I’m going to state my opinion up front on this one: yes. But it’s not as black and white as it seems. There is a lot of “bad” websites out there: stuff you don’t want a teenager getting into. Giving a student free range on the internet assumes that they have the skills to know how to use it. This is not always the case. It doesn’t mean they’re devoid of common sense; it means they can do the wrong thing but won’t necessarily.
Youtube has some great teaching material on it. You name it, there is probably a video on it. Hulu can have some appropriate TV clips that may assist your learning unit too. But these are often the first two cites to get blocked, well maybe 2nd and 3rd after social networking sites. Yes, there is inappropriate stuff on these media outlets, but just because that’s so doesn’t make them all bad. By completely blocking them students are missing out on an opportunity to learn something.
But then again schools have the responsibility to protect students. And part of that responsibility is protecting them from information on the internet that they should not access or may be damaging. There is a line between trusting your students and protecting them. Students need some liberties in school but they also need parameters. If you have a class of 30 students and they are all using computers there is no way to monitor what everyone is doing. Obviously some form of monitoring is needed. But maybe there is a middle ground that protects students and can allow for exposure to new information at the same time? What if these websites were blocked and the teacher had an override code so that the students could see this information in class?