Saturday, May 22, 2010

Beware when you blog

Before I start my rant - let me state I subscribe and enjoy a good deal of talented teachers' blogs and learn a lot from them. Let the rant begin ...

I saw a blog post yesterday which made me quite worried and provoked me to write this post. I'm hoping that the post in question will be taken down soon and so I won't link to it.

I once heard someone say that technology is an amplifier. It can amplify good practice and it can amplify bad practice. I have two cautions I want to put forward:
  • Principals - subscribe to all the blogs being written in your school. You are the leader and need to know what is being put out for the world to see. Also you can then support, nurture, and encourage as well as moderate. This is not micro managing, this is being involved.
  • Teachers - think! What is the purpose of your blog? Who is your audience? What is the hidden message coming through?
The post in question that has provoked this rant is a typical post where a teacher has described an activity the class has undertaken. It sounded like a great activity. The class had read about 50,000 people protesting against mining in national parks. They discussed the use of signs in the protest. Discussed the language (I hope) and made their own signs. This would be a really powerful lesson - however, this is where the amplifier came in. The teacher in question seemed to missed out the powerful bits and then amplified this to the world through the blog.

The post displayed the signs made by the children including these statements (and there were more!):

"John Key the donkey"
"Don't mine NZ, that's what Australia's for"

Now in my mind the powerful parts of this lesson could be to talk about separating political attacks from personal ones. I doubt it would be acceptable to teach children to call anyone names, let alone the leader of their country. Who, even if you disagree with his politics, deserves some respect.

Another powerful part of this lesson could be to talk about what made mining acceptable or not. Is it okay to mine in one place not another, in one country over another?

I thought this was a timely reminder that you really need to have a good pedagogical framework before you start blogging.

In one sentence "Why do you blog?"


Andrew Churches said...

Its a good point you are raising and one that also questions where does our role as a teacher end and our personal life begin. This is a big question and I suspect the author of the offending article has blurred the boundaries between professional and personal opinions.

It also raises the question about what is the purpose of this blog and infact any blog. There needs to be a differeniation between a "work" blog and a "personal" blog. If you direct your students to the blog, its a work one and therefore requires you to present it in a professional manner. I know several kiwi teacher bloggers who have a class, professional and personal blog.

Allanah King said...

Hey Andrew

I am one of those with a variety of blogs for different purposes. Hopefully those lines aren't crossed.

As a teacher I try to remain politically neutral and would never intentionally ridicule anyone- either personally or professionally, especially in a public forum.

I worry, as Jane does, about the messages that that sort of post sends to the children in the class. Is it OK to make fun of someone on line? Isn't that cyber-bullying?

I never allow booing in class for the same reason.

Thank you Jane for drawing this to my attention- it serves to highlight the need for making a decision as to why we blog and for whom before we start on our on-line journey.

Just because we can, doesn't mean we should.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for raising this issue, Jane. I have linked to it on my cluster wiki, under Digital Citizenship. It certainly needs discussing as I am sure many principals are unaware of what is being posted in their schools. A great time to teach RSS feeds.

Simon (Dragon09) said...

I agree there needs to be a clear purpose and directon for a blog... Once I left my classroom my blog has never really been the same as the purpose shifting to something I didn't really want to write about. Purpose is essential to focus the mind as well as sustain the correct audience.

Anonymous said...

You describe your post aptly in stating it as a rant.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a rant as a tirade or empty turgid talk.
I would question whether a good pedagogical framework would support blogging rants.
You talk about technology as an amplifier for good or bad practice and then proceed to amplify the distasteful aspects of the blog you were concerned about. You pose a good question at the end. I hope you and your followers reflect carefully on it.

David Vickers said...

I use a blog in the hope of trying to find out how we can utilise multimedia to engage learners ( and your post shows the danger of using the internet 'inappropriately'. The 'net is still effectively a new medium and it's use needs to be well considered. Andrew Churches comment above rings true - you need to maintain a professional outlook and perhaps the teacher in question in your post should have used their lesson to show the pupils what is (and is not appropriate).