I recently started a blogging project with the grades 4/5 class in my school and I was intent on protecting them and keeping them safe from the outside world. I went to a lot of work to set up the site so all of their posts and comments run through my gmail account and right now we are closed off from the rest of the world. In talking with the classroom teacher, we decided that we would invite another class of students in our school division to join us in our blogging project. This would give us a slightly wider audience, but allow us to remain in our safe little environment.
The problem for me is that is seems as if something is missing from our project. As I search around the internet checking out other student and classroom blogs, I can’t help but notice that the opportunity for comments from the outside world is an important component of what blogging is all about. I come back to the video, “42” which describes the advantage of providing our students with a much broader and more valid audience for their writing. So how safe is too safe?
I asked one of our school division technology people what the division policy is on blog sites. He did not seem to think that it was a problem to open up the blog as long as:
1. We had parental permission for them to participate
2. The students did not give away any personal, identifying information
Greg Stark commented on my blog post about my student blogging project and suggested that I open up our site and run all the comments through my e-mail so that I could delete any inappropriate comments. Thanks for the suggestion.
We seem to do a lot of things to try and keep our students safe and “out of trouble”, so to speak. Are we really trying to promote the use of technology in our classrooms? I can’t help but wonder if we are being stifled by our own fears. I was reading a blog post today and the teacher was describing having a “hissy fit” because a site that she had picked out to use with her students had been blocked.
Yesterday, I was helping a student who was trying to find out how many hours it would take to fly to China for one of his projects. I was trying to give him suggestions as to where he could go to find the information, but all of the sites we found were blocked.
I am often working from home on my own laptop and preparing things for use in school, only to find that when I get to school, the sites that I wanted to use are blocked. When I tried to use my own laptop at school, I found that this met with some roadblocks as well and that it is not allowed under our “acceptable use policy”. Interesting… I guess I should have read that more carefully before I signed it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand why there have to be rules and why we have to be careful. I also understand that if you find a site you want to be able to access and can’t, you can request to have it unblocked. The problem with the whole idea is often, in the mean time, teachers that are wanting to get into technology use within their classrooms get discouraged and can feel that the time invested is not worth it.
I was sitting in on a short inservice session last week with some math teachers in my division. I was listening to one teacher describe a video project she was doing with her students. They were enjoying it and had invested a lot of time and energy into the project. When they came back to it the next day, she found that “Deep Freeze” had blocked their pictures and their project was at a standstill until a tech person could get there and help her out. I am sure I could come up with countless other examples.
Our school division has been very encouraging to teachers providing us with up to date technologies and support personal to help us out. We also have a technology grant that teachers can apply for to promote technology projects within our schools. I still have to wonder, though, if our fears are holding us back. Are we really doing everything we can to encourage teachers to move away from traditional teaching methods and try new technologies? I wonder…
Catch you on the back channel!