NECC 99: Ask the Experts SessionNECC '99:
"Ask the Experts" Spotlight Session
Host: Dr. Larry Anderson, National Center for Technology Planning, Mississippi State University
Andy Carvin, Corp for Public Broadcasting
Shelley Pasnik, Center for Children and Technology
Tom March, codeveloper, WebQuests & Filamentality
Al Rogers, Global SchoolNet Foundation
Wednesday, June 23, 1999
Larry: I have the privilege of... (Microphone shorts out). I have the privilege of giving the microphone to Andy to let him fix it while I make the introductions. (laughter)
Andy: Thank you very much, Larry. (laughter)
Larry: You know, this is one of my favorite things to get to do. My name is Larry Anderson - not that it matters - but we're going to move through our introductions quickly so we can reach the point where you can have a conversation with these experts. Now in the program you've got only part of the title of this session: "Ask the Experts." But there's more that didn't make it into the program. And some of you who have been to our session before, you know the full title is actually "The Supreme Court is in Session: Ask the Experts." The whole idea came about by having the luminaries of our profession to come and have a chance for you to ask them a question, no matter how abrasive or controversial it may be. This group of experts know they are not the least bit intimidated by controversial subjects, or even the little things you might just be wondering about. So part of what I want to do is introduce them to you. We've also prepared this sheet for you so you can know more about them and take it with you. But I think it's important that in the event you've come to this conference and don't know these people personally, now here's your chance to get to do just that.
A quick bit of history: The reason I thought this panel session up and first talked to Andy Carvin about it several years ago, when I first went to NECC I knew there were all these great people who's names I had read. For example, I had heard of Al Rogers and had revered him highly in my mind but I did not know Al Rogers. How I wished there'd be a place, one stop shopping, where I could go and meet these luminaries, have a chance to interact with them and get to know them. That's really the purpose behind this session, so let's get started because we've got such a short time together.
First, to my right, this is Andy Carvin. Andy is at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington DC, and many of you may know him as the guy behind the WWWEDU listserv and the website EdWeb, among many other things. I'd encourage you to visit the website and explore it - it's a remarkable resource.
Shelley Pasnik is sitting in for - no, that's really not right. Originally Margaret Honey from the Center for Children and Technology had been on the proposal for this session, and she recommended Shelley from CCT. You can read more about Shelley and her work on the sheet we passed around. I'm doing my best to keep this brief, so they'll have a few minutes to introduce themselves as well.
Next we have Tom March. Some of you know Tom in a variety of ways. What a remarkable contribution he's made to our profession. WebQuests: as I was telling Andy earlier, it's almost like it's a part of our vocabulary now. WebQuest is almost like RAM - it's in our language. Blue Web'N, Filamentality, and now Web-and-Flow - Tom has contributed tremendous resources to us. What a wonderful opportunity to have him here with us - he's done too much in too few years. (laughter) He needs some gray hairs on that head of his. By the way, Al Rogers and I both believe that our hair is silver, not gray, so I have a lot more silver than he does. (laughter)
Now Al Rogers we know as a giant in this profession, and how honored I am personally to consider myself a friend and colleague of Al's. We all remember FredWriter and FredMail - that's probably why so many people remember him as Fred Rogers instead of Al Rogers. But what a contribution he made - Free Education Writer, Free Education Mail, back when we didn't even have Internet email or these giant word processors. Global School House- I could go on and on about his accomplishments. I am so honored that these four people have joined us today. Bonnie Bracey was supposed to be here but she had to leave early for Greece, to Thessaloniki. And Roger Wagner of Hyperstudio was supposed to come but he had to leave, but we still have these four. So start thinking about the questions you want to ask. Andy is capturing this on tape so we may ask you to introduce yourself first. We only have this microphone up front, and even though this might seem a little ackward, I'd invite you to come down the aisle, come down the runway if you will, (laughter) and ask your question. So let's just have a good time with this.
Andy: Otherwise we're gonna make Larry walk around with my tape recorder like he's Phil Donahue. (laughter)
Larry: And notice that they key word there is "make" - they're gonna make me do it so do what you can to help me out. So now we're going to begin with a brief opening statement from each of our panelists, then we'll open it up for questions. Would anyone like to be first other than Andy? (laughter) OK, we'll just go alphabetically, so Andy you're on.
