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Sunday, March 23, 2008

We're All Trying to Figure it Out

I have still been thinking a lot about student blogging, this very "risky" activity. I hope that came across with the intended sarcasm. A few blog posts I've read recently have really helped further my thinking. Dean Shareski wrote a post on January 4th titled Why Privacy is a Moot Point.  To paraphrase, he basically says that our obsession with privacy online is overblown, that we have placed unrealistic fears onto anything that is published online. Truly, in this day and age, what is private? How many people have access to your personal information no matter how much you try to safeguard it? At some point we have to stop worrying and live in the world that exists.

As a teacher I think about these issues frequently. I always try to err on the side of caution while still allowing the kids as much freedom of expression and creativity as possible. As you can see I have a photo of myself on my blog. I read and enjoy many blogs that are filled with personal photos. I don't know the bloggers, but I love getting a glimpse into their lives. One of my favorite blogs, Nienie Dialogues, is a photo collage of the blogger's family, including tons of photos of her four, beautiful children. I think she's been blogging like this for years with no adverse effects.

Obviously there's a difference between what we do at home and what we can allow our students to do at school. As I've written, I feel strongly that the only way to teach these issues is through the process of actually using the technologies with students. Our world is changing, and we, as well as our students, need to learn what that means and how we will adapt.
 
What has been interesting to read about is how much everyone is trying to figure these things out for themselves. Al Upton, who had signed parent permission for his bloggers, posted their pictures online. I didn't think this was a big deal at all, although in the interests of being overly cautious, I have told my students that they may not post personal photos. There have been many comments on both sides of the issue.

I recently started an afterschool blogging group. I have been so encouraged and excited by the students' enthusiasm for blogging. Now, the desire to blog is spreading. This past week, three more students, who are not in my afterschool class, started blogs. One student started hers at home on her own. The other two requested my help at school, and I helped them. Of course, I am worried that there will be backlash. I wrote an email to all three of their parents sharing my guidelines for student blogging, but because they are doing this mostly at home, I am not as involved. I had a big discussion with the entire class about how their online behavior will determine whether students in our school get to continue blogging and exploring other web2.0 technologies or not. I told them a little about Al Upton's students and how people are closely watching what happens with students who are allowed to blog. I trust them to do their best. They are learning. I am learning. Learning is what it's all about, right?

As usual, someone else really summed it up perfectly for me: This is from the comments section on Al Upton's blog. I think it really makes the point:

1 comment:

Many things said...

I think I understand the point of student blogging, but I'm not entirely comfortable with it because middle school students aren't aware of a lot of potential consequences of their actions.

I think it's great for students to write about themselves, their interests, their friends, their experiences and their conclusions. It can help them figure a lot of things out. But then publishing it to the world can subject them to another level of exposure that can be problematic. I'm thinking of "mean girls" type problems. People who aren't necessarily in the same flow of blogging. And there are people like that in middle and high school.

Just a thought.

I appreciate your posting about your activities and asking all the questions will help us all figure this blogging thing out for kids.