Finally, We Can Access YouTube

For years now it has felt that my school board has been filtering more and more of the internet for students.  It seemed that any site that even had the word “game,” “social,” or “share” was automatically blocked by the board firewall.  As a teacher who likes to experiment with technology and Web 2.0 tools, this has been increasingly frustrating.  There have been many times where I discover a really amazing service from home and develop a lesson around it, only to find that the service has already been blocked at school.

For the longest time, YouTube has been blocked by the firewall.  As a Science teacher, YouTube is an absolutely amazing resource.  There are so many great videos that are useful for demonstrating the applications of science and making the curriculum content more engaging.  A few of my favourite “content related” videos are:

Waves and Sound – Backin’ Up (from schmoyoho, using AutoTune)

Relative Motion – Here It Goes Again (from Ok Go)

Collisions – Exercise Ball Mayhem (from Bensoin)

I have often been told that the school board cannot grant open access to YouTube because of the potentially offensive material that is posted there.  I never really understood this reasoning because students have full access to this content from home and the internet is filled with offensive content that is not filtered from school.  Besides, teachers should be properly supervising students when in a computer lab so that they are not able to view and share offensive video content.

I have also heard that the school board does not have sufficient internet infrastructure to allow all students access to streaming video sites, which I think is a fair reason (although it reveals a different issue for the longterm vision for technology access in schools.)

Last year, the school board started providing teachers with an override code to the filter.  It wasn’t a full solution, but it gave us some additional access to sites like YouTube.  However, in the last 2 weeks there has been what I would regard as a major shift – Students and teachers have been granted full access to both YouTube and Twitter!

What impresses me about this recent development is that after many years of tighter and tighter constraints on internet access, I believe that my school board is starting to realize the untapped potential of bringing Web 2.0 into the classroom.  It signals a changing mindset among “the higher ups” that instructional technology is not only an asset in 21st century learning, but a necessity for creating engaging learning environments for our students.  I hope this trend continues.

Personally, I struggle with filtering the internet in secondary schools.  I think there are some things that we can all agree have no obvious use in an academic school setting, like pornography.  But, I really don’t think that gaming sites, and social networking sites are that big of a problem.  If anything, the issue is one of adequate supervision.

What are your thoughts?  Should we be filtering the internet in schools?

Image Credit:  VancityAllie