Monday, October 29, 2007

Unnecessary Roadblocks

Is your district user-friendly when it comes to downloading material from the Internet? Are you able to install software that supports your students without the need for the IT staff to make a house call? Is it possible for you to easily and seamlessly embed the use of Web 2.0 tools that promote universal design (such as Voice Thread or Wikis) as part of your instruction? No problems with blocked web sites?

If so, Rejoice for you are one fortunate educator!

For the rest of us, who "owns the airwaves" in your school?
You've seen those three dreaded words - "ADMINISTRATOR PASSWORD REQUIRED."
Those words present a unnecessary roadblock for educators which is often difficult, if not impossible to overcome. Precious time passes as a request to access a website, download a tool or install software is sent to the IT department. Then the "IT guy" has to schedule a time to complete the request. Depending upon the availability of staff, this can take as little as a day or as long as never.

Who decided that the IT staff (typically not educators) are the keepers of the knowledge ? Seems to me, it's time to remove those obstacles and reclaim the Internet. Utilize the abundant resources that engage students.

It's an incredible time to be an educator. Reclaim the Internet in your school - have a conversation with the IT staff in your building or district. Identify the roadblocks. Discuss how you can work TOGETHER to facilitate learning (isn't that why you're there?) and promote a culture of collaboration.

It is possible. Share your successes or effective strategies that worked here. We have so much to learn from each other!

Addendum: (Read here for an excellent blog post about filtering from a student's perspective. Good stuff here from Kevin Walter.)
Photo credit -


Alec Couros said...

This is an important post, Karen. I couldn't agree with you more. So much access to learning is blocked by people who think they are just doing their job. I think we need to have a closer relationship with IT people, because there IS a lot we can learn from them. However, the thrust in our schools must be opportunity over security/content filtering. Learning must lead.

I've talked about this in a slightly different way a while back:

Carolyn Foote said...


At the end of the Internet Schools West sessions today, we had a somewhat spontaneous discussion inspired by Dr. Mary Ann Bell about filters and internet access.

There was an IT person attending the session with her librarian so it made for a very informative discussion.

Mary Bell and I talked after the session and it seems clear that we as a larger community really need to develop some standards and practices around the issues of filtering.

Otherwise, it is such an arbitrary practice. I'm thinking something like library standards for book selection or when a book is challenged. We really need some clearer policies.

Kate said...

here, here!

At my school you cannot access ANY blogger blog (including mine), PBS kids, Tumblebooks and so much more but looking at the history of firefox just yesterday some student was on some site that was called... well I don't want to write it but it was the "N" word with the letter "a" replacing the "er". Something is wrong when that is what we call "internet safety".

Karen Janowski said...

Thank you all for stopping by.
"Learning must lead" should be the mantra as we enter our schools. How did we lose that mission?
Would love to hear the perspective from the IT person that you spoke with.
Unbelievable that your own blog is blocked at your school as it is an amazing resource that your colleagues are unable to access when they walk through those doors!
To me, this is the biggest obstacle facing our teachers in their earnest quests to engage their students.

Chad M said...

Standing on the other side of the fence (being in IT) I agree with and disagree with you about this. One of the biggest reasons that IT pro's keep the computers more locked down is because there are way more computers typically found in a school than can be easily supported by one or two people. If every computer was wide open then way more time has to be spent dealing with virus, spyware, and malware that typically can be found hiding in FREE software out on the internet.

At the school where I work if a teacher requests that the have admin rights to the computer we will typically give it to them on the condition that if they have any problems with there grading software or any of the other SUPPORTED software that was installed through the proper channels then we are not going to spend much time troubleshooting and will just erase the drive and send a clean copy of everything back down to the computer.

As for the content filters I couldn't agree with you more about them. I believe that they are one of the biggest hassels out there. But without them the ammount of internet that is available for all the computers would be quickly overloaded. Also most of the time they are subscription based and just block the sites that are pulled down from the lists provided by the content filter vendors.