Reflections on Responsible Blogging Lesson

Before I even start writing this, I want to say that I hope my students will comment and add their thoughts on the lesson. My thoughts reflect only a very limited point of view (and one that is ultimately pretty meaningless in talking about how a lesson went).

I think the lesson was basically a success in terms of meeting the objectives of the lesson. Students identified some of the potential dangers of blogging (as well as being very aware of which ones, while legitimate, were largely the result of alarmists). At the end of the lesson I felt they were ready to begin blogging, and I think taking the time to do the lesson will eliminate any “behavioral” problems during the process (without the lesson, I feel there might have been one or two minor ones). Most importantly, each class was successful in writing a blog policy, which I posted over at Bud’s Wiki.

As usual, each class has it’s own distinctive personality. My 1st and 6th Period classes were energetic throughout and had very solid conversations. My 7th period class was almost ridiculously efficient in their conversation. They hit all the major points and necessary rules very quickly without much conversation. The class did not go quite as well 2nd period in terms of the quality of conversation, but the class was still successful in creating a good policy. (Still haven’t done it with my 4th period class).

The biggest surprise for me came during first period when there was a somewhat heated conversation about whether or not parental permission should be required. I have very strong feelings that it should not be required (the school’s Acceptable Use Policy, which parents do sign, includes permissions for teacher supervised web pages), but I kept my mouth shut. At one point during the conversation, a student asked me what I planned to tell parents and my response was “It’s your project.” I could be reading this completely wrong, but I felt like the students who wanted parental permission seemed to take that as a given, whereas the students against it feel into “My parents don’t care/I don’t see them” and “We’re mature enough to do this on our own” camps. Ultimately, the class decided that if students want to tell their parents, they can. I also crafted a letter for students to take home to their parents (adapted from the letter on Bud’s Wiki).

The other topic of conversation that students got the most into was whether or not to allow what I dub AIM-speak: the use of acronyms like “LOL” and “BRB” and phonetic spelling like “sez,” “cuz,” “l8r,” etc… Different classes made different decisions on the issue (the conversation from 1st period actually extended onto the comments section of my blog, which I then created a new blog for). My personal opinion on the matter is that in moderation, the AIM-speak acronyms are fine as long as everyone knows what they mean (as Ben alluded to, http is an acronym that would just clutter up the language if spelled out). As far as phonetic spellings, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, they’re more efficient and casual and as long as people know what someone is talking about, I don’t think it should make any difference. On the other hand, there are many adults who will think students who spell like this are idiots and don’t know how to spell and I’d like my students to represent themselves in a way that will make people take them seriously. Ultimately, I was glad that two of classes did not feel the need to make a rule against this type of spelling, but at the same time, I hope my students will be careful and conscious in how they chose to represent themselves online.

Susan posted a few questions for me between her blog and comments that I wanted to answer:

  • To be honest, I didn’t even think to include our county’s Acceptable Use Policy. The policy we wrote, in the end, did fall under the policy. In hindsight, I am glad we did not sue it because I think it might have limited the ways in which students would have thought about writing the rules. The way we did it, it pretty much all came from them.
  • In total, there was about 45 minutes of all class conversation, and 15 minutes of small group conversation. The students talked for about 15 minutes on dangers, 15 minutes generally on types of rules for the policy, 15 minutes in the small groups coming up with specific rules and consequences, and then about 15 minutes (in some classes shorter, and in others longer) discussing the worthwhileness of specific rules that the small groups proposed. I am lucky enough to have my students for 90 minute blocks, which allowed for the extended conversation
  • I didn’t have to synthesize at all for my students. In the first two conversations, all I needed to do was ask the initial questions and then occasionally add another question when conversation stalled. I didn’t have to offer anything in the small group conversations. When we looked at the specific rules, I was just a facilitator.

So overall, I’m happy with how things went. I’m left with a somewhat empty feeling on some fronts though, as I wonder whether this was in some ways an insult to the intelligence and character of many of my students. Yes – I am glad that the lesson gave students ownership over the blogging process and hopefully made students feel a strong sense of responsibility for their blogs. And Yes – this probably prevented at least one group from making their plans to meet on their blog. But ultimately I hate the idea (even though I know it was 100% necessary from the adult/outsider point of view) that before my students could start to enjoy their participation in the edublogosphere, they had to be subjected to rules, rules, and more rules. To carry Bud’s metaphor one step further – do you start skateboarding by learning the rules about skateboarding? Or do you learn to skate by trying it out, falling on your ass a few times, and then eventually figuring it out for yourself?

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