I came back from the February break schools get up here in New England to a surprise: they had updated the firewall. I discovered this when I sat down to do my morning routine on the computer: log in to GMail, open up my GoogleCalendar and GoogleDocs, and log in to Twitter. But thanks to our newly robust firewall, Twitter was blocked.
I’ve run into issues with the firewall before. It blocks YahooMail, which is the email address most of our students use, making it impossible for them to transfer their homework to school. Blogger is blocked, which has fouled up the attempts of several teachers to start classroom blogs. And when GoogleBuzz dropped a couple of weeks ago, it played merry havoc with the security certificates, causing a lot of panic for me, since I use GoogleCalendar for all my time organization, and for the teachers who use GMail as their lifeline to the world outside our school.
In library school, I learned so much about the possibilities for technology in a school library setting; reaching students outside the school through blogging, teaching collaborative writing using GoogleDocs, helping non-traditional learners with VoiceThread, and, most importantly for a struggling school like mine, all of them are free free free! What I didn’t realize was how much hinged on the attitute of the technology professionals in a school. And for the ones I work with, all of this is potentially something that could bring down the server, or run us afoul of CIPA (don’t get me started on how panic about a tiny number of online predators ended up keeping students and teachers from educational resources). I understand they’re working with outdated equipment and constantly putting out server fires, that they have often seen how idiotic we teacher end-users can be, but the fear that they operate under means that most of the technology skills I learned in library school are useless. I can’t be the advocate for the responsible use of technology I want to be.
How have firewalls and other technology blocks gotten in the way of your educational plans?