Personal Learning Network: What about schools blocking sites?

Schools blocking sites contributes to a lot of frustration.  This frustration comes from students trying to see their friend’s Facebook status update.  But, it also comes from teachers trying to show their students that great youtube video they found last night that explains the topic of the day so that everyone can understand. 

Generation YES Blog cited new research in the area of principals and social networks.  If you are a teacher, I’m sure you are well aware that social networks are blocked at school.  Even helpful sites such as youtube are generally in this list of blocked sites.

According to this research, it seems that most principals tend to agree that students could benefit from the social networking sites.  However, most principals also seem to work at schools which have banned those sites.

This frustration has led many students and teachers, alike, to resort to such techniques as proxy browsing.  This is a technique where you go to one website and it loads the blocked website inside an area of itself, telling the school server it’s own address and hiding the ip of the blocked site.  Although this is without question dishonest, it works.  … for a little while.  It works until the school IT department discovers the ip of that proxy website and blocks it as well.  I have heard stories of how students have email lists and each morning the ip of a new proxy is sent to everyone on the email list, so they can access their networks at school.

What are we doing?  Students have already mastered this concept of networking.  Yet, we are doing everything we can to hide it from them.

And what about teachers?

I remember how excited I was when I discovered .  It allowed me to bookmark sites both at home and at school, and not have to email them to myself or write them down.  I could access the bookmark list no matter where I was. 

 I used it, religiously, for a few weeks.   Then, suddenly I arrive at school one day and go to the website to pull up those all-important-links that I found last night to help me give the kids an awesome day of instruction.  And, horror of horrors, the site won’t load.  All I get is one of those “This site is being blocked” screens.

After a little research, I discovered that although I wasn’t even aware of the sharing feature of, yet, the school classified it as a social network, because you could share your links with others.  Therefore, they decided it was a threat.

So, what about Personal Learning Environments for students as mentioned at The Bamboo Project?  Will we ever be able to get past our fears and achieve that? 

For that matter, the sites are blocked for teachers, as well.  How does this affect our Personal Learning Networks? Am I advocating using proxy sites? Absolutely not. I’m advocating teachers advocating for the removal of the blocks.

For now, if you have a cell phone, you can have twitter connected to your cell phone. (Just make sure you have an unlimited text plan!)  This can help you keep in contact with your professional network while at school.

What about you? Do you have other ways that you keep in contact with your PLN, even while at school? Leave your methods in the comments section.

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