Accessing material online

What is age appropriate? What are we allowed to use? What needs to be administered, blocked?

Introduction: Schools are becoming more and more aware of what it means to live, work and play online. Issues are prevalent for both teachers and students. For example, what material is suitable to access? What is truth? What is age appropriate? What is morally and ethically questionable? Do students know how to search for material on the web? Do they know hot to evaluate the material they have found? What filtering systems need to be in place, when accessing the internet? What is legal to download, use and share? What about internet piracy? Some considerations when working online, have been unpacked further below.

Unpacking the Issues

The following issues have also been raised by Dorothy and Russell Burt and originally posted in Suzie Vesper's Learning Web 2.0 wiki. The responses in this link are from one school's perspective - Point England. The following tasks invite you to share what course of action has your school taken to address some of these issues.

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Introduction: Ethical issue no.1 - Place of online tools within the school. With access to a wide range of free web based tools, schools will need to consider what this means in the long term. As discussed in Learning Web 2.0 wiki, how is your school addressing the following issues?


Are school managements sufficiently informed as to what their staff are doing in online spaces and is there well thought out accountability internally?

Is the online work part of an intentional, well designed school or cluster development that has included the consideration of ethical education for the 21st century and the ethical responsibilities of the various members of the learning community, or are some well intentioned teachers who saw something funky at a course, conference or workshop simply winging it?

Reflection: How has your school addressed this so far? Leave a message in the DISCUSSION tab above (this will appear in the thread below).

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Introduction: Ethical issue no.2 - Age restrictions in online tools. Teachers may have got excited by new technologies, and decided to adopt these into their classroom programmes. As discussed in Learning Web 2.0 wiki, are your teachers aware of sites that have age restrictions such as where you must be 13 years of age to use the service?


How can we manage and support the online learning of minors using educationally appropriate social networking apps, and the decision making around which apps are indeed appropriate?

Reflection: How have you dealt with this issue? Leave a message in the DISCUSSION tab above (this will appear in the thread below).

Truth or fiction?

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Creative Commons image from
Introduction: Computers in New Zealand Schools - online journal has an article, Children's Internet Searching:Where do they go wrong? "Search skills are those necessary to search for information using the Internet or any other media. They include the ability to identify research questions (e.g., Eagleton & Guinee, 2002; Schacter et al., 1998), formulate queries and conduct searches, revising where and as necessary (e.g., Bilal, 2001; Large & Beheshti, 2000), and knowing how and when to expand or narrow topics of interest (e.g., Eagleton & Guinee, 2002). They also encompasses the knowledge necessary to synthesise and evaluate the information found, taking into account such factors as the author of the work and their credibility (e.g., Eagleton & Guinee, 2002; Schacter et al., 1998)."

As teachers, we need to enable our students to be critically savvy users of the web. We need to teach them ways to critically evaluate any information provided on websites. We could ask questions like, How do we know if the websites we access are from a reliable source? and Is the material true and can it be verified as a reliable information?

Suggestion: Sharing strategies with children on how to evaluate whether material is truthful or not. Using hoax sites such as "Tree Octopus" and DHMO are a great way to illustrate to students how easy it is to be deceived.

Reflection: What other strategies, resources or web links have you used with students to help make them more critically aware online? Leave a message in the DISCUSSION tab above (this will appear in the thread below).

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Internet censorship

This area feeds into an on-going discussion originally started in Digital citizenship and cyber safety module
Introduction: Many schools use internet blockers. They block the dangerous and inappropriate sites that should be blocked, but they also block sites that possibly don't need to be blocked and have real potential educational value - like Youtube, wikispaces, blogs etc. Sometimes you can type a word like 'shag' hoping to find a relevant website on birds, only to find these sites are blocked as well. In issue 24, Interface Magazine ran an interesting article on Staying cybersafe in your classrooms. You are invited to add comments in their website.

Suggestion: Blocking web sites at school.

How far should we go? Do you think that schools should block websites like the ones mentioned above or manage this in some way?

Reflection: Should we lock our systems down or find another way to manage them like using tools like Hector's World Safety Button? What do you think? Please add your comments in the Voicethread application below. Note: You will need an existing account with VoiceThread to do this.

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Additional resources to consider:


Working within a Walled Garden
This blog post gives you alternatives to open online tools should you need to have in-house solutions that are locked down.

Internet Research Skills - Toolkit

ICT Learning experience - Introduction to Web Research

Museum of Hoaxes

Evaluating Websites

Doing Research: An Introduction to the Concepts of Online Searching
Great flash presentation tutorial which walks you through search strategies (keywords, synonyms, citations) and pulls it all together.