Why Moodle Matters Even More

With the passage of HR5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), by the House and probable passage by the Senate, it looks like the federal government will do its best to try and regulate emerging technologies. In a nutshell, this bill will require schools and libraries to block social networking sites or risk losing federal money.

Like many things the federal government has done in the last few years, the fear factor is central. We must fight those online predators – where ever they are hiding. As a father, I agree it is a bit scary. I also know my kids will go to a park without my wife or myself sometime in the future (they are 3 and 5 now). We have been teaching them not to talk to strangers since they could talk so they will be able to explore the world a bit without mommy and daddy (or Big Brother) looking over their shoulders. We now have more to teach our kids, don’t talk to strangers at the park AND online. Simple. We can teach this lesson at home AND we can teach them at school.

As a blogger and a teacher who has used Web 2.0 apps with my students, I also know there is a big difference between what I have done with wikis and the students’ personal use of MySpace. However, this bill could place both of those uses in the same category. Essentially DOPA outlines criteria for sites that should be blocked by schools and libraries, if it

1) is offered by a commercial entity 2) has online profiles 3) has journal or blogging features 4) elicits personal information and 5) enables communication among users. (from Firewheel Design).

In addition to MySpace, it looks like many forms of public Web 2.0 apps could be included – Blogger (Blogspot sites), wikis (PB Wiki, Wikispaces), Flickr, YouTube, and even Amazon. Pretty much everything new. In education we are already struggling to get cutting edge technology into the hands of students. Between lack of resources, lack of professional development, reluctant teachers, reluctant adminstrators, the massive emphasis on standards, and the test-driven educational system, integration of these new technologies already faces an uphill battle. Yet, most of our students are online often and the evolving American/global job market is placing a greater emphasis on technology and information management.

Who is teaching them how to act out there? DOPA doesn’t include any measures to educate only to block access. Of course, most students probably chat and update their MySpace at home, so this measure is ineffective to begin with.

So that brings us to Moodle. It is not a commercial undertaking. It does have online profiles, blogging, asks for personal info, and enables communication among users. But, it does it in a closed network. It can be easily set to block access or, at least, block contributions from non-members. Students can learn responsible online behavior in the safety of a classroom. It is an amazing tool, but it also not the same as blogger or pbwiki or youtube.

Is this ideal? No. It is ridiculous that the legislators, whom are mostly digital immigrants – at best, are passing laws and judgement on technology without fully understanding the implications or consulting with actual librarians and teachers. If you missed Senator Steven’s (the committee chair in charge of Internet regulation) comments on the Internet, you can view it here. Be afraid, very afraid. In the end, we still have the responsibility to try and prepare students for the real world. Today’s real world includes social software and Web 2.0.

More information on DOPA can be found at:

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4 thoughts on “Why Moodle Matters Even More”

  1. You’re darn straight this bill doesn’t prepare them for the real world. What happens when they are looking for a job in their twenties and someone finds their myspace page, or livejournal, or blogger blog? If they delete it, it will still be available in Google’s cache or whatever else is being used by that time.

    Censorship is not the answer, but education is the answer. The Internet is no longer reserved for a sub group of the population that understands technology. Getting kids to understand that posting every thought online can be the equivalent of giving your personal journal to everyone you meet needs to be done. It seems like this is another example of politicians just throwing anything at an issue to say they did something about it.

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  2. I respect your opinion, however I was surprised and disappointed that the vote was 410-15. Many of those who oppose DOPA do so because they believe that children should be educated and not restricted. I agree that they should be educated, but let us face it, not all parents do their job and the parents who are doing their job are left with schools and libraries that are not doing their job.

    I can not speak on behalf of the US, but I know that surprisingly some Canadian public libraries and schools do not monitor children’s internet access nor do they have filters in place. We were all teens once. I keep hearing the same comments. “Parents do your job.” Well I ask you this, “How many of you rebelled against your parents?”

    No matter how much we take care of our children and educate them, it only takes them making one unhealthy choice to put them at risk. You can educate your child untill you are all blue in the face. The truth is that children don’t often think of the consequences of unhealthy choices. If DOPA will save just one child, don’t you think the bill is worth it?

    I do want to add that while I support the bill, I do think that the legislation should be rewritten so it does not block sites such as Yahoo and Google. I think they need to better determine what sites will be blocked before passing the law.

    These are just my thoughts!

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  3. A big part of the problem is the fact that this bill is ill conceived from the get go. Perhaps some of these sites should be blocked – in my district LiveJournal, DeadJournal, MySpace, and other sites are already blocked. But pbwiki, wikispaces, wikipedia, blogspot, wordpress, etc. aren’t. This bill could require all of those to be blocked.

    Someone saw a problem, called it a name that frightened people (and legislators to vote against it), and passed a generalized solution that does not address education or any other of potential positives of these types of software.

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