Andy: Hi everyone. I'm Andy Carvin and I'm New Media Program Officer at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington DC. Some of you may know me as the author and developer of the website, EdWeb: Exploring Technology and School Reform, which will be celebrating its fifth birthday in October. Also celebrating its fifth birthday this year is my listserv WWWEDU, the Web and Education List, more affectionately pronounced as "We Do." It's one of the largest and longest running lists focused on the role of the Web in education. So as you can probably tell I've been thinking about issues regarding the Web in education for a long time, but as of late I've become a little distracted. I've been spending some time thinking about a new technology that's coming just around the corner called Digital Television. Now DTV, which is sometimes called HDTV or High Definition TV, is essentially a new digital format for transmitting and receiving TV signals. So today, where you've got a cable sticking into the back of your TV or an antenna on your roof, either way you've got waves of broadcast signals being sent through to your TV. But instead of these signals being old analog wavelengths, they'll be digital: ones and zeros, just like your computer.
So what does this all mean? First of all it means your televisions will be able to receive over 18 megabits of bandwidth. Megabits. Remember your 56k modem is 56,000 bits, but DTV will be able to handle over 18 million bits per second. With this kind of bandwidth you'll be able to receive full motion video, multiple video signals, and all sorts of multimedia content, including Internet content. So if you take the kind of content you have with the Internet right now and mix it TV content and CD-rom-like multimedia, you'll get a new breed of content on your TV, all without having to subscribe to an Internet service or having to have wires plugging your TV into your telephone or wall. It's going to force us to totally rethink what the purpose of television is. What the purpose of multimedia is. What the purpose of broadband transmission is. Very little has happened yet with DTV apart from a few test programs, so that's why we need to begin talking about it now. Otherwise if we don't try to get educational content on DTV it could very easily end up just like today's television, and we all know how educational TV is today - apart from PBS, of course. (laughter) So now's the time to start the debate on DTV, but I'm always up for a good conversation on the Web. Either way I'm looking forward to it. Thanks.
Larry: Before Al gets started, if those of you in the back would honor us by coming closer to the front, that will help break the shackles between us. It doesn't bother us if you have to get up and leave, you know. (laughter) Come on up, folks. Don't worry about climbing over people. We've had enough formality at this conference. Just think of us as one big family. Come on up...
Al: Okay, Larry, are you through yet? (laughter)
Larry: By all means, sir, proceed. (laughter)
Al: Hi everyone. Point-Counterpoint - I've known Andy for a long time and I know we really agree on a lot of things, but his introduction was expressing a point of view to which I think I have a counterpoint. I have long believed that it is more important what you do with the technology you have than the technology itself. If I had to make a choice between receiving multimedia, multigigabit bandwidth video or talking with someone through my 300 baud modem, I'd rather talk to someone with by 300 baud modem. So that's the particular perspective I have. What we're going to wind up doing with technology is going to be absolutely critical to what we'll be looking at.
Andy: This is going to be fun. (laughter)
Tom: I think I should get out of the middle of these guys. (laughter)
Al: For those of you who have a little history under your belts, here's a little historical note that might be of interest. How many of you are aware of the old FredMail bulletin board system?
(most of the audience raises hands).
Al: Wow... Well that's a surprisingly large number. You usually don't see percentages like this in groups nowadays.
someone from the audience: We're getting old. (laughter)
Al: Well, you know, I was recognized here as a NECC Pioneer but as you can see from my badge it really means, it's Old Fart. (laughter) But anyway, Friday of this week, I am going to pull the switch for the last time on FredMail. I have two Apple computers that have been running in my office for 15 years. This year we had some schools in Wisconsin still using it. I tried to shut it down two years ago but I got a lot of complaints from people saying, "This is our only access to email for our kids, our only access to the Internet." But we've let it run this long but it is going dead permanently - we are not Y2k compliant. Though I never expected our Apple II computers to last 15 years. Anyway, that's a little history for you.
Of course, we at the Global SchoolHouse Foundation and myself particularly continue to preach the same thing that we started to say in 1984, which is a project-based approach to collaborative learning, based upon the premise that kids will want to write when they have a sympathetic audience, when they have something to say. Everything we've done is built on those kind of principles. It's a very powerful approach to engaging students, and my pet peeve at the moment is politics that are being played with schools concerning standards and testing are putting the kinds of pressures on teachers that are driving them away from this approach. I'm just beside myself with the damage I see going on. In California we have principals who are losing their jobs because their test scores aren't high enough. So that's my current pet peeve, and I'm doing everything I can to articulate the fight against that movement. And that's a little bit about where I come from and where I'm at...
