Science Leadership Academy is well-known for its project based learning in integration with a 1-to-1 laptop program. The school accesses the internet via the School District of Philadelphia’s network, which uses extensive filters to both block certain websites and “quarantine” students if they use questionable programs.
Recently, a number of SLA students and teachers have been quarantined from the district’s network from accessing peer-to-peer file sharing online that operate under BitTorrent — and they were trying to watch President Obama on CNN.
Although the quarantine has interfered with the community’s learning environment, there is a larger issue in question regarding the freedom of access for SLA community.
Here is what we know at this point:
– Art teacher and technology coordinator Marcie Hull has been constantly requesting the District for a set list of restricted sites and programs but has received no answer.
– There is a process of paper work to be filed in cases of quarantine to gain reentry to the District’s network. However such process could take anywhere from a week to infinity.
– The District blocks all peer-to-peer file sharing, while in fact there is content that is distributed legally via this method. History teacher Diana Laufenberg was quarantined for accessing a CNN news clip for her class.
– When the district prohibits access to websites or programs across the board, it hinders the inquiry potential of the SLA community. Our learning goes beyond textbooks, and our access to resources should reflect that.
SLA will continue to maintain our core values of inquiry and research by utilizing the unrestricted sites. However, we are frustrated that our capability to learn has been limited. The dream solution would be that the district would stop restricting internet use, and trust teachers and students to make responsible choices in their schools. Assuming that SDP will not adopt this policy, we suggest that any and all of the following steps be taken:
– In order to prevent unnecessary quarantine, the District should share a complete list of sites and programs that it chooses to block.
– Administrators do face the same restrictions when it comes to internet use. If this status was extended to teachers, they could share appropriate content and materials with their students.
– The district should give students and teachers a chance to voice their opinions and explain how the policy affects their learning.
Unsigned editorials are written and approved by the SLAMedia Editorial Staff. They do not reflect the opinion of Science Leadership Academy and its employees.