A local school district recently surveyed other area districts, asking a simple question:

Does your district block Wikipedia?

It’s a great question to consider. I tend to agree with this perspective (must be my English teacher background):

As a former English teacher, I understand concerns about Wikipedia. However, I like having it there because it also provides an opportunity to discuss reliability of sources and media literacy. If everything that might be questionable is blocked, students will never develop the ability to sift through information themselves because we will have already made the choices for them.

As far as information is concerned, I think the ability to be savvy consumers is the greatest skill we can teach them.
Source: Mentioned in the TEC-SIG list

Further down, you can fill out a short survey about Wikipedia in schools and see the graphs of responses (nice new feature from GoogleDocs but not available to visitors…it’s a pending feature. Still, scroll to the bottom to see results as i get to update them, or look at the raw results or download as ODS or XLS).

Here’s another perspective to consider:

I agree that there is tons of valuable information on Wikipedia. My only concern is CIPA, which states “An Internet safety policy must include technology protection measures to block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) are obscene, (b) child pornography, or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors).” (http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cipa.html )

I am concerned that many people would consider some pages in Wikipedia to be obscene (It does contain nude images). I would love to see an official statement as to whether Wikipedia’s contents are CIPA compliant or not. However, if Wikipedia is not CIPA compliant, then the school district is not eligible for E-Rate funding, meaning a loss of funding for the district and possibly the job of the one controlling the filter.

In the past, Wikipedia’s images were all located in particular directory, so I just blocked that directory, and students could use Wikipedia just not the images (a few of which are probably obscene). Unfortunately, they have recently changed their structure, and I have not figured out how to block just the images. Currently, I have Wikipedia open for staff members so that they can use the site in class in monitored situations.

I understand the importance of teaching them skills of discernment for what they read and access, but I also think it is important to model for them obedience to the laws of the land, and I am not sure that access for minors to all the contents of Wikipedia is lawful. Like I said, I would love to see an official statement (but I don’t see that happening).

I might be a bit hard on this, and it I am troubled by the idea that I am blocking students from good educational resources. However, I am also conflicted with the idea of giving k-12 students to access of all concepts in Wikipedia. I would love to hear your thoughts on Wikipedia’s compliance to CIPA.

Your thoughts?

Consider filling out this survey and putting in your two cents…

Results appear here. Unfortunately, you can’t see the Summary results (that’s an unimplemented feature as of yet “The ability to publish the summary so that others may view it”), Here they are as of 10:42 PM (Central) on 12/22/2008:

143 responses

Summary See complete responses

Should school districts block Wikipedia?
Yes 11 8%
No 132 92%
Does your district block Wikipedia?
Yes 10 7%
No 114 80%
Only the “inappropriate for K-12” parts 19 13%
Have you had any parents object to their child(ren) having access to Wikipedia in school?
Yes 5 3%
No 138 97%
Do librarians in your district support Wikipedia?
Yes 32 22%
No 38 27%
No idea 51 36%
Other 22 15%
Do you encourage students to edit Wikipedia and add content relevant to your community?
Yes 28 20%
No 105 73%
Other 10 7%
Do you think the U.S. should do away with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)?
Yes 31 22%
No 112 78%
Is teaching digital citizenship an effective deterrent against students willfully accessing inappropriate content?
Yes 67 47%
No 56 39%
Other 20 14%
What is your occupation?
Technology Director 20 29%
Librarian 27 40%
K-12 Student 0 0%
University Student 0 0%
Teacher 10 15%
District Teacher Specialist/Professional Support 8 12%
Other 3 4%

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