While the new technologies create exciting possibilities for teaching and learning, concerns about students reading or writing inappropriate material have generated school policies that restrict the ability of students and teachers to use new tools. We must responsibly address these restrictions so that students can engage in valuable and appropriate learning activities.
The NCTE Anti-Censorship Center has extensive resources addressing traditional censorship, including non-print materials and the internet.
Electronic Frontier Foundation: Defending Freedom in the Digital World. This organization has extensive information about protecting freedom of speech on the internet. See especially their pages on student blogging and on internet blocking by schools. They also have an outstanding curriculum for teachers to help students to learn about copyright law, free speech, fair use, and the public domain at TeachingCopyright.org.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has resources for addressing Internet Free Speech, see “Internet Free Speech” on their website.American Library Association has extensive materials to support internet access in libraries.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, CPSR, also has relevant materials.
1) Teachers are in a better position to evaluate the appropriateness of Internet resources and activities than administrators, legislatures, or others removed from the classroom. Respect for teacher decision-making should be a starting point for technology integration in schools and universities.
2) Teaching with the Internet means paying attention to what students are doing online. Long before computers existed, students passed notes to their friends, read comic books instead of their textbooks, or brought cheat sheets into examinations. Today, students try to get away with updating their MySpace accounts during class, reading Web sites that are off topic, or text messaging answers to test questions. Teachers were responsible for appropriate classroom behavior before computers and they need to be responsible for appropriate classroom behavior after computers. This means giving clear directions and guidelines for activities, circulating and observing how students are using the computers, turning computers off, or closing laptops when they are not needed.
3) Becoming educated in the twenty-first century entails learning how to read and to evaluate a variety of online information resources and learning how to write and to communicate in an assortment of electronic genres. Students denied the full range of reading and writing experiences offered by the Web are disadvantaged in the job market, which demands digital literacy from its workforce; in our democracy, whose public debate and political discourse have migrated to the Web; and in the global community, which communicates and interconnects through digital pathways.
4) Students have the right to read and evaluate information on the Internet. The existence of inappropriate materials such as sexually explicit images, hate sites, or harmful misinformation should not prevent students of all ages from benefiting from valuable and appropriate Internet sites, just as the existence of pornographic magazines should not exclude students from reading magazines. Moreover, it is essential that young people learn to select the best resources that the Internet makes available, developing the discernment and judgment necessary for their future reading lives. Since adult citizens in a democracy have a right to read materials, including Web sites, that may be politically or morally offensive to others, students in school need to be educated about how to think carefully and critically about their own beliefs and those of others as they are prepared to enter into society.
5) Students have the right to publish their writing to the Web and to communicate with others with digital tools. Publishing and communicating online are powerful acts, and students must learn how to do so with due caution and common sense. Teachers must educate students about the risks of disclosing confidential information, the potential injuries in libeling others in public, and the rules and procedures of copyright. While course management systems such as Blackboard allow students to publish and communicate in a private online environment, lessons about these responsibilities—as well as lessons about audience, purpose, and voice—may be most persuasive in publicly accessible spaces.
6) Technology integration requires experimentation and practice. To gain expertise, teachers who are new to the Web should seek out supportive faculty members and technology specialists in their buildings when these resources are available. Most importantly, Web novices should not be afraid to experiment: like any other technology, the Web should be approached with curiosity, confidence, and care.
Revised Date: 11/15