WordPress and filtering -strangleholds on learning
Posted November 20, 2012on:
One of the lovely things about being on the Scottish Government ICTEx working group is that I get to visit schools.Last week I was in North Lanarkshire at St Aidan’s High School and Chryston primary School and today I was at Cathkin Community Nursery and Hazelwood Special School.
All schools have ICT embedded across the curriculum. I saw some wonderful practice and use of technology to create and share work. Two things of note from these visits were filtering and the use of the current WordPress blogging tool in Glow. The high school were well along the road of using blogs as ePortfolios. North Lanarkshire Council has obviously spent a lot of time and resources developing capacity here, with individual front pages and staff training. The kids are all used to working with WordPress, and their ePortfolios are looking very good. Of course, WordPress is disappearing from Glow next year, replaced by Microsoft 365, which contains a blogging tool. There are issues with 365, particularly on Android Tablets and Smartphones, and on the Google Nexus. Others within our group have done extensive testing of the MS365 product across a range of devices, platforms, and browsers and its clear that there are some issues which need to be addressed. There is huge confusion and dismay across the country about the migration into the Glow 365 solution for next year, particularly as the GlowPlus solution which starts when the RM extension contract comes to an end next December may well include a different blogging tool. WordPress is generally acknowledged as the ‘best of breed’ and as a group, we’ve been tasked with scoping out a solution which includes the best of the open source product available. There’s no guarantee that MS 365 will be included in a GlowPlus solution, other than as a ‘legacy’ product which might translate into Local Education Authorities having their ePortfolios migrated into 365 next year, only to have to move them again after next December. This is very unsettling, particularly for LA’s like North Lanarkshire who have invested heavily in Glow Blogs as their ePortfolio solution. There is a wide-ranging discussion about this at the previous link and here on John Johnston’s blog.
Filtering raised its ugly head again. I’ve blogged about this before. This time, after observing some great practice in the special school the issue of filtering came up again as it looks to me as if there is a real problem with the relationship between mobile devices and web filtering. The school were unable to download the apps and software from the web that they deemed useful and necessary due to filtering. They can’t use the cloud from their iPads. There access to iPlayer is restricted to fifteen minutes each time they use it. This is just verging on the ridiculous, in my view. The control of filtering and access, particularly in a school such as Hazelwood should be local; with the head of the establishment rather than with corporate IT or their managed service. Some LA’s manage this, notably South Lanarkshire, so why can’t others? We need to trust teachers to decide what is appropriate and to use the best of the web to enhance learning and teaching. The use of the web is being strangled by these crazy filtering policies (32 different ones nationwide) and by a lack of bandwidth to schools. In this day and age, we have to deal with these issues. Our duty of care to our school children and young people needs to be one which is demonstrated by teaching responsible use and dealing with any issues arising as and when they do. The paradox of a parent or carer complaining about accessing inappropriate content from a school machine when they give their kids 3G enabled smartphones which are totally unfiltered is one which increasingly occurs to me! In my view, the days of filtering must be coming to an end. Indeed, It’s actually the filter itself which is inappropriate in schools in this day and age. In every school I’ve visited recently, filtering has been the predominant complaint from staff frustrated at the barriers to great learning which are imposed by their corporate IT departments at LA level. We have to decide if the time has come to take away this responsibility from them and devolve it to the schools where actually if it is to exist, it belongs.
Lets stop strangling the life out of learning with these restrictive filters and lets start trusting our professionals to make their own judgements based on needs, not corporate control.
UPDATE… LA’s worried about their blogs leaving WordPress could, of course, get their users to move them into GLEW which gives access to the WordPress platform. Its not a bad idea is it ;-/