Shelley: Hi... I'm not Larry Anderson, and I'm not Al Rogers. I'm Shelley Pasnik, but for a few years in Washington I was Caitlin Strong, probably a name you're not familiar with. Caitlin was - and is - my five-year-old niece, and I used her identity and explored the Internet, visiting a lot of websites. Why did I do that? Because I was looking at the issues of privacy and data collection. What I found was that I was able to amass an incredible amount of stuff. I got free packs of gum, free games, toys, t-shirts, all because I was willing to release personally identifiable information to these websites. Of course I can assure you that I protected my niece so that no one would ever actually find her.
And this started a couple of years ago when all we were hearing about kids on the Internet was pornography and predation. But we at the Center for Media Education wanted to look at a third issue: privacy. Looking at the way commercial websites were able to collect inordinate amounts of personal information from kids. Now several years later there's been some movement on the issue and as many of you may be aware of, the Federal Trade Commission is working with Congress, which passed the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. And the FTC as of a couple weeks ago, they had a deadline up to which they were soliciting comments as part of their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking at the different regulations that should be involved in terms of children's online privacy is protected.
I also want to mention some work I've done on commercialism and the educational environment. Several years ago I'd written a report looking at the content of the Channel One website, while some other folks looked at their broadcasting content. That report is still on the Center for Media Education website, and from time to time I get responses. Just a few weeks I received an email from a high school student. "Dear Ms. Pasnik, I looked at your report, and clearly you've never taken a basic economics course. You just don't understand that whenever you have news you have to have advertising. Look at 20/20, CNN..." and he cited other media outlets. It saddened me - although I applauded his enthusiasm and his willingness to take me on - he couldn't conceptualize the role for media space that was free of commercial entities.
And I think that this is something we're really not addressing, that in light of recent events we're only addressing violence in the media and inappropriate content - there are all these bills currently before Congress. But we're not looking at the role commercial forces will play in the shaping of media culture and the way people are going to experience it. That's the sort of thing Andy probably would want to address as well. What happens when commercial broadcasters are given free digital spectrum, and what will PBS do with it? Currently there are no stipulations that would prevent them from turning some of their spectrum into for-profit entities. Is it possible to create non-commercial spaces online and in the airwaves? So that's my perspective right now...
Larry: Now Tom, you have the floor:
Tom: My name is Tom March, and I live in Australia now. I'm also on Andy's WWWEDU list, and recently I got an announcement that said Roger Wagner was going to be at this session. So I was really excited to see Roger, whom I knew in San Diego. Roger Wagner is a friend of mine, and I am no Roger Wagner. (laughter) So even though I'm filling in for him, I really wish he were here. I'd rather hear him talk than me talk.
My place in this group, I suppose, is a little bit as a classroom teacher who wants to play with new things in a fertile learning environment. I was an English teacher for ten years, using Apple IIGs machines, Hyperstudio and all these other great toys with students. Then in 1995 Pacific Bell started a partnership where they offered free ISDN lines to schools in California along with a year's free usage. What they needed was a little credibility from the education community. So they got into this partnership and funded three fellowships to create content. What would teachers, librarians and students benefit from, from having it online? So Linda Hyman, Jodi Reed and myself got free rein to take a look at the web. We came up with Blue Web'n and other activities looking at content and filtering it out by content areas so that that we could save teachers a lot of time online. As a teacher I knew that time was my most valuable asset.
From there, access to information isn't what education is about. If it were we wouldn't need classrooms; we could just shoot our kids into the libraries and let them go at it. We need to help shape and organize content - that's a powerful role we can take. How can we use content on the web in a way that is educationally valuable? That's when Bernie Dodge and I started to consider this idea of WebQuests. We were team teaching at the time and he developed the term WebQuest and spent a couple of years playing with it, figuring out what exactly it could be, offering new models for how it would work and how teachers could use it.
Then we started to look at obstacles that might get in the way of teachers online - how about HTML? If I make a web page where can I put it? That's where we came up with Filamentality, a made-up word that means filaments of the web - strands - combined with mentality. It's an interactive site that will guide you through collecting websites, shaping them into a WebQuest, then post it on the web. It's been an unintended consequence that some school districts, even ones that have servers, can post pages there, but there can be too many links in the chain of command to get their pages posted. If you're like me and you're getting together some work at midnight and you want to use it tomorrow, I don't want to spend the next two weeks passing it around through people's inboxes before I can use it. So now teachers are using Filamentality to host their own webpages, so the content can go directly to students.
