Monday, August 08, 2005

Break down the (fire) wall!!


On the importance of teaching people how to learn for themselves, and in relation to the idea that graffiti is OK, I'd like to draw attention to the increasing ridiculousness (in my view) of the use of firewalls and network security in educational organisations.

Ever since I started working in education, firewalls and network security have been the bane of my existence! Every time I have wanted to do something innovative, different, or just experimental the same old endorsed paranoia always applies. Teachers can't install software to try out, not even popular free and open software without first getting admin rights (which could be never). Students can just forget it! And then there's what you can and can't see on the Internet, according to some robot policing what students and teachers are looking at.

Recently I sent an email to the TALO eGroup with a link to Banksy's latest stencil work on that recent wall that separates Israel from Palestine. Many in the TALO eGroup have to work under the iron curtain of education networks and it didn't take long for one member to write back saying that he had been blocked access to the site, with the robot classifying it as crime! But as that TALO member said,
Had a look from outside the firewall – and think the site is really thought-provoking with some great images.

And then another responded,
When working inside an Institute, I was blocked from refugee action sites during the height of the children overboard/woomera actions. Also heard the wall is a hassle for nursing teachers, as female health sites can be difficult to access. Aaah, the vagaries of keyword based gate-keepers and net-nannies.

And yet another in the space of 5 minutes!
I just got this spam below through to me at work...I know there areobviouslyy different processes at play here....but kinda weird when cant look up an apartment but can get plenty of support with life enhancement. Emailreceivedd at 1210 today: You know you need it. The longer and thicker you are, the better everyone involved will be. Don't delay on the world's best solution for your problem. Make "it" work like a king today. Up-size it.
What is this beast of a thing clamping down on our work, our freedoms, our access, and failing where it was most needed?

Lately I have been keeping a phone line in my bag for when I visiting those poor people locked behind the curtain. I don't even bother using their network when I arrive, I just pluggin to a spare phone line somewhere and use my dialup account to bypass the network. But sooner or later we have to stand up to this or it will becomeirreversiblyy worse.

So I've started a little bit of graffiti of my own on this wall. Anyone else who has some funny pictures, comics or what ever about institutional lock down, please save them to a flickr account and tag them "accessDETnied"

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Unknown said...

Hey Leigh!

Check out my latest posting at

I'm having a babble about firewalls there also with some other findings. Some interesting graffiti at fact I spent two years getting up with a swag of graffers ----in fact there is some recent stencils appearing in the North Perth area trhat are decidedly eastern states type - sheck page 12 I think.....

Looking forward to your returns - later.

Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment, I've been into your hilarious post and added a comment. What ever are we going to do about this firewall problem.
Again, I think the answer is to go free and easy. Stop using the org's servers to store and deliver content, use OurMedia instead. Stop using the org's email, use gMail instead. Stop using the org's LMS, use Blogger instead. Use anything that is free, easy and web based. And, if that fails, unplug the network and use the dial up... or, ring up a telco and get your own phone line installed to a wireless modem, and pass the hat around the office or staff room to pay for the new network.

Harold Jarche said...

Recently I tried to show my Bloglines account to a client inside a hospital's firewall and it was blocked. This stopped my presentation dead (How to use free tools to manage your information resources). Life is much more fun when I work with fellow free-agents than any institution.

Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Harold,

Damb! Bloglines blocked! That's getting way too serious. I hope you kicked up a stink!... From what I've been hearing (podcasts) and reading out of Canada, it sounds like the firewall implimentations there are very full on...

Freya said...

I agree with you about the frustrations of blocking access to sites. The aspect that I find most unsettling is in my experience it hasn't been a committee or team deciding what gets blocked and why - it has usually been one or two techs that have taken on the "responsibility" of policing the internet for the organization.

To me it seems like a human resources issue - not an tech issue. If you are hiring people who you can't trust then that should be the issue that is dealt with instead of policing everyone.

Most people want to do a good job, but when you set up a police state on your network it invites people to challenge the system. Why not empower and educate employees and students instead of restricting them?

Leigh Blackall said...

Right on Donna, it is unsettling the amount of power that IT staff take on. It confuses me a bit as to why IT staff within organisations are like this, when the ones I know working independently are keen on open source, freedom, etc...
Perhaps a classic indicator that organisational change does not happen on the inside... rather individuals change on the inside!

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