Cautionary Tale

5/11/2007 04:07:00 pm

[From a tweet Bud made.]

This is a powerful story, although for the people in it I'm sure it's not just a "story."

I teach high school and all my classes/students have an online presence through blogs, wikis, flickr accounts and more. I read this with great interest, as a measure against the practices and policies I use with my students to protect their safety. I wondered how easily the same thing could happen to me. This is the way I see it ...

“Who failed?”
I think they all did. The students should have behaved more prudently online. The teacher should have had practices and policies in place to protect the students on- and offline identities. The parent should have started with the teacher/school before going to the attorney general. The attorney general should have directed the parent and school to talk ... but that's the crux of the problem here, at least the way I see it.

No one is talking to each other. They're playing the blame game. No one learns anything from that. Everyone learns from a conversation.

The saddest part of all this is that the kids will lose out. Not just this class but all the classes in that district beginning now and on into the future. I think this is a sort of cautionary tale for all of us who try to transparently leverage the power of the internet to enhance our students education.

Transparency is important, for all of us. We should be transparent about what we are doing with our students, our administration and the parents in our communities. I wonder if this particular parent would have jumped to involve the attorney general if she knew just how much her child was learning and growing in the rich environment orchestrated by this teacher. I wonder if the school might have looked at this more as an isolated incident amongst many positive experiences students were having in similarly "connected" classes. And I wonder if the attorney general would be so quick to prosecute (although it's not clear from the story that they will) if they really understood just how much and how deeply kids learn in well orchestrated online educational environments.

The mom was upset about a blog post title the teacher wrote ("Myspace words of Wisdom" -- couldn't find a link). She clearly didn't read the post. It's hard to educate the public when all they read is the headline. Maybe, if the parents knew what was going on in the classroom, if they participated in the classroom blog or wiki, they might have read the full post before complaining about it.

Maybe if everybody tried talking to each other before they started pointing fingers they might learn from each other, understand each other better, figure out a way to meet everyone's needs better and maybe, just maybe, the kids would have really learned something ... and it would have stuck.

What's going to "stick" for them now?

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  1. Thank you for linking to my post, especially because this topic is at the heart of all I am trying to do with my students.

    I have had many conversations with my kids about how we can become more transparent, and many of them have told me that we need to be using the technology in order to involve all of the stakeholders (my word, not theirs). They think that a newsletter about blogging and wikis would actually create more panic rather than less because it leaves so many questions unanswered. They recommended the parents have access to some part of the wiki so that they can ask questions. Some students, however, still apprehensive about showing their parents all of their ideas because they are afraid of the panic that I described. They are also afraid that no matter how much we are transparent and try to explain the value of collaborative tools, that some parents just won't get it. Because of this, some students just want to leave the community in the dark about the great things that we are doing.

    Well, all of this comes to a head when we are looking at the master plan for next year. We (our 7th/8th grade team) is spearheading an effort to implement School 2.0 within a School, and we are very concerned with the community being a part of this process. This kind of "story" has become almost a case study for our project. If you are interested in taking a look, our wiki is at Any feedback on how to create the kinds of transparency that you describe in this post would be wonderful.

    Thanks again for the blog love.

  2. I think you have raised an important point - conversation. Blogs, wikis, myspaces, are all about communication and conversation. Those of us who blog do it because we have something to say and because we want to hear what others have to say.

    This situation could have been turned into a wonderful learning time for all the stakeholders. I am involved in an online school for learners k-12. Something we need to develop is a way to deal with a situation like this. Thanks for continuing to supply me with things to consider.