So all of this brings around my viewpoint of the web - I love the web. I think it's a great, twisted mirror of reality, and it's a wonderful thing to bring into the classroom. By bringing this reality in, it allows us as teachers to take a much more valuable and critical role, to help students dive into issues and tackle things they won't find in textbooks. If we don't do these kinds of things, we just trivialize ourselves, separating what happens in school from what happens in real life. Secondly, we're not preparing these young kids to go off into the world, and if they're not savvy enough about what's out there waiting for them we do them a disservice.
Larry: So while ya'll have been talking Andy's been working on this microphone. So hopefully it'll work, so if you have any questions, just go ahead and start raising your hands, come on up and ask your questions. And if y'all are too shy about asking questions I have a few I can throw out to get things started. OK, we've got our first question, come on up.
Q: I'm Saya Surin (?) and I'm with Classroom Connect. I work on a variety of projects that Classroom Connect does including the Quest series. I'm curious about what the panelists' feelings are on what's going on Capitol Hill right now regarding the filtering debate.
Andy: For those of you in the back who didn't hear the question I'm going to repeat it - and that doesn't mean I'll be the first one to answer it. (laughter) The question was what our opinion is on what's going on the Hill right now regarding filtering requirements in the schools. If you're not aware of what's going on, both the House and the Senate have proposed that any schools that receive E-rate subsidies from the federal government will be required to have some kind of filtering program. To me it's actually a little nebulous because the way they've worded it, it says you need to have a filtering program in place, but it's up to the district to decide what that level of filtering may be. And they might just decide that they're won't be filtering turned on, but either way they have to go through that decisionmaking process. So there's a lot of tension going on in Washington right now over this. Now I of course have my opinions but I'd rather give everyone else a shot first.
Al: So that's a description of the situation; now you want to know my viewpoint, right? (laughter) We've got a problem in the short term, at least, because of all the different opinions and viewpoints on about what should be filtered out and what shouldn't be filtered out, and you can get into some enormous arguments about that. I'm sensing that the long range solution to this is to work with people are trying to set standards, standards regarding meta-content, such as the IMS standards, so people who are in the process of providing online information suitable to schools will describe their content in such a way that the search engines can readily identify, categorize and identify the types of information we want to receive. Those places online that are really in the business of controversy probably won't do that. In other words, we'll have standards dealing with educational content but they won't use them. When I think of myself, there are a lot of things online I consider to be educational while others would not. So then again, maybe this isn't the long term solution after all. But hey, this a can of worms, isn't it? (laughs) So I guess I don't have a solution for it but it's definitely a hot topic.
Shelley: I'm against it. I don't think it should be a requirement. I would like to have a national, as well as a local, debate on information literacy. Informational skills that young people need as opposed to getting bogged down in arguments over appropriate content, explicit materials. There's some terrible, frightful speech online, but shielding it from kids just removes the debate from schools. I think schools need to engage in conversations about what they want young people to be experiencing, learning, feeling, debating, so that they acquire analytical skills and have the ability to wade through information throughout their lives.
Larry: Shelley, you say you want to see a national debate on this. How can you imagine that we would frame such a debate. How might that look, in order for us to participate?
Shelley: The cynic in me thinks it's not going to happen right now because of the election. It's going to be hyperbole and exaggeration, and we're going to continue to talk about violent content and pornography only. Though I think that can be a springboard, but it needs to be a deeper discussion. So I guess I don't have any concrete suggestions except to say that more voices need to be added, more perspectives. It can't just be Jack Valenti talking about a defense of the motion picture industry and MPAA ratings of movies, or broadcasters talking about the limitations of labels on TV programs. I think we need to hear from more people: child advocates, health professionals, pediatricians, psychologists, parents. Everyone I think needs to be engaged in this conversation instead of letting it get played out inside the Beltway by a limited group of opinions.
