Blocked Learning

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Teacher Trauma On Twitter

Image by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr

“But is ‘it’s blocked, I can’t access it”.

But the ‘firewall’ supposed to keep them ‘safe’ does not work. They go home to read and watch it, or use their phones? Are we then to install mobile phone ‘jammers’? We have not created a ‘firewall’, but a brick wall – we are Blocking Learning. We might be ‘covering’ it over with policy, rendering it with policical ‘motherhood’ messages, but behind the rhetoric is a solid wall, that believes ‘the internet’ is somthing that can be controlled and monitored, and that a few people (Senetor Conroy, the czar of communication in Australia –  #nocleanfeed) should dictate our social connections, contracts and learning.

My wife tried to access the EPA this week with her year 1 class. Can someone please explain the criteria used for to evaluate the Envronmental Protection Agencies not condusive to learning if the teacher thinks they are? In fact all the science sites on environment they searched for in Google were blocked. This, despite taking part in an online, DET promoted, ‘science competition’.

IMBEE – a social community in which students can only talk to and friend other members of their group (their class) and all chat is moderated – as banned from use – and so were the fabulous parent and student resources, which included cyber safety. “imbee is a parent approved, teacher endorsed social networking site appropriate for kids and ‘tweens.” Posters and booklets specifically designed to address safety – banned. What is better IMBEE or Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin – both of which have MILLIONS of unmoderated residents.

Learning impairment

Teachers can’t ‘plan’ serious ICT activities, and be sure they will work. Many primary school teachers have little to no ‘relief’ time to plan at school, so have to use their own ‘free’ time. There is absolutely no doubt that the DET is out of control, has too many political masters (who DET say are to blame), and lack of clarity or effective policy that can be aligned and aligned in the classroom. The is for example no DET portal ‘request’ for access – even for an hour to a site. What is the point of putting infratructure, wifi and laptops into schools – if what they connect to cannot effectively allow communication flow ?

A connection to a brick wall, not a firewall.

There are ways to deliver better ‘duty of care’ – the current model is based on fear, lack of understanding and policy designed for physical spaces and objects. Rumour has it that Queensland and Western Australia want to ban any site that has ‘data’ stored outside of Australia. Who thinks this stuff up? With No Clean Feed and Conroy re-introducing the ducking-stool and covert ops in state education departments banning anything remotely ‘engaging’ and doing nothing to facilitate, professionally develop staff etc. Stack this up against  public ‘draft’ policy, that smells like ‘National Curriculum’, Gillard talking about adopting New York Ciry school models, vague attempts to introduce low-end netbooks, recent laptop dumps in High School and the ever promised ‘fibre’ to schools roll out.

What does the DET ‘innovations’ department do?

We all know, much of what we can give teachers is free, already tested and widely reviewed and researched by reputable institutions. Quest Atlantis for example. A brilliant virtual world, we a great global community, that will won’t comply to QLD and WA rumored ‘policy’. Has anyone involved in QA been approached by anyone from these ‘elected’ guardians of education? – I doub’t it. Unlocking virtual worlds or any other technology is not something that will happen unless teachers start making lists, and principles start sending those lists to parents, MPs and lobby groups. List the banned sites. ‘Ah’, you say ‘I can’t put that on a wiki, they are all banned’. But here is what you can do, as I am getting a bit tired of ‘yeah buts’ based on no-consultation from elected representatives.

Perhaps Mrs Gillard would like to discuss? But probably not unless there is an imperative, so maybe we should make one. Theres one thing NOT blocked. And that’s ‘email’. So here’s what you can do, to let the DET know what you could not teach in your classroom.

Take action – let ‘them’ know this is – BLOCKED LEARNING


Just send an email!
You don’t need to put in your name or your email address.

A screenshot would be ‘sweet’.

Please include the URL of the site, the grade that could not see it, your state and what you wanted to teach. 140 Characters or less so you can “Tweet it”.
The post will get blogged at and perhaps a beneficial resource for our elected state and government officials.

Please share the URL, post on Twitter with #blockedlearning – so we can see the list growing. This will let other teachers know, ahead of time – what is already blocked by the various ‘experts’. If you want to attach a screen shot of your favourite blocked filter message – we can start a meme!. Just attach it to the email, Posterous figures it out.  This is a practical way of using technology (posterous, email and twitter) to highlight the ‘blocked learning’ in K12 – and to save other teachers and students the frustration of trying to learn though the policy or non-teachers and learners.

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8 thoughts on “Blocked Learning

  1. I am having the same trouble at TAFE NSW. My students and I are using Google documents to collaborate on a couple of projects. I even set one of them up at TAFE. When I try to access them now I get a message that it is a shared network space and I am blocked. Why? Even the doc I created? They all have password restrictions so it isn’t like anyone can see them. I filed the request to unblock it and received back the reply – no. No reason, no excuse, nothing. Pathetic

  2. Pingback: Let’s Just Keep Blocking « Subtle Conversations

  3. I’m sorry to hear about all these problems with content filtering in Australian schools. We don’t have the filtering drive happening at state or national levels here in the U.S., but the reality “on the ground” for many schools is about the same as what you’re describing even when local officials set filtering policies.

    In addition to are there other sites where feedback / input on this issues is being aggregated?

    Rather than advocating for specific tools to use, perhaps a group of Australian educators should organize a high profile project which utilizes many of the websites and tools that are currently blocked– and then educators can advocate for the unblocking of those sites/tools based on their desire to have their students participate in that project?

    I wish there was an easy answer to this. Have you formed a learning community in Ning, Drupal or Elgg for educators to share experiences, successes, and setbacks relating to advocacy on this issue? I’m very interested in following your work on these issues.

  4. Thanks Westley. At a lot of conferences, Wil Richardson’s being a recent one – many cite the ‘filtering’ at school level as prohibitive. Like the US, AU ‘Web2.0’ teachers are a small minority – pushing for change, and we have fewer teachers too, due to smaller population (less than LA).

    So getting a ‘national’ action is difficult, as teachers are in associations (with smaller voice) or aligned to unions whom, while interested, are focused on wider issues, so it remains a ‘small voice’.

    Attention – I thought, via Twitter or creating meme for the actual screen messages we see – might be a more visual way of illustrating the issue.
    Did you know that some students in Australia are being charged to use the internet at school? as some schools can’t afford it?

    We have issues as they say. It seems odd that at ISTE of un-conferences these are cited as ‘massive’ but so far, slow response to this. Thanks for the advice.

  5. Great post, You have no idea how frustrating it is working in DET NSW as an educator endeavouring to innovate with networked teaching and learning. The people who are making these decisions are totally unaccountable and non-transparent with respect to the guidelines which underpin their decisions. There is a web filtering reference group whose frame of reference, guidelines and membership is unknown to 99 % of the organisation. There is nothing on the Intranet to my knowledge what and why specific sites such as social networking are blocked and when a staff member asks for site to be unblocked they get a very brief response stating it’s been rejected with no explanation why.
    I along with other have been posting screen shots of DET NSW web filter messages for a while now @

    • thanks; I’ve been trying for a week to get a site like Penzu for primary kids – a simple journal tool they can share/email with their teacher. ONE tool … I’ve been through a dozen so far – you are dead right about the un-accountability and transparency – the school principal has better things to do then play pin the tail on the donkey bureaucrat. Thanks for the flickr stream Stephen!

  6. I’m so glad I’m not the only person who feels this way! Great post. I also believe that blocked sites leads to blocked learning.

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