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The Smoothwall is Breaking? OR Finding Tiny Cracks in the Smoothwall Defense Sytem

Smoothwall. What do you know about Smoothwall? It seems to be a kind of site blocker. Smoothwall has been installed at our school. The horror. No, really.

Let me explain. Here’s the picture before Smoothwall…

“A kid Named Yoshio Naru* skips merrily along the path to the local school. Grinning to himself, he thinks of all the fun he is going to have at the public library. And the school library. You see, his town is so small, it’s school and public library are one. Soon, Yoshio will be chatting with his pals on Facebook, looking at cool pictures on Flickr, or even playing the latest RPG’s (Role Playing Games). Yes, the town library was a place filled with adventure, drama, instant messages, e-mails, and, of course, the odd book stuffed in the back. Upon reaching the library, our chum Yoshio Naru is pleased to see that he is not disappointed. Things are still the same, and it would never change. It couldn’t. Why, even the thought of it changing was unthinkable!”

*Yoshio Naru was just the first name that came to mind.

**Excerpt from www.fuzzyglove.wordpress.com

Now, lets take a look at the scene, a few months later, just when Smoothwall had been installed. Actually, it was on that exact day…

“Hearing the bell that marked the end of class, Yoshio Naru quickly left the classroom and ran down to the library, where he went everyday to check on his e-mail. He did this, because his house didn’t have very good internet access. The school library was the only place his family (and many others), could safely use the internet without fear of a sudden connection loss. Quickly logging in to his blog, he finished typing the blog post that he needed for school, and pressed save. Suddenly, he heard a cry of anguish from the computer around the corner. It was the school librarian. She was helping her daughter log in to her favorite site: WebKinz. “A message just popped up! It says that “This site has been blocked because the content has been deemed unsuitable by the administrator! It says that it’s reason is that the site is categorized under ‘Games!’ ‘

Quickly saving and logging out of his blog, Yoshio quickly went to his favorite game sites: blocked. Facebook: blocked. Flickr, YouTube, Addictinggames, G-mail, Hotmail, MSN, Google Images, Google Docs, even Mariowiki. All blocked. In shock, Yoshio quickly went back to his blog write a post on it, and that was blocked too. Stumbling out of the room, Yoshio Naru walked home in a daze. He never set foot in the library ever again.”

See what I mean? Smoothwall is an unnecessary evil. Our school already had a site blocker! Now we have this one. What you fail to see is that my town has a lot of contractors and people away from home in it. Most of those people are just renting rooms with no computers. Their only connection with the people they love is the internet in most cases. Some people still have the telephone, but not all. Now that Smoothwall has invaded, their last connection with their beloved family has been severed on the jagged rocks of the wall that is smooth. Smoothwall isn’t so smooth after all. But there is hope.

Our classroom work is mostly on the internet. We do 60% of our work on Google Docs. Our G-mail accounts are our life line. Now that that’s gone, what do we do? Our teacher talked to our principle for a very very long time. In the end, he made a list of sites that he needed unblocked immediately.  That included Google images, YouTube, Flickr, our blogs, G-mail, etc.

The good news is that almost everything on the list that our teacher made got unblocked. The bad news is that they would not unblock any web-mail. That is really bad news. Almost everyone in town comes to the library to check their mail. Some chinks are opening in the Smoothwall Defense System, but there is still a long long ways to go.

The decision is unmistakeable: SMOOTHWALL HAS TO GO!

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4 Responses to “The Smoothwall is Breaking? OR Finding Tiny Cracks in the Smoothwall Defense Sytem”

  1. Nice post! Filters are often the tool of the misinformed… If you want to read my thoughts on the subject as a teacher, have a go: http://pwoessner.com/2009/07/25/60-second-rant-web-filters/

  2. I love the way you’ve presented the tangible effects of filtering for “safety” in our schools and libraries. I must admit, I don’t know how much more freedom our district allows us (in Coquitlam, British Columbia) with the use of social media until I hear examples like this. Speaking out, and presenting matters in such a concise & clear fashion – where we can’t be left with any opinion but that filters are an absurd means of educating students online – is the best course of action, though! Kudos.
    Bryan

  3. For Your Information:

    The day I posted this post, 69 people looked at it in 4 hours. For my blog, that set a new record. Me personally, I was shocked. I didn’t think that such a post would create and/or get so much traffic. Thanks all!

  4. I fully agree! SMOOTH WALL has to go! It help here and there, but it doesn’t help with much of our school work, because we can’t even open our email account and we only have a few sites here and there. So that is a problem. They have to keep away bad sites not mostly all of the sites! I like how you described this, and it is an excellent post!


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