Do firewalls really work?
This blog explores the growing problem of institutions blocking educational tools and other internet features. Institutions are being held more liable for inappropriate content and conduct through the internet. The problem is the laws being put in place protect institutions but in turn reduce students exposure to critical digital skills.
Why block the internet in the first place?
It is completely ineffective and wasting tax payers money. We have worked with students in several institutions. We are a hi-tech group and are well aware of ways around fire walls. This blog is not a tutorial on how to break through a firewall but we will point out that it is very easy. Students make comments that they know more than adults and teachers about the internet which unfortunately is true in a lot of institutions. Hacking through firewalls is as easy as pouring a bowl of cereal in the morning.
Are students really blocked out of the outside world inside the classroom?
With the expansion of 4G and 4G LTE coverage most students have full access to the internet with no firewall blocks during school sessions. Thanks to the laws in place due to parents concern because they must be able to reach their children any time. It is illegal to scramble cellular signals. So in turn students have unrestricted full access to very high speed internet on school grounds. They are also able to wifi share their connections with students who do not have access. So overall the firewalls in institutions are not blocking the students. They are blocking the staff from retrieving educational and helpful information through the internet.
Institutional firewalls block some very useful educator tools
- Engineering sites
- Educational sites such as national geographic
- Communication with other educators through virtual meetings
- Free online tools such as CAD drawing tools
- Free online brain storming diagram tools
- Access to file sharing such as dropbox and google drive
In conclusion we can see that internet firewalls in institutions serve one purpose. They are in place to protect the IP address of the institution NOT to provide an educational platform for students and educators in order to learn critical digital skills that they will need in the outside world. The knee jerk reaction was for institutions to block 80% of content assuming that most internet content is inappropriate for students. We can see that the people making the laws are not hi-tech and think the internet is only for facebook and social networking. How could it possibly be educational.
The entire system needs a completely new way of thinking. Third party networking and computer companies who install and monitor school networks just follow the rules and follow the herd. If you talk to them about fire wall blocking they will tell you its to protect their company. There is no regard for the education of the students, that is not their concern and they do not have time to actually design the firewall for institutional purposes. It will eat into their profits.
Our group is thinking outside the box. We are looking at the aspects of digital education. Online degrees have skyrocketed since 2000. Young students will not survive in the real world without digital skills learned in their schools. Handwriting is a thing of the past. Some private schools are listening and have already begun making the needed changes.
Unfortunately every time there is another internet incident in a school the grip just keeps getting tighter. But that is only in the United States. Schools over seas have full access to internet tools because laws are much more relaxed. Are these international students going to be better prepared for the new digital world?