Learner’s block

On my day off, just before the start of the Easter holiday, I spent part of the day virtually attending the BectaX conference, and making the occasional contribution via twitter. There have been plenty of excellent blog posts reflecting on the event from delegates who were there in person, or online, and I don’t think I  have anything significant to add in relation to the event itself. However, the dominant theme of BectaX was rammed firmly home on my return to school after Easter.

Most of my classes are homing in fast on A-level exams, and I want to ensure that they have easy access to good revsion materials and  support both in school and outside of lesson time. There are several excellent blogs that I regularly point students towards (for example englishlangsfx.blogspot.com, and david-crystal.blogspot.com), and I have successfully used wordpress blogs in the past (eg. mcauleyenglish.wordpress.com, which I abandoned, intending to use our new school VLE, but that has not yet lived up to its promise and I find it awkward to use). So, I set up a couple of new wordpress blogs with the intention of populating them with resources and blog posts, intending them to be immediately useful for my current students, but also with an eye on making them valuable for students and teachers elsewhere doing the same courses, rather like this one for the English Language (A) specification; I do Spec B and hoped to build something similar.

The key, recurrant theme of BectaX that I alluded to earlier was the importance of opening up the use of technology for learners (and by learners I include teachers, of course). I don’t think anybody could have put it better than Nicola Mcnee, a school librarian (how inadequate that by now rather quaint term seems for what she is doing) , whose presentation can be seen here.

You can imagine my dismay then, when I returned to school after Easter to find that without warning or any announcement, the filtering system used for our students’ internet access has been changed so that, in addition to previously blocked content such as twitter and youtube, all blogspot blogs (including ones I had previously requested to be unblocked), and previously unblocked content including all wordpress, posterous and typepad blogs are now inaccessible to our students within school.

The simplest and most practical response to BectaX that I saw came from Tom Barrett. Point 4 of his plan for a quiet revolution is “Write a blog post about your ideas. (Or even start a blog for your ideas!) Share your experiences, frustrations, successes and hopes for your work.” So here is my blog post about my frustration.

But it strikes me that what we could do with to carry the argument forward positively is some kind of ‘arms cache’ of references to research, policies, polemic and good practice in effective management of more open access to the web and learning technologies. I have already pointed out the Ofsted report from earlier this year that students are safest using the internet when trusted to manage their own risk. What else could I use to make the case against indiscriminate blocking?

(Perhaps you could share anything you’ve found useful or persuasive on this matter in the comments.