Andy: I personally am rather worried about this whole situation. There are certainly plenty of cases where schools are successfully implementing filtering in their classrooms, but I think what we need to do is seek out those schools that have taken an enlightened and thoughtful approach to filtering - those schools that decided after a long, detailed debate that they concluded they needed filters - let's find out how and why they made their decision. What issues were considered? What do they do when students, for example, want to study the spread of Holocaust revisionism and need to visit websites that deny the Holocaust ever happened? Or visiting websites that have to do with the exploitation of children?
Jamie McKenzie, who's actually speaking right now in the room next door, recently complained on several listservs that one of his articles on his From Now On website had been cut out by a filter because it was adult education and had the word "adult" in it! What does that tell you when you can no longer use the word "adult" in an article you want to publish on your website? It really scares me, because the software can only be as smart as the programming, and so far that's not exactly perfect, to say the least. It's gonna get better, sure, but there still have to be ways for us to get around filtering because there are plenty of students out there who want to tackle tough issues. We would be remised if we did not want to encourage them every time they step forward and want to tackle these tough issues. Otherwise we're just hiding them from the realities of the world just when they're the age they need to start learning about it. That would really be unfortunate.
Larry: Is it the filtering itself that bothers us or is it the fact that we're now potentially in the throes of some sort of federal mandate? Is that what it is?
Al: I think that's exactly the crux of the problem. We are in a situation right now where there's a sense that a "one size fits all" solution from the federal government is what we need to do. This is a situation that needs to be decided at the local level, and local level meaning at a school, according to appropriate grade level standards as well as content standards. And we need to let the marketplace work it out - as Andy said, why are communities making certain filtering decisions, what's working and what's not. I think this problem will resolve itself and I have a lot of confidence in the people at the local level who must implement these kinds of decisions. This kind of legislation is appealing to just some narrow political agendas right now.
Andy: If anything, the one good thing that may come out of this is the notion of acceptable use policies. Every school, as part of this debate, must develop an intelligent AUP that takes all of these issues into consideration. If anything, at the national level and perhaps at a state or community level, we need to develop resources where teachers and administrators can see both sides of what happens when you develop an Acceptable Use Policy, what are some of the case studies of what actually happens in the classroom. What do students find when they go online? What subjects do students want to research when given broad opportunities? With this kind of information schools can at least make as informed of a decision as possible.
Q: I'd just like to comment on this.
Andy: Could you introduce yourself as well? Q: Sure, I'm Trevor Shaw...
(Andy: Trevor! Hey there....)
Trevor: I teach English and run the computer systems at St. Benedict's Prep up in Newark. I like to think that I'm in a category with many other schools in that we do use filtering, and we feel it's important for a number of reasons. Without filters there are a tremendous number of distractions that have nothing to do with the educational process, and we felt that we needed to put some control on that. We don't filter everything - we make some loose decisions on what we're gonna block out. But what troubles me is that all of this legislation going on is politically motivated and has nothing to do with education. I have never heard of a kid being truly hurt by looking at a dirty picture. It has nothing to do with making kids safe - it has to do with the fact that this subject is so much in the media, so much in the public conscience, that certain people are able to forward their agendas based on this issue. That troubles me a lot. Filtering is something that doesn't need to be legislated - there is so much pressure on schools to make sure their Internet isn't abused that we didn't need a law to install filtering, and I'm sure a lot of you didn't either.
Andy: Trevor, can I ask you a question?
Andy: So you've got filtering installed in your school. If we go back to the example I said before in which students are doing a project on Holocaust revisionism, is there a policy set up in which teachers can shut off the filters for students?
Trevor: Our filtering is directory-enabled, so when a student logs in the computer knows who he is - and we're an all male school so it is "he." (laughter)
Larry: Therein lies the problem. (laughter)
Trevor: So the filter knows who he is, knows what he has access to. If a student has been abusing the Internet I can still give him access to the network without giving him access to the Web. It's a very flexible system the way it's set up. And I think you're right that the system has to be well designed for this kind of thing if it's really going to work.
Q: What software are you using?
Trevor: Novell's Border Manager.
Audience Comment: I'm Gordon Dahliby, SIGTC president, and I would just add that if you're looking at Acceptable Use Policies for the Internet that you align them with your policies on book use, on t-shirts, on language. Essentially this is a discipline issue. If you're saying your students are unacceptably using your technology, your response should be in alignment with your other disciplinary policies. Make sure you review all of your board policies for a holistic alignment, then the AUPs will take care of themselves. Otherwise you'll have some students who are allowed to use it while others aren't due to the misinformation their parents might have.
