School Punishes Student For Blogging From Home

School 8 Schools across the country are cracking down on student computer use; blocking social sites and proxy servers. Many schools are perfectly within their right to prevent teenagers from frequenting sites like MySpace, Facebook and Xanga while using school hardware. In all actuality, there is no real need for students to be on such social sites at school when it could impede on studying and perhaps pose a danger to the student (internet predators).

Do schools try to reach to far? This article seems to think so, as there is another school – Plainfield School District in Illinois – attempting to reach into the homes of its students and lay the smack down.

A 17-year-old student who posted on his blog site that he was being bullied and threatened by the Plainfield School District will face an expulsion hearing this week, a local attorney said.

Back in November, Pope John XXIII Regional Highschool decided to stretch their rights a little far and reach into the home of their students, threatening suspension to anyone that failed to delete their accounts on various social networking sites. My post – School Bans Social Websites – discusses this school’s attempt at control and has been met with a huge onslaught of student irritation.

Students are generally unhappy with this type of control – as well as the simple blocking of sites that many schools are doing – and are reacting in the only way they can…with their voice. They comment on my blog expressing their opinions (I’ve had 119 comments on that blog post as of this posting and they are still rolling in), they complain on their social sites, they blog. The 17 in this article blogged the following on May 2 (without mentioning the school the student wrote):

“I feel threatened by you, I cant even have a public Web page with out you bullying me and telling me what has to be removed. Where is this freedom of speech that this government is sworn to uphold? … Did you ever stop to think this will start a community backlash? The kids at Columbine did what the did because they were bullied. … In my opinion you are the real threat here. None of us ever put in our xanga’s that they were going to kill or bring harm to any one. We voiced our opinions. You are the real threat here. you are depriving us of our right to learn. now stick that in your pipe and smoke it.”

What are the school districts thinking? It is the parents job to police student’s internet usage at home, NOT the school’s. It doesn’t matter if the school doesn’t like the sites students visit or if a student says something bad about his school…they may be kids but don’t they get some level of free speech? The article states:

Superintendent John Harper, who cannot comment on student cases, said the district will take action if it believes there is a safety issue. Meanwhile a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said school districts must be careful not to discipline students on matters that occur outside school. The student’s attorney believes Plainfield School District is overstepping its boundaries.

“The district is going to take away the student’s education for exercising his freedom of speech,” said attorney Carl Buck. “I feel like they are trying to control his freedom of speech. … He is saying, ‘You can’t bully people and we have a right to object and you can’t throw people out of school for voicing their opinions.'”

Schools simply need to wake up and smell the coffee. Block social sites at school if its impeding on school work, but don’t threaten and punish the kids for doing things at home. Educate them on the dangers of the internet and educate the families on the need for some policing of internet usage at home. I want schools to teach my kids (when I have them), not parent them.

In closing, here’s a line from the article sums up my opinions:

“It is not a crime to write things on the Internet – though we find them offensive, troubling and disheartening, it is not a crime[.]”

Google Services

After posting about Google Maps’ implementation of satellite imagery from Hurricane Katrina, it was suggested that I do a follow-up on Google Earth. I think I’ll go one step further and elaborate on some of Google’s hottest services and slightly speculate on what could be coming down the road.

Google Maps
Google Maps vs. MapQuest…Google wins hands down. Not only is this product able to generate efficient directions, but you can view maps using the standard road maps, using satellite imagery, or a hybrid of the two! This is a very sweet product that has been blogged about by many so won’t elaborate too much more on this product…but I would suggest heading over to MaisonBisson.com and NoSheep!.

Google Earth
If you think Google Maps is something sweet, Google Earth will really turn you on! Ok, fine. It isn’t a web app…its a desktop app. Google Earth is a product formerly known as Keyhole until Google bought them up (along with Keyhole’s satellite) then reworked and rebranded it as their own. This is Google Maps on steroids. When you open the app, you start in space looking at Earth. When you enter a city, state, etc in the search box and hit enter, you see the earth rotate and you zoom in on the location you entered. If the location happens to be a place that is densely populated, there is a chance that there are 3-dimensional buildings available for you to view…simply check the ‘Buildings’ box and tilt your view and viola! If you haven’t checked it out yet, I would highly recommend you get off your butt and go download it. Its bound to be a great procrastination tool!

