IL2009: Trying Not to Filter: Internet Filtering Technologies Update

Tuesday morning I headed to a presentation in the Internet @ Schools West track given by Sarah Houghton-Jan on Internet filtering.

Some of the key points from this session:

  • Filters do not work because the current definition of obscenity does not work on the Internet.
  • Accuracy of filters is still an issue–in both directions–filters both over block some good material and under block objectionable material.
  • Sarah spent months testing filters and found that among the four she tested, the accuracy for filtering text-based Web pages was 81%, accuracy for image searches 44%, and accuracy for e-mail attachments 25%.
  • 81% was the best rating out of all the filters tested for any category.
  • When patrons hit a blocked site they will most likely be too embarrassed to ask for legitimate sites to be unblocked.
  • Examples of legitimate sites that were blocked: WebMD, wikipedia entry about Hustler, WWII history site, National Geographic site about beavers.
  • It’s not only commercial Web sites that were blocked. The library’s own online resources were blocked.
  • It’s also easy to get around filters with portal sites or sites that allow you to click through via a thumbnail image. Adult images on Web pages that did not have sexual text were not blocked. Sites that contained misspelled words such as pron or pr0n instead of porn were not blocked.
  • Sarah cited other studies conducted between 2001-2008 showed about the same ratings as SJPL.
  • In sum, “All filters block a wide range of constitutionally protected content in attempt to block other content.”
  • Filters falsely block many valuable web pages and other online resources such as war, genocide, safe sex, public health.
  • If you have filters in place advise your customers what their experience is going to be like and that good sites WILL BE BLOCKED.
  • Do not send the message to parents and patrons that filters will protect children.
  • To combat filters: use stats from other studies, do good research, collect anecdotal stories.
  • Final result for SJPL: Filtering was not put in place. Now there is a resolution to NEVER filter so it can’t come up again.
  • Price makes a difference. The more you pay the more flexible the filter is. You really get what you pay for.
  • “ERATE isn’t worth it” for filtering according to Houghton-Jan. Have to figure in other costs…staff time for research, install, maintenance.

One of the key take aways from this session is that if you are living with filters in your library, education for the community is key. If you want to fight filters take a look at the work already done by San Jose Public Library.

You can find a copy of Sarah’s slides and links to more resources at her site

IL2009: E-Learning Trends & Tools

This session began with Frank Cervone talking about the trends in e-learning and I followed with a brief bit about tools for e-learning. The take away for my piece was that it really doesn’t matter what tools you use for learning–it’s how you use them. I really wanted to challenge people to think about e-learning and how they can help to make it more interactive for learners.

There were some really good questions from the audience. I’m posting two of them here for discussion. Please add a comment if you have ideas about either of these questions.

  1. A librarian working with high school students who are taking dual enrollment online courses via Blackboard asked how she can communicate more effectively with the students. She said she gets hundreds of questions via email each week from the students and does not have time to answer them individually. The high school students do not seem to like Blackboard but that is what she has to use. Ideas to help her?
  2. Another question came from an academic librarian about how to verify that a person taking or “attending” an online class is really that person and how can we be sure that the person is not paying someone or having a friend take the class for him or her. Frank gave a really good answer to this but I want to see what your thoughts are on this.

If you want to learn more about designing better self-paced e-learning check out this book: Michael Allen’s Guide to E-Learning

Link to my e-learning bookmarks: