When Ubiquitous Computing May Not Be So Ubiquitous After All…

Here is an odd one I ran into today:

Henrico County, VA. is known for it's massive one-to-one laptop implementation in its schools, putting approximately 25,000 laptops in the hands of middle and high school kids in 2001, first with iBooks, and in 2005 switching to Dell. According to research, this implementation has benefited teachers and students.

Yet…. I ran across this information on the blogbanning website today, which was apparently posted by somebody within the district:

Henrico County in Richmond VA blocks any free homepage sites it's aware of, the majority of all web mail options (even to the point where I can't search for anything in google with the word mail in it). They also block IM, iTunes store, YouTube, Meebo etc. We also block most blogging options, myspace, livejournal, xanga and facebook. I was able to get del.icio.us and bloglines unblocked recently but I'm not sure how long that will last. We lost Flickr last week….. Elementary schools have begun requesting that image sites like Google Images and Flickr be added to their blocked list. 148 schools share three "filtering" servers so if one requests a site be included, it affects many more schools than just one.

This seems a little ironic if you ask me. I understand schools have a responsibility to keep kids from accessing inappropriate content, but it seems a little odd that after all the time, money, and effort that went into getting this project up and running, schools are really limiting what kids can do with the tools they're given. Will Richardson has a good discussion on the topic of censorship on his Weblogg-ed blog.

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