Gmail
Google Mail has breathed life back into the e-mail web client industry. They are setting the standard and are crushing competitors with their innovative design and search-based/tagging e-mail archiving. Gmail is a whole new way of handling the taxonomy of e-mail!

In Gmail:

  • There are no folders, there is labeling. WTF is that? Well, its a way of marking an e-mail as part of a specific topic…say I receive an e-mail from MasterWish about my new account and I want to save it. Rather than dropping that e-mail in a folder marked ‘MasterWish’, I apply a label to that e-mail called ‘MasterWish.’ Ok, so whats the difference between that and folders? Here’s the kicker, I can apply a second label to that e-mail called ‘Account Information’…Then I can apply a third called ‘Sweet Websites’. Basically it allows you to put an e-mail into as many categories that you want which makes searching for the e-mail a whole lot easier. Now I no longer have to sit and think “Alright…this e-mail is about MasterWish so I want to put it in the MasterWish folder…but wait. It is also an Account Information e-mail….hrm.” Now I simply label it as many times as I want and I’m done!
  • Goolge Search Power! Yeah, rather than folders and moving e-mail all over gods creation, Google has a handy dandy ‘Archive’ button. If you don’t want a crap ton of e-mail that you have already read sitting in your inbox and you don’t want to delete it, Archive it! No worries, if you want to find it again simply use the google-style search box to find it again. Hugely efficient, hugely accurate, extremely easy, and faster than Outlook search :D
  • View entire e-mail threads. When you get a conversation going back and forth with a friend or business…i.e. you send an e-mail, they reply, you reply, they reply, you reply, etc. Rather than cluttering up your inbox with umpteen-million e-mails, Gmail places them in one! You can see every e-mail in a given discussion and expand/hide parts that you care/don’t care to see.
  • AJAX. (Asynchronous Javascript And XML). With Gmail there are few page loads. As you navigate around your Gmail account you may notice that the page usually doesn’t reload… Thats AJAX. Gmail and Google Maps have made it hugely popular. I’ll post a followup describing it later because it is its own topic in and of itself.

Google Talk
I just downloaded Google Talk today :) Google now has an IM application! If you have a Gmail account, you can get it and login without creating yet another account to remember. As my friends move towards Gmail accounts, this will become a slicker tool to use. If you have a Gmail account, I urge you to download Google Talk and give it a whirl. If there is enough end-user response to the application, I’m sure Google will be able to do great things in the IM market. Its simple. No ads. It offers one-click access to your Gmail account.

Google Desktop
Microsoft did it wrong (as usual)…Google has done it right (as usual) with Google Desktop. This tool will index all of your e-mail (Outlook, Outlook Express, Gmail, etc), your IM programs, visited webpages, text documents, and a crap ton of other stuff allowing you to search (using a browser) all of the above returning search results as quick as Google Search! If you have used the Microsoft search tool in Windows, you know from experience that its like watching grass grow.

Oh, and with the newest version of Google Desktop, there is a sidebar that allows you to monitor all sorts of things in addition to executing desktop searches. There is a photo rotater, a blog monitor (places newest posts on your most frequented site visits), an iTunes controller, etc.

The above is what I use and find extremely cool. Obviously there are a whole lot of additional web apps that Google is developing. I’ll be posting more as I use them ;) In the mean time, check out what Google has to offer at the Google Labs. Where are they headed? Are they slowly cornering/buying out various web markets for a ‘secret scheme’ or just trying to make right what has been horribly wrong for so long? Time will tell…we do know, however, that Google is making other companies *cough cough*Microsoft*cough cough* extremely angry as the Google competition is hard to top! If Microsoft is threatening to “Kill Google”, the company must be doing something right!