Torn between two blogs

I established this blog at the beginning of this school year as a way to reach out to the families of my students and engage them in discussions about technology as a learning tool.  I have gotten very warm feedback from some parents, but I’m not quite ready to claim that I’ve heard from enough of my parents.  I would love to hear from more, but I respect each parent’s right to keep abreast of their student’s learning in their own way.

As a professional educator, I also hope this blog attracts a broader readership of like-minded teachers, technologists, and ed. leaders with whom I engage as part of a Personal Learning Network on Twitter.  I use Twitter daily to share articles and blog posts about current educational practice and it has been a true inspiration to me.  I marvel at the quality and volume of Tweets and blog posts of my colleagues in my PLN and, while looking at the time stamps on most posts, I notice that lots of us work long hours into the evening and rise early in the morning to pursue this passion for sharing ideas about trends, methods, and new technologies via Twitter and on our blogs.

But at times I feel like I’m not worthy.

Up until Thanksgiving week, I faithfully posted once a week and, though it added one evening of extra work to my already full plate, I looked at that work as a labor of love.  Now that I’m sitting here and seeing what I’m writing, I admit that I still feel that way about it.

So what have I been doing in the past two weeks?

Well, I’ve been cheating on the teachingcontext and giving my attention and my love to a new blog. I apologize for the adultery metaphor, but I’m currently reading Arthur Miller’s The Crucible with one of my junior classes and so that’s why adultery is on my mind.  My wife can rest easy!

My new blog is not a competitor to this one in content, though it does compete for my precious time.

I am quite proud of it and I will tell you that it is going to explode (figuratively) in the next couple of weeks because I am asking my sophomores to author posts on it.

So please check out my other blog and keep visiting it often to see the kind of content students are creating on the rival blog.

My latest post is an assignment for students called The Prominent African Project.

My hope is that you too will be torn between two blogs!

Teaching about privacy and the internet

When I was in high school, I kept a shoe box on the top shelf of my closet.  In that box, I tucked away letters and notes that I had received from various sweethearts, ticket stubs from memorable concerts and movies, and various other “secrets” that I wanted to keep away from the prying eyes of my family.  I wasn’t doing anything illegal, but it was safer to conceal that I had things of sentimental value, that helped mark a memorable time with friends, from my parents.

Adolescence is a time when you begin the process of constructing your identity, figuring out the public and the private self.  I’m not a psychologist, but I imagine it is very important developmentally for teenagers to have their own private space in which they safely explore and figure out for themselves who they are and who they want to become.

In school we help students develop the public side of their identities and, when we are at our best, we encourage them to be the person they want to be.  In school, students do have an expectation and a right to their own private space, but that area is considerably smaller than what they might enjoy at home.  When a student’s behavior arouses a reasonable suspicion that he/she is engaging in harmful activities, the principal or his/her designee can conduct a search of the student’s clothing, bags, locker, and car.  While school administrators may have to conduct searches more frequently than they would like to, this usually doesn’t impact a large segment of the student body.

With the omnipresence of technology in our lives today, we conduct more of our public and private lives online.  How much privacy can we expect?

The love letters of years past are now text messages, tweets, emails, and various other electronic communiques.

The recent scandal involving the Director of the CIA shows us how easy it is for law enforcement to uncover and expose an otherwise lawful, yet inappropriate relationship between two consenting adults.  I don’t mean to editorialize about extra-marital affairs; however, to me the case is important because it reminds us that we have almost no right to privacy on the internet.  If the director of the CIA cannot find a way to communicate privately on the internet, as the ACLU points out, how can any of us reasonably expect to be able to do so?

We can’t.

We can only take advantage of this teachable moment to help our students understand that anything and everything they say or write on the internet can be traced back to them one way or another.  We educators need to help pull back the veil of perceived privacy that we sometimes feel while “lurking” on Twitter or while surfing aimlessly across the waves of the web.  We have to model internet integrity and make sure we post only what we would say or share in a public setting.  By doing this and creating authentic experiences for our students to use and create content on the internet, students will be able to build their public identity on the internet and hopefully understand the need to keep the private stuff in the real shoe box and not in the digital dropbox.

Another thing we can do as educators and as citizens is to raise awareness about Net Neutrality, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.  We can read about and discuss the issue of privacy with our students and have them write (and hopefully blog) about.  We can encourage students to engage in writing letters to legislators asking them to consider revising outdated laws and adopting new measure to guarantee a fair amount of online privacy.  We can push them to read and discuss the “Terms of Use” policies of the websites they use most to understand what rights they retain and which they yield when mindlessly clicking the “I agree” box.

Whatever we do, we don’t remain complacent.

I and my student welcome your feedback.

In addition, if any of you have expertise in any of the issues discussed above and you would like to come and have a talk with high school students, you have an open invitation.

 

Photo Credit:
Bloom, Alan. “Shoe Box Scan NJ.” Shoe Box Scan NJ. Alan Bloom, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.alanbloomproductions.com/ShoeBoxScan.html&gt;.

 

Sophomore Global Students Launch Blogs

I’ve been insanely busy in the week since my last post.  I never got around to sending a link to the new post to parents on my email list, so if you’ve been out of touch with me for a couple of weeks, get ready for a lot of information!

I am proud to announce that my sophomore students have worked diligently over the past few days to put up blogs that focus on human rights issues in five geographic areas of the globe.  We have a class blog that is like the central hub for the student blogs, but  as of now, there’s only one post on it explaining the project on which the students collaborated.  I decided to host the blogs on edublogs.org because its focus on educational users and also because it is associated with WordPress.  I figured I would be able to leverage my knowledge of the WordPress platform since I’ve been learning it by trial and error here on teachingcontext.  Looking back over the past three days supporting students as they composed their group blogs, I realize that they are now more skilled at it than I!  I look forward to one day inviting a few of my students to post reflections on their blogging experiences here on this blog.

Our class blog is called modernglobalcommunities.edublogs.org.  When you click on the previous link, a new tab should open and you will see a banner across the top of the page with links to the five student-produced blogs:  Sub-Saharan Africa Watch, Americas & Oceania Watch, Asia Watch, Europe Watch,  & Middle East & North Africa Watch.

Please take some time to look through these blogs.  Please feel welcome to leave a comment.  Our students would love some feedback, especially if you have a question, find a fact-error, or have an issue with something they wrote about.  These are the kinds of comments that they will learn from.

We have taken strides to keep personal information off the blogs, as they are open to the web and indexed by search engines.  Each student was given a unique username that we could all identify each student by, but would not reveal last names to visitors.  I’ve asked students to make sure that photographs taken by students are anonymized as much as possible.

Some sophomore students have taken the initiative to create Twitter accounts for the purpose of marketing their blogs and getting readers to visit their pages.  Some of my sophomore and junior students already have Twitter accounts and some of them use their full names in their profiles. I encourage parents to visit their kid’s Twitter page and to talk to them about internet safety.  Everything on Twitter is open and users should be aware that their profiles are open to all Twitter users, unless the account is set up as “protected.”

I have reminded all of my students lately of our schools internet policy, most importantly to come forward if they receive a message that makes them uncomfortable.  Please help me in reiterating the importance of being careful about what one posts, vigilant about deleting inappropriate comments or followers who are not known, and proactive in standing up to protect the safety and integrity of the community.

Coming next week, an update on how some of my junior students are using web tools for presentations in class…

As always, I appreciate your support and look forward to hearing from you either by email or in the comments that you can post here.