Friday, June 06, 2003

Net Nanny Abuse

We got an e-mail today from a school that uses Net Nanny software to block web pages containing words the administration doesn't like. Ideally, filtering software keeps kids from checking out porn on school computers, but this school was using it to block words like VIDEO. So any page or application on the web that contained that word would not be viewable. Apparently they thought it would make it impossible to play video games. While the ignorance of that assumption is hilarious, the implication of that type of thinking is scary.

One of the assumptions we're making in my work is that if we were able to engage students in the career/education planning process (using social software, games, simulations, whatever), schools would see the value of that and potentially purchase those services. The underlying idea is that students who know why they're learning (or jumping through hoops) will be more motivated, leading to smarter course selection and improved achievement.

So there are two tricks: engaging students in planning processes and convincing schools to pay for it (and allow time for it). This doesn't sound difficult, except we're talking about actual student engagement, which means we're competing with immersive video games, movies, and sites that stimulate with violence, intense action, sex and drug culture. And we're dealing with schools that won't let students see web pages containing the word "video", never mind letting them participate in something that might interest them. That disconnect is so depressing -- how are kids expected to learn if the institution systematically removes every possible motivator?

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