CHICAGO — According to results of a survey conducted by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the filtering of legitimate, educational websites and academically useful social networking tools continues to be an issue in most schools across the country. An executive summary of the supplemental questions on filtering included as a part of AASL's longitudinal survey, School Libraries Count! is now available on the AASL website in conjunction with the observance of Banned Websites Awareness Day. Banned Websites Awareness Day seeks to promote an awareness of how overly restrictive filtering affects student learning. The summary can be found on the AASL website at www.ala.org/aasl/filtering-schools.
An overwhelming majority, 98 percent, of the 4,299 respondents of the survey, reported that school or district filters are in place in their school. Data collected in the supplemental questions also suggests that many schools are going beyond the requirements set forth by the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The top four types of sites currently filtered in schools included social networking sites (88 percent), instant messaging/online chatting (74 percent), gaming (69 percent) and video services (66 percent). Respondents also reported the blocking of personal email accounts, peer-to-peer file sharing and FTP sites. Most reported that filtering is in place for both students and staff.
The use of filters extends to the growing trend of allowing students to bring their own devices to school. When asked which types of portable electronic devices the school or district allows students to bring to school, the top devices were e-readers (53 percent) and cell phones (49 percent). Other personal devices allowed in schools included laptops, MP3 players and netbooks. To filter the websites viewed on these items, respondents reported their school employs the use of the acceptable use policies (48 percent) or mandates that the device be logged on through the school network (47 percent).
Many school librarians responded that student learning is impeded by school and/or district filters when asked what impact school filters have on programming. Fifty-two percent indicated that school filters interfere with student’s research when completing keyword searches. Librarians also reported that filtering discounts the social aspect of learning (42 percent) and filtering hampers continued collaboration outside of face-to-face opportunities (25 percent). While 92 percent of respondents indicated they could request that a site be unblocked, most reported that the decision is made at the district level (68 percent) rather than at the building level (17 percent).
“The results of the supplemental survey questions demonstrate just how prevalent the use of filters is in today’s schools and the negative impact it can have on student learning,” said Susan Ballard, AASL president. “Through Banned Websites Awareness Day, it is AASL's hope that we can spread awareness of how this overly restrictive filtering of educational websites and social media platforms hampers the development of ethical digital citizens in this increasingly digital age.”
To raise awareness of this overly restrictive blocking of educational websites and academically useful social networking tools impacts student learning, AASL asks educators to observe the second annual Banned Websites Awareness Day on Wednesday, Oct. 3. To read the executive summary for more statistics on filtering, visit the AASL website at www.ala.org/aasl/filtering-schools.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.