Larry: A couple of things come to mind. There was a school down in Mississippi that didn't like the word "acceptable." They felt that if a daughter came home with a man who was just acceptable, the mother might prefer someone who was actually responsible. So they use the term responsible use policy. Also there's an attorney in Mississippi that's quite well read on this subject and renown for his work on intellectual property, copyright, and so on. He noted to us that for schools who use an AUP, there's a potential that in cases where schools have an AUP and filtering software, when it got to a place in court, one might cancel the other one out and the school could find itself with a lot of liability. Just something to think about.
Q: I'm (garbled) and I teach language arts in Philadelphia. What I'm about to say I credit to a professor of mine, Larry Strange. When I start to teach students I first teach the difference between art and sub-art. Art is inspiring, it's creative, it raises your beliefs and expectations. Sub-art is sensationalism. By the end of the year my students are debating each other constantly: "This is sensationalism!" They're evaluating things themselves. They're able to critique it themselves.
Larry: I'd like to bring up Michelle Williams, who's from Australia. I'd just like to know what's happening in Australia regarding filtering and these sorts of issues.
Michelle: In Australia there are two types of schools like there are in the US but in Australia about 60% are state funded and 40% percent are not. State schools come under government legislation and private schools do not. We don't have as much mandating as you do here. State schools do have filtering at the state level into the classrooms and then schools can have additional filtering if they like. But the debate among teachers is that no one wants it. Professional development about teaching strategies and ways to engage students in the classroom is probably a much better debate to have. So the professional community has one discussion and the politicians have another discussion. Sounds like the same thing you have here, Larry.
Larry: Tom, do you have anything to add?
Tom: The only thing I'd like to say is if you're thinking about this, about making your own WebQuests, the things that makes WebQuests magical are the weird perspectives that are only available because anyone can post a page. I know we didn't go into this much but if we look at what Al said earlier regarding using metatags to identify educational content, generally that's not the sort of thing I want to use. I already have limitations through my textbooks, CD-ROM, etc. I want access to all those weird perspectives and the ideas they can bring in to make learning more interesting. That's not to say that pornography is right in schools, but the non-mainstream has a new voice because of the web.
Andy: Just yesterday I believe it was Tom who said that the Internet is the "Opinion Superhighway." I really think we should take that to heart. It's really the first technology in which any of us who have rudimentary access to it can become voices, become voices in our own right, a chance to become opinionmakers. We need to take this into account and make sure that as we consider AUPs and filtering that non of these things serve as a chilling effect towards student creativity and teacher creativity. We need to have a balanced approach to all this or it's all going to go downhill.
Audience comment: I'm Miriam Erickson from Fish Creek, Wisconsin. I just want to point out that anyone who's getting E-Rate would be affected by this filtering law. It's not just schools, people, it's your public libraries, and all of you I'm sure are library users. So somebody is going to be making decisions for you on what you can access. This is really, really serious stuff and we need to take issue with this. It's going to affect most public libraries as well as schools.
Larry: We've talked about developing a national platform to talk about these issues. It's one thing to go to a conference session and hear about these things, but the compelling challenge we have to give to each other is what are we personally going to do. We each came to this room today - so what? What are we going to do about it. Just something to think about.
Q: I'm Patty Sorensen and I'm from Sherwood, Oregon. My question is, if there's an AUP in place, what are some of the techniques you use to enlighten students about that piece of paper they may have signed but not really read? What's the way we can help them realize they've made a serious commitment by signing an acceptable use policy?
Tom: Well it sounds like an educational opportunity to me. Like any other educational situation, they need to know what the problem is, and too often that's the piece that's missing. Here are the instructions, but they don't know the problem - What am I doing this for? Trying to thrust them into a situation where they've obliged themselves, where they understand just what a signature can do, is probably a good learning scenario.
Andy: It sounds like a good WebQuest to me. (laughter)
Andy: Before you let us talk too much about this, I think this is the sort of question that you folks can answer much better than we can. We're sitting up here pretending to be the experts in this room but you really are the experts because you're the practicing teachers. By all means, please jump in....
Audience Comment:Hi, I'm Lynn Matz, and I'm from just outside Philadelphia. This is what we're thinking about doing for this September, given the fact we have an AUP that kids don't seem to be reading. One of the things we want to do in our middle school is ask a student who was recently suspended for two days for misuse of the Internet to deliver the introductory AUP explanation in the fall, and explain some of the pitfalls of using the Internet.
