Internet Filtering Expedition

Granby High School/Norfolk Public Schools

Filtered or Not Filtered? That is the Question...

It came as no surprise that most of the Frequently Blocked Websites on the list were indeed blocked! I sat down alongside one of my students, and together, we each searched these sites...she used her student log in and I used my teacher log in. Here's what we discovered:


  • FACEBOOK: We were both DENIED!
  • TWITTER: Again...no access for either of us.
  • FLICKR: Nope, neither one of us could access this site.
  • INSTAGRAM: No Instagramming on the school's computers for teachers or students.
  • YOU TUBE: Now this was interesting...my student could not get on at all, but under my teacher account, I could access the website, but it automatically redirected me to www.youtube.com/education
  • ESPN: My student and I can keep up with the latest on March Madness...this was available to both of us.
  • BLOGGER: My Student and I were also able to access this website...I guess we can blog about March Madness!
  • SKYPE: We will not be skyping from school...both of us were blocked at this particular site as well.
I was surprised that we were able to access ESPN and Blogger, especially since I am not able to access NBC from school. As a Social Studies teacher, it would be nice to access news websites. In the past few years, You Tube has been made more accessible for teachers. We also have a way to email our website administrator for NPS, and ask for permission to enable a particular video or website if we can convince them that it is a credible and valuable website for educational purposes.

Digital Curation Platforms

For the most part, I was able to access and nagivate each of the digital platforms listed on the project. However, once I started clicking around, there were definite limitations on what I could access within the digital curation platforms. For example, Symbaloo was easily accessible, but if I clicked on certain tiles such as Netflix or Facebook, then my school's filter would catch it and block it. The one exception to this seemed to be Pearltrees. I could click on all types of things and search just about anything one might think of. In fact, I was afraid to click on some of the things I came across. I typed in searches such as gangs, murder, and Fifty Shades of Grey. I stopped there...nothing seemed to get blocked. Pinterest was very accessible as well. I went onto many of my friends' and family's pages and clicked away at their various pins.

Digital Curation Platforms

Seek and ye shall find...unless you're on a school computer...then probably not!

Searching Controversial Topics...

I was actually surprised how much was not blocked on my school's computer when I searched the following items. Here's what I discovered for each one:

Breast Cancer: All three of the top websites were completely accessible. I was able to open and search Web MD, Breastcancer.org, and the National Cancer Institute with no problem and no filters.

Contraception: I was completely expecting there to be no access for anything dealing with contraception. Boy was I wrong! I could access the CDC and Wikipedia on all things contraception. One of the most fascinating things I discovered was an article found on www.themarysue.com, which had a story about glittery IUD earrings that women could purchase and wear as jewelry. (I can't make this stuff up) I was also surprised that as controversial as Planned Parenthood is, this particular site was not blocked either!

Gangs: I immediately came across a You tube video on Norfolk gangs, and alas, it was blocked! However, I was able to search and access an article on Pilot Online (Hampton Roads local newspaper) and see that Norfolk currently has approximately 67 active street gangs.

Games: Ironically, after searching breasts, contraception, and gangs with little to no problems, my biggest challenge was finding websites under the search of games! Website after website was blocked. I could only access PBS Kids games and those games were not useful to me as a high school teacher.

Filtering Software

Norfolk Public Schools utilizes Websense for their filtering software. Their basic software is CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) compliant, meaning that they provide filtering categories for social media and inappropriate content. Schools can also choose to add more features at a greater cost for things such as protection against data theft or security for mobile devices. Schools and school systems are able to customize their filters for inappropriate content, prioritize their network access according to particular users, and even change the content availability based on time of day and special events (which use a time-out system).
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Internet Acceptable Use Policy

Our Acceptable Use Policy is located on our computer log-in screens. Each time a teacher or student logs in to the computer, a written statement comes up with all of the fine print attached to using the school's computers and internet. It states that inappropriate content is filtered without giving specific websites. It does not necessarily explain why certain websites are blocked. It does stipulate that if faculty or students violate the AUP, then their rights and privileges can be denied. I could not find anything in the AUP that explains the steps necessary to have something unblocked. Faculty and Staff do have the ability to email the administrator to seek permission on getting a site un-blocked. This is typically done in an electronic message format. They will either email the teacher with the go-ahead to use the site or an explanation as to why they were unwilling to un-block it.

Cameron Clendenin

History/Social Sciences Teacher

Granby High School

Norfolk Public Schools

Norfolk, Virginia

References:

Abrams, D. (2015, January 1). The Mary Sue - The Nexus of Pop Culture and the Uncharted Universe. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.themarysue.com/


BigHugeLabs: Do fun stuff with your photos. (2015, January 1). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://bighugelabs.com/


Data Theft Prevention: Web Security, Email Security, Data Security, Endpoint Security - Websense.com. (2015, January 1). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.websense.com/content/home.aspx


Norfolk Public Schools Information Technology Division. (2013, January 1). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://departments.nps.k12.va.us/it/