I have over 8,000 categorized sites accessible to English Language Learners on my website. My site is used by hundreds of people each day — the 45 families in our Family Literacy Project , several of our mainstream English classes, many of our Special Ed classes, plus students from around the world. I often find a site that offers particularly good language-development activities, but might also offer access to other content that might not be considered appropriate by many for public school use. This is an issue I recently discussed in my blog about a great music site.
Theoretically, I believe that the less stringent of a content filter, the better. In fact, I believe that the better frame to use generally for any kind of “protective” rules is to help the people you’re “protecting” develop good judgment instead of shielding them from having to use that judgment.
If a creek is near my house, do I organize to get it fenced-off to protect my grandchildren from potentially drowning in it? Or do I bring my grandkids there and model safe behavior, explain the benefits and dangers of it, and discuss with them the potential negative and positive consequences of various behavior they choose to exhibit when they’re near it?
But what if one of my grandchildren doesn’t see very clearly. She might be doing eye exercises to strengthen her vision, but it’s not there yet.
This is one element I consider when working with my English Language Learner students. It seems to me that until students develop a great level of comprehension, it may be more difficult for them to distinguish between inappropriate and appropriate content, and that could result in awkward situations, or ones that could result in negative consequences when they are not in our class.
And what about all the other neighborhood children near the creek? Perhaps not all of their families are able, or willing, to have the same kind of discussions that I had with my grandkids. Should I still oppose building a fence blocking-off the creek?
Similar questions relate to our School District’s content filter. I’ve read in a number of blogs calls for Districts to dramatically reduce the number of sites that are blocked, including allowing student access to YouTube.
I suspect that a number of teachers pedagogical styles do not lean towards teaching judgment. Do I want to risk my political capital with the District on a “filter fight” to allow greater site access? Or is it better spent pushing for more funds to expand providing low-income families with computers and home DSL service?
Should I oppose building a fence near the creek that most of the families might want or, instead, work with them on developing other opportunities to increase the quality of life in the neighborhood?