When Filters Fail
One thing that I experienced first hand in PS1 was how often filters seemed to fail when students were surfing the Internet. While researching information about animals for a science project there were a number of students that came up to me with inappropriate photos that popped up in Google images. Since this came to be an occurrence I took the extra time to find websites that had all of the information that each student would need to complete their assignment. Since the students were only in grade three it worked well to give them a large list of sites that contained the information that they needed. It controlled the sites that they were using, as well as gave them the freedom to explore each of the sites, and finding the information without me telling them.
During this practicum I also found it frustrating that the school had YouTube blocked. While I believe that there are many videos that are not appropriate for the classroom, there were many times that I would want to show a video to enhance a lesson. I was still able to find videos that were educational on other sites that related to my lessons, but I found that there are numerous occasions where the YouTube videos would have been more valuable.
Should Filters Exist?
While I have mentioned some downfalls to filters above, I think that they are still very important. In an elementary and junior high setting I think that the filters need to be a lot more strict especially because students are still learning about the internet and could accidentally stumble upon many inappropriate sites without a filter in place. Even a simple spelling mistake could lead students to some questionable content if they were to do a google search
Use of Internet at Home
I also had the experience of seeing students misuse the Internet while at home. During the school day we would talk about being safe and using the Internet in an appropriate way, but there wasn’t really a way of telling how they were using the Internet at home, except for seeing their use of Razkids and other educational sites. One day I had a student come up to me and tell me that she had been looking up pictures of dead babies. After calling her family about what she had said, her mother had no idea that this was the type of activity that was happening on their computer at home. The family said that they would be using more diligence in supervising what sorts of sites their children were using.
While I don’t think that it is right for a teacher to be telling parents what sorts of sites their children should or shouldn’t use, I think it is important to keep open communication about each other’s expectations. To do this I think it is important for teachers to send out a policy about how the Internet will be used in the classroom setting as well as a set of rules and expectations that students are to follow. On the policy there would be an area for parents to sign their agreement as well as write down any concerns they may have. After the policy I think that it would be very important to send weekly updates to parents about exactly what sorts of assignments students will be taking part in and what sorts of Internet sites they may be using.
Below are sites that contain examples of policies that are used in elementary classrooms:
Credibility and Accuracy
When working on a research project on endangered species with my Grade 3 class there were a number of students that came across websites that seemed to be credible. As the students were showing me the species that they had decided to do their project on I could tell right away that some of them were on sites that were not accurate sources. Two of the students found a site that had pictures of an animal that was “endangered” as well as other information about the animal. When I clicked on another tab on the site it showed that the author had created the creatures. This was a great realization moment for me teaching to show that students are not able to decipher between accurate information, and that they may believe anything that they come across. After this we discussed what websites would be valuable to use for this sort of research and as a class we brainstormed a list including kids planet, world wide life foundation, and enchanted learning.