Thursday, November 17, 2005

The wall is on fire!

Photo by Meesta Chaddaboks

It's a relief to be home today. Enjoying the last frontier of Internet freedom - I never want to step into a NSW classroom again!

Yesterday I was working with a bunch of kids we call BlacktownYoof. Like me they hate school, so we hang out and take and edit digital photos and load them to Flickr.

It took me 3 weeks to get IT support to approve the installation of the basic image editor Picasa, another week for GIMP, and I'm still waiting for OpenOffice and FreeAvid. I only got Picasa and GIMP because I called the IT Boss man myself telling him to come in and teach the BlacktownYoof himself he he wouldn't let us have the software. Quick as a flash it was done, but I don't think me and IT Boss man will ever be friends...

yesterday the BlacktownYoof and I unshackled the computer room, fired up the bolted to the floor computers (2 yoof to 1 computer), excitedly punched in and got this!


I've added the url text for graphical effect. Quick as a flash the Yoof where swearing at the system (as was I) but with noone to kill standing close by we proceeded to see what else was blocked. Blogger, bloglines, myspace - Access DETnied; Ourmedia, googleVideo, googleGroups - Access DETnied. Really flamed now, the boys started experimenting. Within 20 minutes they had found a bit of a way around this wall - they used Google Translate to get some of the blocked sites through. But with no one to blame for this outrage but a red DET logo on the screen (why red?), the nearest DET thing to f**k up are the stupid computers, and the stupid chairs, and the stupid building. It was all they needed to start acting up. I couldn't blame them.

So I grabbed a couple of the boys and we went for a walk - in search of an open network. We found other people, wondering in the corridors looking for someone to kill, but we didn't find an open network. The walk calmed them a bit, and me, and we resolved to edit some pictures at least.

By the end of the day however, I witnessed several games getting downloaded and installed, and several porn sites getting through. In particular seemed to have no hassle with the wall at all.

Here I was with a bunch of KIDS agitated by this blockage and successfully downloading porn and crap anyway - the games I liked, but the porn was too much even for my sexual insensitivity...

Even with the tightest filter the world has ever seen, it took this group of 8 less than 2 hours to work it out! In fact, because of the filter, these guys were making a special effort to subvert it, devoting all their time and energy into finding all the dodgy stuff they could!

What's that tell you about control?

This net filtering is a joke. It always has been a joke, its a waste of time and money, and not helping at all. 'Protecting' kids from the big bad world is not at all what true education is about! In fact, at the end of the day the badest boy in my class felt bad for the things he'd seen this day. He had been listening to the passing remarks I mad at him as he gleefully downloaded hard core carnage. "Porn does make you blind" and "At some stage we have to draw a line for ourselves" is what I kept saying to them. In the end, this fella - of his own accord - told me he's not going to do it anymore. He'd had his day he said, he'd seen enough and now realised what he had to do for himself. He had drawn a line for himself.

When I found my way home that night, I kissed Sunshine and patted the dogs, cracked a beer (still left overs from the TALO swap/meet!) and glanced at my computer to find a more than usual volume of email. The TALO eGroup was cooking over this filter.

  • Jude wrote in to tell a similar tale to mine with her school group.
  • Tony Lorriman with his IT classes
  • Stephan and Sean's R&D work in Sydney, Stephan labeling it "TAFE bans Web 2.0"
  • Jock is preparing a letter to the Bosses
  • Maria is doing similar
I think anyone half aware of the bigger picture and who was inside a NSW classroom or admin office yesterday (and those outside looking in) were flatly outraged by this ramping up of State control. It was bad enough a few months ago, but this has got to stop! Not just stop, gotten rid of all together!

Rose suggested:
maybe they should just give everyone (including students) a cheap laptop and
just focus on providing wifi services, tech support and access to "safe'
shared folders/systems for staff for any stuff that warrants existence
behind closed virtual doors. cos it's eventually going to come to that

I suggested:
Why can't I, (a child protection cleared teacher) have a key to unlock what
is blocked so that my classes may go on uninterrupted. If I had a key, I
could help lock out sites like that somehow still manage to slip under the wall...
and Alex had a witty go at it all with Digital laxatives... mr acting deputy speaker

I hope we can kill this fascist beast once and for all, and find better ways to teach our kids (and teachers) how to draw a line for themselves. Isn't that a better form of protection?

Photo by Meesta Chaddaboks

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.


alexanderhayes said...

I had a similar experience yet I was sitting inside the DET machine with the IT hack on hand and asking the same questions - which sites, why and for how long ?

With great restraint I fired off a salvo of comments including alerts to that they still had two spelling mistakes in the front page of their site. With the realisation that I'd be requiring the afore mentioned program and many others that were blocked to accomplish the days work it was back to the 'drawing board'.

Luckily I had some pens and paper handy - Anne and I spent the day brainstorming digital story frameworks for the AFLF by hand and it was a very valuable use of the remaining 6 hours. Maybe we should do that a little more often.

Break away from the device - talk to each other - meet each other in the corridor - look at someone else and smile.

Leigh Blackall said...

Good point Alex... I spose a techno teacher should always have unplugged activities up their sleeve. If its not a filter cramping your style, it might just be a black out!
But the fact that it wasn't a black out, but some narrow and inconsiderate thinking from above, makes me fume.

Leigh Blackall said...

James Farmer has similar issues with edublogs getting blocked!

Judy Breck said...

It is absolutely wonderful to see this situation come out into the open. We systematically do not let the younger generation use their own tools. My guess is this is solving itself as students like your boys simply go around the firewalls and ignore lame textbooks for which the taxpayers pay billions. Give your kids a pat on the back for me. Judy Breck,

nswtox said...

Wow there is some steam in these comments! Not being an IT teacher I err on the side of caution.

Aren't there alernatives?

Patrick said...

The thing;s a shame, I came accross this 'cuz the admin at my workplace (large media multinational) had blocked access to quite a few sites on the network and I was needing some of those for work. Especially when you are in the media you can need to access slightly questionable sites to get juicy quotes etc. Now getting formal permission takes aprox 2 hours for each time, so what we eventually did was use proxy websites like etc as anonymous proxies to get to the site.