Is it more unethical to allow threats to students/schools or to deny students/teachers access to instructionally-relevant Web-based tools and content. This is a hard question for me to answer. Honestly, I've been split down the middle all week, which is why I have waited to post.
I think our job as teachers and schools is to protect our students from harmful material. However, by doing so, are we really protecting them or are we making them unprepared for the harsh realities that they will eventually encounter any ways? I think as educators we need to step up the plate and foster student curiousity in a productive manner. Some things we could do might include teaching them how to do school appropriate web searches, guiding them understand that not every site is credible or appropriate for school, helping them to understand that even if something turns up in a search that looks questionable does not mean you have to open it up. By using common sense and practice, teachers can help students and each other make the most out of the Internet. Taking away useful materials and activities, does not do anyone any good.
One issue that I face at school all the time, is encountering "Websense" that blocks whatever page I want to visit. It's very frustrating when I have a class full of students in the computer lab and we are looking up some type of information that I have found prior to class and want to share with them, only to be blocked from viewing the site.
I spend a lot of time trying to find alternate "block free" websites which really limits what I am able to do in the classroom. From this aspect, I find the censorship unethical. I pulled up the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida and 6B-1.006 states that "Obligation to the student requires that the individual shall not intentionally suppress or distort subject matter relevant to a student's academic program." My thoughts are that if the state has such a principle then, why are we blocking all the websites that could enhance curriculum and subject matter to help that student be more successful. Maybe I am reading that wrong, but I think the state has a tendency to go back on their policies if the counties are not adhering to what has been set forth for educators to abide by.
On the other hand, last year we had students pull up porn before school by navigating around blocked sites. The kids are smarter than many people at the county office give them credit for. The more you tell them not to look at something or "hide" material from them, some times they are going make it their goal to find out exactly what you don't want them to see.
Our job is to give students a quality education to prepare them for the workforce one day. It's hard to prepare them we are not able to access Web 2.0 tools and websites that have the potential to further our knowledge of education and our students.
By using common sense and practice, teachers can help students and each other make the most out of the Internet. Taking away useful materials and activities, does not do anyone any good.
Reference: Florida Department of Education, "Code of Ethics". 1998. htttp://www.fldoe.org/edstandards/code_of_ethics.asp