Saturday, November 28, 2009

Schools and Censorship II

So, I spent about two hours this morning doing something that would have been useful and educational for my Computer Technology students, except that the school board will not let them do it at school.

My Technology students are working on Power Point type presentations about various topics in the Society and Technology strand of their course. The topics are quite relevant and potentially interesting, such as Internet Safety, Privacy Issues, Assistive Technology, Health Issues and Computers. This assignment was given out before I arrived and one of the expectations is that the students will embed a video into their presentation. The best way I know to embed a video is to have the video file on hand and insert it in the presentation. This means that the students need to be able to get to relevant video files. No problem there, YouTube is full of great videos on the topics they need, and you can easily use Mozilla Firefox's Download Helper to get the movies onto a drive. Unfortunately, school computers do not have Firefox, it cannot be installed, and students' access to YouTube is blocked. There are reasons for all of these choices by the school board but the net effect is that a potentially interesting and educational trip through relevant YouTube videos was impossible for my students to do in class.

In the end, I spent a couple of hours finding and downloading videos that my students can use. What makes me sad is that had been students been able to do this work at school I probably would have been able to get at least an hour of looking, learning and thinking out of each student in the class. But, they were not allowed to do this work in class because of the board's decisions, so we have to be satisfied with my two person-hours of work versus the 15-20 or more hours that the students would have put in as a group.

This is not meant as a diatribe against the school board or anyone who works for it. I understand that YouTube is blocked because it is usually a huge distraction. I am told that Firefox is a security risk for a network. There are valid reasons for each individual decision that was made. It is just that the cumulative effect is a loss of learning, and that always makes me sad.

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