from the Director's Desk

Musings about school library media and instructional technology programs from NCDPI's Instructional Technology Divison.  Subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


The filtering debate is just like the energizer bunny, “It just keeps going, and going and going . . .” and as Martha says, “This is a good thing.” I think the debate of how much is too much has resurfaced recently because of the MySpace controversy and the very real fear that our children are in danger. This time it is our older children, but the debate is the same—if we lock down our computers hard, then we can protect them just a little longer.

I suppose I have come to an uneasy acceptance of filters; after all, our federal dollars are the carrot (or stick!) here. Yet I cannot overcome my frustration with the point of control debate. In a perfect world, tech directors and/or filtering companies would be able to determine once and for all those sites that are educationally inappropriate. But this version of the Internet doesn’t work that way. Sites morph from relevant to irreverent; the curriculum undergoes revision; a more student-centered, authentic learning environment fosters a diversity of information needs that often cannot be anticipated. This reality means that it is imperative that the block/unblock decision be made as close to the source as is technologically possible.

In a perfect world, no individual would find it necessary to apply his personal biases to the rest of society—or punish all of us for the sins of a few. But human nature is just that—human. Thus, the power to block/unblock shouldn’t rest in the hands of one individual or company. Collaborative decision-making both at the initial site block selection and during regularly scheduled reviews is vital to intellectual freedom and curriculum support.

The more complicated the block/unblock process is, the less likely teachers and students will be to request it. The more restrictive a filter, the less likely teachers may be to use online resources—and technology in general. Involving teachers as well as media and technology personnel in the decisions about how and how much to filter, while time-consuming, will pay dividends over time. No filter is perfect, no human infallible; therefore bringing the block/unblock decision as close to the instructional point-of-need as legally and educationally possible should be every school system’s goal.

Note: Thanks to Joe Poletti and his Haulin' Net blog for spurring this post.