Friday, July 21, 2006

DOPA... I couldn't come up with a better word to describe the U.S. Congress

Some of you have been hearing about the DOPA or Deleting Online Predators Act that has been making its way through the House of Representatives and is now in Committee in the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Ted Stevens the Senator from the state of Alaska that has called the Internet, " a series of tubes." What DOPA does is forces all schools to implement filtering software to keep students from accessing all types of social networking and chat room sites from school or public library computers. Within the last year there isn't a school in the country that hasn't has its share of problems with 'myspace' or other social networking and chat room sites, but to completely filter these sites from all schools is not only impossible, but is not in the best interest of education and our students. At the same time schools are just learning how to integrate these types of sites into the classroom for an educational benefit.

As schools and public libraries have implemented 'filtering' software to keep users from accessing certain sites, particularly pornographic and social networking sites, there has been a flood of 'proxy servers' that have sprung up that allow the users to bypass any of the filtering software that may be in place on the network and allow users to access these sites. It is also short sided to think that students will not access these types of sites when at home or at a friends home without the adult supervision that is available at school or the library.

Some, may not agree with the analogy I am going to make here, but I think it is applicable in this setting. Underage drinking, premarital sex and other issues have been around for many, many years, but any efforts to curtail teenagers from engaging in these activities has been unsuccessful. In response, we have integrated curriculum into our schools to teach students the dangers of teenage drinking, unprotected pre-marital sex and how to best protect themselves if they do engage in these behaviors. I would suggest that we do the same thing with social networking and chat room sites. We need to educate students how to use these tools in appropriate ways integrated into the educational process. This is exactly what we are doing with the new Global Communications curriculum at Capuchino. Educational Security expert, Larry Magid, expressed these concerns in a recent column on CBS's web site.

In the interim, I would suggest that you become more informed about how to appropriately use social networking sites in your class. A good first start is to use the message boards that are part of the School Loop system. Another way to get started is to create your own Bloglines account and subscribe to a few blogs (maybe this one!) and start to see what kind of information is available on a daily basis. If you want to learn more about how to do this, keep an eye out on this blog or send me an e-mail.

I would also encourage you to send the members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and e-mail, expressing your concern over DOPA.

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