Sunday, April 17, 2011
News flash: students use technology to break the rules
I often receive an email from a teacher to the effect of "I saw a student defeat our firewall and go to a blocked site. What is the technology department going to do about it?" In nearly every case, the teacher had a responsibility to deal with the student, but saw it as a technical matter, rather than a disciplinary one. I also often receive messages to the effect of "I broke the rules; look how easy it was." This is largely a problem of school culture, both professional and academic. We need to build a culture where people understand that doing something wrong is not made right because it is possible. This has always been true, but the Internet has caused some to become confused (at times hysterical) about it. Technology departments can do a lot to prevent unintended access to inappropriate material, but cannot transform the Internet into a walled garden. It is a place where the capability to do both right and wrong is inherent. While the technology folks appreciate information and can assist teachers in apprehending or ascertaining what students have done, it is the school's responsibility to respond to violations with the appropriate consequences and actions. There is no need for hysteria; we can bring our existing wisdom and ethical sense to the table on this. Today, many students struggle with this idea: "I can, therefore I may." When something is against the rules, it is not made less so by the fact that it is technically possible to do it, and it should not be encouraged, even as a way of "testing our security."