Miguel, over at Mousing Around, writes that, in at least one school district he knows of, administrators have blocked sites that even reference the much-vilified myspace.com.

Miguel notes that the rule is "...pretty straightforward and broad: Web pages containing the UNMENTIONABLE will be banned."

Not an unusual response to a perceived threat, right? Except that education bloggers who mention myspace as part of a legitimate discussion are now off-limits in this unidentified district. (Like Blogboard, for instance.)

Even worse:

If one does a search on "space" in Google [from within this unnamed district] ...the search results are blocked.

So now the word "space" is, well, unmentionable in this annonymous school district? That seems a little overkill, even to Blogboard, which remains strictly neutral in this debate. Perhaps their filter needs a little tweaking?

Miguel poses this provocative question:

So, is a school district within its rights to actually ban—not only the web site address/URL but also—the title of a particular item, no matter where it appears, including search engine results, media stories, etc.?

'Til we've an answer, Miguel suggests this:

Use "[email protected]" instead of the proper spelling.

Blogboard resists.


I finally went to myspace.com after much discussion by kids and media. In a word, tragic. Despite our popular promotion of "free speech" why are we embracomg behaviors that further degrade our culture. While I don't agree with wholesale filtering of internet sites, I don't feel that this is a positive influence on our kids. If I could I would ban the whole thing from the net, so that my students would never see it, but that's impossible. I just don't see the value in posting suggestive photos and music PLUS personal information so every potential predator can find the person on the other end. This kind of thing doesn't need to be online.

I know that this will engender the wrath of many, but I would like to protect my students from such a negative and potentially destructive influence.

MyTMouse -- I'm sorry that you feel that way about MySpace. Social Networking sites and other Web 2.0 technologies are becoming more integrated into society and the workplace. Our students will enter a workforce where social networking sites will be the way that they make contacts and find jobs... the other Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, wikis, and sites that rely on "tags" to develop relevancy of web links are going to be the way that our students (and us) function in the workplace. I know people in corporate settings who are already using blogs and wikis to collaborate on team projects and to develop content and build collective knowledge. Many teachers are beginning to adopt these tools as a way to collaborate with each other AND as a way to engage students in writing, editing, collaborating, creating content, and building knowledge.

My position on MySpace.com is this --

Administrators and educators should begin using MySpace and the other new social networking and Web 2.0 sites to understand these tools and to understand how our students will need to interact with these tools in order to be productive.

Instead of banning these sites, we should be incorporating them into instruction and teaching students how to use them safely, wisely, and efficiently.

They will find a way to use MySpace whether you want them to or not. My question to you is this -- do you want them using it the way they have been using it, or would you rather they use it in a safer, more productive way?

As I say in the most recent posting on my own blog, "don't get me started on technology in the classroom. Most computers in schools are so locked up, folder-bolted, deep-frozen, censured, and sterilized that they are pretty much useless for any exciting, real-life learning and global sharing to take place."

I don't believe that the majority of school administrators and district personel will ever "get it". They certainly do not understand the reality of how youth (and some of the rest of us) are using the internet to socialize, get involved in politics, protest, and show off their creative energies.

Here in British Columbia, most school districts block MSN, any form of chat site, and anything that vaguely resembles pornography. In the process of listing all the banned words, phrases, sites, etc, many valid sites are put out of reach.

My own two sons, one finished university and the other currently attending, are both incredibly computer literate. Very little of their technology skills were learned in school. From a very young age, they were learning from others around the globe through a variety of chat groups.

Schools need to stop trying to make technology fit their antiquated philosophies of what is right and wrong. Once students are given free reign to use the full power of the net, real learning will begin to take place.

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