Several of us at once: What qualifies for a two-day suspension?
Lynn: I had a tracker on our webpage, and in my checking through the analysis of who was linking to our webpage, someone had put our school name in as a search. Ten sites came up and one of them was a student site on Angelfire. He had a hotlist of hacking sites, bomb making sites, and a link to our school. Therefore we had to get involved....
Andy: I've got see if I understand this.... Was the student putting together this website at Angelfire on school time or on school property, or did construct this at home?
Lynn: He did this at home - and had he not had a link to our school we probably wouldn't have done anything.
Andy: Well then what you did to him was probably unconstitutional....
Lynn: Why? What did we do wrong?
Andy: What you did was punish a student for what he did at home. There are Supreme Court and Federal court precedents going back over 20 years guaranteeing a student's right to publish underground newspapers that that are critical of schools....
Lynn: But he wasn't criticizing the school; he was linking to it.
Andy: It doesn't matter. He can criticize you, mock you, talk about whatever he wants to talk about. If a student publishes something or his or her own time and the school punishes them, you've punished them for expressing free speech. A few years ago the ACLU almost brought a case against a district in Washington State that could have bankrupted the district if it had gone all the way. The case was so in the favor of the student the district realized they had no chance of justifying their punishment of him. The student publishes a website at home and the school punishes him for not liking what he said or how he said it. That's going against his first amendment rights.
Al: While people have the freedom to link, they create an association with anyone else they're linking to. I would take offense to someone linking to our website from a site that we wouldn't want to associate with. As a matter of fact, there's been discussion in the past of whether it's appropriate to contact me before they link to my site, asking my permission. I don't know about the legalities of this, but my instinct says if the school doesn't want they're link somewhere they ought to have the right to not have it there. And if this is articulated in the AUP, I would argue that the student violated the AUP.
Andy: Even if you if you think what the student did is not appropriate, there is nothing illegal about linking to a person's site unless what you're doing is stealing someone's content or portraying it as yours - like if I had a frame on my website that would flash CNN headlines. That would be a copyright violation. CNN could sue me for it. But if I have a page that links to CNN, my school, and my favorite bomb sites, that's my right.
Al: I think we should litigate this. (laughter)
Andy: Every case in the past of student publishing outside of school has gone in the favor of the student. In terms of how this might apply to the Net, let me say more about the case I just alluded to. In 1995 a high school student named Paul Kim put together an online parody of his school's website that said, among other things, that the students' favorite hobbies included masturbation, date rape and drug. It was a vicious attack on student culture at that school. When the principal found out, she rescinded his merit scholarship, saying his website violated school policy because he was attacking the school, and wrote to every college he applied to and rescinded the school's recommendations. The ACLU soon got involved and quickly forced the school to pay for the lost scholarship money and apologize to him and every student in the district for violating his first amendment rights. And if memory serves me he should be graduating from Columbia right now.
Comment: My name is Mara Sleeper and I'm a technology teacher at West Philadelphia High School. I've also been concerned about paper publishing but I don't agree with you because I think it's a school's responsibility to set standards for students. You can explain to students that when you cross a certain line that it can lead to things that become out of control. So while you're working within a school you need to maintain a certain framework. The guidelines you set for your students have to be very clear. Our school is divided into learning communities. Our teachers are very firm about certain rules that are set for our students. Several years ago some of our students were involved in yearbook publication, and they published profanity in the yearbook. When parents saw that yearbook they were irate. That was a documentation of their school, what the students had learned. The district had to publish another yearbook that removed the offensive language.
Al: But that's a totally different context...
Andy: According to current Supreme Court precedent, if you put together a yearbook and it is part of a class - you have an actual yearbook class - then it's considered a form of educational instruction and the students do not have the right or the authority to decide exactly what goes in it. In the end it's the yearbook teacher who must serve as editor-in-chief and publisher.
The Hazelwood case in 1989 says if a student tries to publish something that the school deems as inappropriate, such as writing something in a year book or the official school newspaper, the school can control the content. For example, there was a case a year or so ago where a group of students secretly put the word "nigger" in their yearbook. Because that happened as part of an academic program there was no question that the students had no right to do what they did. But if the students had put together their own yearbook as an extracurricular activity after school, the courts have ruled they're protected by the first amendment because the students are the editors and publishers - the ones who have the right to decide what gets in. It's their public forum and it's protected.
