CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Steven Zink

Committee Member

Gertrude W Abramson

Committee Member

Marlyn Littman

Abstract

School districts have implemented filtering and safety policies in response to legislative and social mandates to protect students from the proliferation of objectionable online content. Subject related literature suggests these policies are more restrictive than legal mandates require and are adversely affecting information access and instruction. There is limited understanding of how filtering and safety policies are affecting teaching and learning because no comprehensive studies have investigated the issues and trends surrounding filtering and safety policy implementation. In order to improve existing safety policies, policymakers need research-based data identifying end user access issues that limit technology integration in the kindergarten-12th grade (K-12) educational setting.

This study sought to examine Internet filtering and safety policy implementation issues in South Carolina's K-12 public schools to determine their influence on information access and instruction. A mixed methods research design, which includes both quantitative and qualitative approaches, was used to investigate the research problem. Quantitative data were collected from information technology (IT) administrators who were surveyed regarding filtering and safety policy implementation, and school library media specialists (SLMS) were surveyed concerning the issues they encounter while facilitating information access in a filtered environment. Qualitative data were collected through interviews with a subset of the SLMS population, thereby providing further insight about Internet access issues and their influence on teaching and learning. School districts' Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) were analyzed to determine how they addressed recent legislative mandates to educate minors about specific Web 2.0 safety issues.

The research results support the conclusions of previous anecdotal studies which show that K-12 Internet access policies are overly restrictive, resulting in inhibited access to online educational resources. The major implication of this study is that existing Internet access policies need to be fine-tuned in order to permit greater access to educational content. The study recommends Internet safety practices that will empower teachers and students to access the Internet's vast educational resources safely and securely while realizing the Internet's potential to enrich teaching and learning.

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