Thursday, July 19, 2007

Student safety, or can we ever publish anything about students ever again?

Last Tuesday, the Women of Web 2.0 brought on Linda Criddle, author of Look Both Ways, for a show about internet safety. Overall, the conversation was very good; I especially like Criddle's emphasis on empowering users to be in control of their personal information and the choices they make online. She also spoke out against fear-based appeals, rightly noting that they simply do not work.

However, she also advocates for what seems to be the complete removal of any and all reference to students from the public spaces of school websites. Names, pictures, examples of work, practice schedules, all verboten for fear that someone will misuse the information--identity theft, predation, etc. The bottom line: we are afraid.

The truth is we have been publishing student information in public forums for as long as it has been possible to publish. But wait, internet safety advocates will say, now the internet lets anyone with access know about and prey upon our children. And I suppose it is easier for the bad people these days. But taking information about the start of football season off the school website only to have it published in the local paper, which has an online presence, doesn't change anything. Except maybe liability.

How sad to think that what we truly fear is not something happening to our children but instead that we will get sued.

Last night I was listening to NPR and happened to catch From the Top, a showcase of rather gifted young musicians. During the course of the one hour program, the listeners learned about these students, including full name (one name was even spelled on air as part of a joke), state, high school, musical instrument, and a quaint biographical story. Basically, enough information for someone with malicious intent to begin grooming that child was provided on air during a national broadcast of a weekly show. And to make matters worse, on the web page for last night's show visitors can also find pictures of the students, again complete with full names.

I had never listened to From the Top in this way before. Prior to the WoW show, I had always seen the broadcast as a celebration of student achievement. Now I see it for what it really is, a buffet of vulnerable youth just waiting to be exploited.

My point in all this hyperbole? That From the Top is a celebration; that schools want to showcase their students' achievements; that while we do indeed need to teach about privacy in this new, transparent landscape, we still need to live our lives; and that while we live in a world with some bad people, our students are doing really neat things and they deserve the recognition and rewards that come with the risks inherent in learning new things.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


lets see if mob
logging works from my camera phone.

A Blog for Each Hat?

At what point does the blog need to split into two, or more, parallel spaces? Next fall, I will be wearing two hats, and I want to use a blog for professional reflection in both roles. But do I need two blogs? Is tagging entries enough to keep the various posts catagorized/organized? How much should I consider audience in all of this? Would posts about classroom practice and the demonstration classroom mixed with posts on being a Teacher on Special Assignment and all the associated tasks there be confusing? A dilution of messages in some way? Or does this simply reflect the current state of my professional practice?

My career is all mixed together right now; wearing multiple hats will do that. I suppose some of the future posts will be about balancing these two half-time-on-paper-but-we-all-know-better roles, in which case it makes sense to have both roles reflected throughout the blog.

I think I've talked myself into sticking with one space; thanks for being the sounding board. Those who blog and wear multiple hats, how do you handle blogging (and everything else :) )?

Working outside my comfort zone

I have been thinking a lot about comfort, transparency, and professional growth. I can't think of a single aspect of next fall that lies within my comfort zone.

The demonstration classroom pushes me to the edges of my teaching, my personal/professional space, my comfort with being observed, of dealing with people, of being judged -- my entire professional sense of self worth as an educator. yikes. The demonstration classroom is an incredibly transparent way to teach and part of me is scared to death of the level of exposure I am about to engage in. I am going to make mistakes. In front of my peers. In front of principals. In front of upper administrators. What are going to be the consequences of those mistakes?

The Teacher on Special Assignment position is much the same. I will be in new territory--budgets, grants, planning meetings, coordinating efforts (often with peers who teach in areas I know little about). The organizational aspects, keeping it all straight, are daunting. I am a well organzied person, but this living in two worlds is really going to demand a new level of awareness and coordination.

Even with all this, though, I am really looking forward to the change. As a teacher, I get to do even more of what I've been trying to accomplish regarding tech integration. With the ToSA position, I get to expand this to district level conversations about the changing nature of trying to teach in a world where the notions of what it means to be literate are changing.

As one of my fellow alternative teachers reminded me on the last day of school, growth occurs at the edges, at the borders of our comfort zones and the new things we experience. I need to remember that this is an opportunity. The transparency of the demonstration classroom, of having colleagues come in and observe, is a chance to invite expert teachers into my space to see what I do and get their feedback. Part of the process, of visiting my classroom, will need to include time to sit and visit with me afterward. Face to face commenting, as it were.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Writing, Comfort, and the Mistakes that Happen

I love how simply organic writing on paper is, but this process is so limiting compared to digital. There is no way to update, reorganize, easily share, or file. But paper carries personality--choices of paper weight, ink, stroke, handwriting--so much more is communicated that just the meaning of words. Looking back on old journals, I can sense mood, intent, context existing in the markings, communicated independent of the words.

One of the fundamental questions when writing becomes "how do I plan to use this?" The answer to which drives media selection decisions; I recently jotted down a list of things to do that should have been done, at a minimum, in a spreadsheet and perhaps more ideally in some form of concept map; something that can be pushed and pulled, revised, posted for comment, tagged, shared... Perhaps accomplishing my list should be done through a wiki, an ongoing, online repository of my own and others thinking about how to accomplish the goals before me.

With so many choices, I pick up my notebook out of habit, out of comfort, out of a need to tap out imperfect thoughts. This reminds me of Miguel's post about sharing and making mistakes in a transparent environment. I'm a bit of a perfectionist; I will probably reread this post three or four times before publishing just to make sure everything is exact.

But how honest is this?

We all know learning is a process and, therefore, messy. This is one of the fundamental lesssons I try to teach my students. I encourage them to engage in the process of writing openly, showing their drafts to classmates, accepting and rejecting feedback, explaining the choices they make between drafts.

One of my challenges for myself is to be more willing to do what I ask my students to do, engage in the messiness of the process. Once I clear out a few thoughts from the notebook (this post started two weeks ago), I will endevor to put my thoughts directly into this space in a more timely fasion.

Of course, that comes with problems. As I reread this (only the second time, I promise), I realize the second half, which was composed on the spot, is only loosely connected with the first. I'm trying to learn to live with that.