to do this for students who didn’t have a signed AUP” (par. 2). Is this really supplying students with the technology-based education that they deserve? Simply because a student forgets to have a paper signed, he or she is denied the right to learn and practice the information literacy skills crucial for success in today’s world. Though this poses a
  5. 5. Internet Usage 5 fundamental problem for educators, Acceptable Use Policies are not only problematic when they are not signed and returned by students. As Dr. Repman points out, they are often outdated. And as Doug Johnson points out, their language is often times broad and open to interpretation. So even when AUPs are appropriately completed and returned to school administrators, they are problematic. Therefore, Acceptable Use Policies are not the “answer” to the Internet usage dilemma. And one final issue that is affected by both the Internet filters and a school’s Acceptable Use Policy is email. Often times students are not allowed to check their emails at school, and if they are, it has to be under direct supervision of a teacher. This “supervision” issue has created some schools to designate particular computers as “email access” computers, as is the case in Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Fleet’s media center. In their recent blog, they state (2008), “If you have forgotten your flash drive and have an email emergency, please see Mrs. Hamilton or Mrs. Fleet – you may use Station 21 to get homework or essays off email…Be aware, though, that some of the student profile restrictions may disable you from downloading attached files” (par. 1-2). So even when students can access their email, other acceptable use restrictions prohibit them from downloading attachments. Email access is not the only Internet asset being blocked, sites likes MySpace and Facebook are also blacklisted, despite the advantages these networking tools could provide for education. At my former school, though email was not outlawed in the AUP, all major email providers were blocked. When students were working on their research papers, I commonly had to open my email on ten to fifteen student computers to email rough drafts from school computers to students’ emails. Students could then make changes and work on their papers at home. Then, if they needed to open their papers from email at school, they would have to email their papers to my school account. This entire process was faulty and time
  6. 6. Internet Usage 6 consuming. Instead of spending time during the class period assisting students with sentence structure or reliable source questions, I was spending half of the class period emailing papers, just as Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Fleet are forced to spend their time supervising student email in the media center. There has to be a better answer! So what is it? How do we provide students with a safe and productive Internet environment? By making sensible decisions and creating sensible policies concerning the Internet and technology in general. Though the Internet filters create some problems, these problems could be drastically reduced by heightened teacher monitoring while using less restrictive filtering levels. Doug Johnson also believes this approach is best , which is proven when he states (2007), “…we would install a filter, but it would be set at its least restrictive setting…Adults monitor student access to the Internet as if no filter were present” (p. 12). This change would also create a higher-sense of responsibility for student users, and we all know when more is expected of students, more is produced by them. These less restrictive Internet filters could work with updated and precise Acceptable Use Policies that explicitly state what is expected of students. Also, encouraging students to bring back AUPs by offering incentives to those who do, like entry into a raffle for a free IPOD, would definitely be more productive than just threatening students who don’t return signed AUPs. And finally, email could be provided through the school system. Include in the AUP that email should be appropriate, and place responsibility on the students to use it appropriately. No, I know everyone won’t follow the rules, but a certain sense of pride and expectancy comes with being trusted to have your own school email, and the students will respond to that. So ultimately, educators simply need to refine what they are already doing. Though the original Internet usage policies and strategies were created with good intentions, somewhere
  7. 7. Internet Usage 7 along the way, they lost their effectiveness. Web 2.0 tools are there, and students use them outside of school. It should ultimately be every educator’s goal to implement these exciting and innovative new tools into classroom curriculum. Why not let a student create a blog entry instead of a journal entry if she feels more comfortable doing that? With technology, the possibilities are endless! If used appropriately, both at school and at home, technology will expand our students’ knowledge and provide countless opportunities rather than creating a roadblock to their success.
  8. 8. Internet Usage 8 References Fleet and Hamilton. (2008). Do You Have the Email Blues? Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: Johnson, Doug. (2007). Rules for the Social Web. Threshold, Summer 2007, 9-12. Repman, Judi. (2008). Acceptable Use Policies in the 21st Century. Retrieved November 29, 2008, from: