Web Search Engine

written 22 July 2001 being revised May 2006

Google site search


1   Introductiion

One of the main uses that educationalists see for the world wide web (web) and the most obvious, is to use it as a passive information resource, much like a library. However the web is not like a library in many respects and when trying to access it for information a lot of problems arise.

In the special conditions required for the achievement of teaching objectives, teachers and students can be confounded by a further set of problems.

In the even more controlled conditions required for teaching in the classroom, yet another range of problems present themselves to the teacher who attempts to use the web in a way similar to say a textbook resource.

These three classes of problems will be expanded on further, but the three classes can be described as general, education specific, classroom specific.

2   The Three Problem Classes

The reason it is important to distinguish three different levels of criteria for including information in an educational search engine is that a lot of information is useful to achieve teaching objectives but may not be suitable for use in the classroom. There are three types of information that could be admitted by the search engine, general, education specific, classroom specific.

2.1   General

When a school makes information accessable to students it takes upon itself some responsibility for the consequences of providing children and even teenagers with such information. NZ Society recognises and expects this responsibility to be acted upon. This means that schools must be careful not to propagate information that could cause harm to students, trachers, the school or the generl community. Considering what information is available on the web one could wonder if anything is safe to download in this context.

There are various solutions to managing this responsibility. A school's internet use Policy, approved by the Board, should outline what the School sees as its responsibilities. As far as I know there is are legal requirements which schools must adhere to.

This means that School Internet Use Policy could simply disclaim responsibility for whatever happens to be downloaded by students or staff using the school internet connection. A school might additionally place total responsibility on the user, and require the users to conform to standards which the school dictates. This is a reasonable approach under the circumstances. Students and teachers alike are required to conform to an appropriate standard of behaviour. Under this regime the school may not consider it has a responsibilty to actively monitor how its computer system is used, but simply to state that abuse of its Use Policy will result in punitive action by the School.

Under such a scheme, a school does not have to concern itself with the issue of filtering or censoring information read from the web. However the lack of active filtering will inevitably effect performance, for kids being kids, abuse will occur and get out of hand if not actively checked. Abuse of the system will degrade performance of the system at the very least, as well as provide students with alternative ways to spend their time other than pursueing their educational objectives.

Therefore it is difficult to see how any but the smallest schools can avoid using filtering processes (client-side censorship).

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