When it comes to the Web, as long as they don't create something that's obscene, libelous or in violation of copyright, if a student publishes a website on their own time away from school, it is fully protected by first amendment rights. This isn't an issue of whether or not a school thinks it's inappropriate - it's just flat out unconstitutional for them to interfere. So if a school wants to get itself wrapped up in litigation, that's fine with me - it'll just help clarify the precedent.
Mara: Could you say more about this law regarding classes?
Andy: Sure... What the courts said is that if you have a situation like a school yearbook or newspaper that is part of the curriculum, like a journalism class, the students therefore report to an instructor who makes all final decisions as publisher and editor. In cases where the publication is considered an instructional activity, it's not considered a public forum and thus isn't granted full first amendment protection. But if the students are producing content either as an extracurricular activity or at home, as long as there's no instructor involved and they're not getting school credit for it, they get full first amendment protection.
Larry: Wow... we're just getting to the good stuff now. We need to go for another hour. I want to jump in and ask Tom a question: is any of the teacher content on Blue Web'n or Filamentality filtered?
Tom: We don't use filtering software - we use three human beings and a graduate assistant. What we're doing is looking at the web, and if we find something we like and it meets certain criteria, we add it to the database. It's selected, a way of saying we're finding good stuff, but not necessarily we're keeping bad stuff out. An opposite example would be Ask Jeeves for kids. That's a search engine who's job is to make the web safe for kids. It's two different points of view. Shelley: I think we're a very litigious society. It's important that we have case law and jurisprudence, and the Supreme Court will help resolve some of these questions, but that shouldn't take the place of this debate we're having here and other debates that need to happen. I mean, I won't always defer to the opinions of Clarence Thomas; that's not something I'm willing to do. So we can't wait while potential precedent work its way through the court system. We need to have exchanges like this one over student publishing and newspapers and individual rights. What rights does a young person have that are different from her parents' rights? At the risk of sounding like a Jenny One-Note, that's really what I would love to have you leave with today - that we need to continue to engage in these conversations and not allow decisions to be played out solely in the court system.
Andy: Not only do we need to continue this debate and have it play out further, we need to become as aware as possible as to what the current precedents are for these issues. There are resources online that go through case law as its stands right now. Unfortunately there just isn't much precedent specifically regarding the Internet yet, especially when saying that students and teachers can or cannot do this or that. But there's plenty of case law regarding students publishing in traditional media: on paper, in yearbooks, recordings, students protesting Vietnam by wearing black armbands. There is plenty of precedent that many legal theorists regard as applying to the Internet as well as to traditional media. What we need to do, then is become better aware as to what these cases are. There's a website run by the Student Press Law Center at http://www.splc.org. You should check it out and become familiar with it. If you join my WWWEDU listserv, we've been discussing this issue for a while and we'll continue to discuss it, so grab me later and I'll tell you how to join.
Larry: Speaking of later, our hour is up. Can you believe it? One last question for you to think about. I've worked at a teacher education institution for some time, and I'm just wondering how many deans of education are informed about this issue? And how many teacher education faculty if they're working with pre-service teachers? And what about school board members? The whole field of leadership.... OK, one last comment.
Trevor Shaw: Those of you who are in public education will have to excuse my inexperience. I'm in a private setting and we have a tremendous amount more leeway in terms of what we can do with kids and parents than you. But in my opinion this dialogue is a classic confusion between what is constitutional and what is moral. They're not necessarily the same thing. If I discover a kid who's building bombmaking websites, one thing I can do is throw him out of school, but it's more important that we get the parent involved and on your side. My wife works in a public school, and so much of the frustration I see is because of the brick wall that gets built between teachers and parents. It happens in private schools too but we all need to make a better effort to getting the parents on the side of bringing the kids up.
comment: I'm Mike Russ and I'm from Evansville, Indiana. One reason I came up, and Andy has just mentioned this, is that if you go to his listserv, you'll find a lot of these same points debated constantly and wonderfully - a lot of different points of view. Also, I think someone mentioned this earlier: we have a lot of rights and responsibilities already incorporated into schools, and this has to be a part of that strategy. You need to look at all of it at once, and kids need to take your Internet rules as seriously as they take rules against drugs, weapons, etc. We must lay it all out as part of the rules they all have to obey in the first place.