Wednesday, December 3, 2008


BBC NEWS | Education | Pupils can beat safe net filters: "Pupils are using special websites to hack out of their school computer network while in the classroom. They then access social networking sites and even hardcore pornography.

On one school's computer it was enough to type the word 'naughty' into the internet browser and hit return."

Another shock horror... no great surprise, story from the BBC News Education pages. There seems to be an attitude that if you block something that a) you are then safe and need not worry and b) no-one would ever think to try to break out of that environment. I remember hearing Randy Pausch's last lecture just over a year ago and the following quote stuck in my head:

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!"

It's a fabulous quote to remind us that blocking something is sometimes what motivates those with creativity and resourcefulness. Blocked sites in China and people seek out how to circumvent those blocks. A whole country seeking to implement a filter on certain 'harmful' sites and I bet you that it'll be broken within hours (minutes?) of being put in place. People restricted from putting content on official sites from educational institutions instead seek to innovate elsewhere. VLEs exchanged for personal learning environments in the name of choice and flexibility.

Why do we persist to think that the answer is always in more and more control? Clamp down and that's it. Problem solved.

Brick walls are a challenge. A wonderful, juicy challenge. The bigger the wall, the better the challenge.

Necessity is the mother of circumvention.


  1. I liked the comment from Robert Scoble when he was in China recently that whenever he was unable to get to one of the sites he wanted to visit, he got a Chinese person to show him how to get around the blocks.

  2. I've always liked the idea of education as a subversive activity. I attended a boarding school with lots of 'no' rules. We broke as many as we could, more because they were there than because we wanted to.

    One of the biggest problems of our society is the growing authoritarianism of the state and the arrogant attitude of nanny state fascists who think they know what is best for the rest of us.

    The best way to make children aware of the dangers of the web, the road, the street (whatever) is to guide and educate them properly, rather than exercising the Theory X lock-down attitude that exits now, where children are criminalised for minor infringements of the law, like throwing a cream bun at a bus.

    We need to re-look at the NC and make it far more flexible so that teachers can take more time to do what is really important in a creative and imaginative way. We produce good teachers in this country. Why not free them up to teach as they can?

    We also give too much lip service to constructivist theory about making children responsible for their own learning and giving them the freedom to learn in their own way, then we squash them with petty rules.

    No wonder we are at the top of the 'worst' list in Europe.

  3. and they say history does not repeat itself!
    This story took me back a few years to when a newbie Maths probationer taught her 5th form how to 'defeat' firewalls!
    Thanks for the memory!

  4. @Alan yes - I liked that comment too!

    @somabula Blog and Joan - mmmm, a fair bit of truth in that, I think...


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