Internet Filtering: Aligning Goals and Actions

Internet filtering is a big issue in schools. School leaders struggle with how stringent to apply the internet filter. Filter sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and tools like Skype because they are a “distraction”? Or see value for learning in this list and model and coach students (and teachers) in effective and proper use?

One way to look at justifying an answer is to reference your goals and then align your actions to those goals. In Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, Heidi Grant Halvorson proposes a framework through which we can examine goals – promotion goals and prevention goals. While the focus of the book is on personal development, the framework can also be applied to organizational goals such as those associated with any learning initiative.

Think of your goals in light of the promotion or prevention framework:

Maybe your latest learning initiative has a goal such as this:

Increase learning opportunities for the development of critical 21st century skills: critical thinking and problem solving, effective oral and written communication, collaboration, creativity and curiosity, adaptability, organization, initiative and entrepreneurialism.

The goal is stated in terms of a promotion goal, speaking to the qualities in the chart above. If our goals are written in terms of “promotion” language, why do our actions speak of “prevention.” Limiting access to social networks (Skype, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is a PREVENTION action (we somehow need to save students from “harm”) linked to a PROMOTION goal (increasing opportunitiesfor students). Filtering social networking sites is a misalignment, in this case, of action and goal.

Why do school leaders choose the “loss” action when it comes to internet filtering? Does stringent filtering really benefit students? If so, how? Or does it primarily benefit the organization – those in the organization use the PREVENTION argument to avoid addressing the challenges in achieving the  PROMOTION goal? And yes, there are many complex challenges that need to be addressed and shared by everyone – leaders, teachers, students and parents – when not filtering social networking sites.

As the adults, who are we here for, the benefit of the organization or the benefit of the students? Is it either/or? What is really best for our students?


One comment on “Internet Filtering: Aligning Goals and Actions

  1. Not a big fan of filtering and I think it’s a waste of time But, we have to do it because it’s a requirement of e-rate funding. However, the kids are just shutting off the wi-fi on thier phones and pulling it in from 3-g anyways.

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