Less than a week since I blogged about Jabiz Raisdana being asked to resign from his position in a school because of a posting on his blog, the Twitterverse has been alive again with news of yet another teacher whose class blog has been closed down amid fears that content posted on it may place students at risk. This time its someone closer to home (Australia in fact) and someone who is also on my Twitter list – so the new came first hand.
Al Upton is an innovative teacher based in South Australia who has been using blogs with his students for a couple of years now. His “Mini Legends” as he calls them (and his blog) use a blog to write about what they’re up to and communicate with others as a regular part of their classroom work. I met Al at the CEGSA conference in Adelaide in 2006 where I presented a keynote speech, and was present when Al was named CEGSA Educator Of The Year in recognition for the creative work he does with his students.
So what made the Department of Education and Children’s Services in South Australia decide to close his blog down? Seems there was concern over the possibility that some of what appeared on his class blog may have led to students in his class being able to be identified – thus placing them at risk. suffice to say that the comments have been flying fast and furious all weekend – both in the comments left on his blog, people writing their own view of events on their own blogs (see the entry by Al’s good friend http://gwegner.edublogs.org/2008/03/15/in-support-of-al-and-the-minilegends/), and of course, via Twitter!
Now I’m not wanting to re-visit the saga in this blog (you can get a much better idea of what is happening by reading the trail of comments left on Al’s blog) – suffice to say that the actions of DECS hasn’t exactly been widely praised – which is exactly the issue that concerns me.
Al has capably demonstrated over the past two years that his primary concern in all he does is his students. this includes his efforts to liberate their minds and creativity through the programmes he provides for them in his classroom (and online), and in his attention to details that affect their privacy and safety when working in these environments – as demonstrated by the rules and guidelines he’s thoughtfully put in place. He has contributed significantly to the development of effective practices in this area, and has been an inspriation to many others, as illustrated in this comment on his blog:
I am really saddened by what’s happened and offer my support to you all. It was the miniLegends that inspired me and my class 2 years ago to start blogging, and the support and encouragement that you offered me Al is well remembered and appreciated. Keep your spirits up and know that everyone in the blogosphere is standing with you – you are inspirational, committed and thoroughly professional in all you have done, are doing and will continue to do in the future.
Despite this, there appears to have been no collegial discussion to discuss the concerns raised, no professional discourse to understand the intent of the blog or to discover what procedures exist to govern and guide student use of it – nothing. Just an out of the blue announcement that:
This blog has been disabled in compliance with DECS wishes (Department of Education and Children’s Services – South Australia)
Surely Al deserves better than this? Surely all educators deserve better than this? Or do we have to be satisfied that it’s OK for those in authority in the system to act in ways that contradict the very codes of conduct that people such as Al so dutifully attempt to introduce to his students and have them observe in the way they work together?
One thought on “Another blogger in hot water!”
Did Al Upton’s blog deserve to be closed down? Personally, I think not. Are people overreacting? I say, not really. I know I may sound like I’m contradicting myself here but the fact remains that privacy, specially when children are involved, is of utmost importance.
Al’s precautions to protect his Mini Legends are admirable and it’s obvious that he truly cares about his students. This is why I feel that the blog did not deserve to be shut down. But as the product manager of I.PH blogs, a blogging service that focuses on giving people fine granular control of their blog’s privacy settings, I can see where he could have done more. If his and his student’s blogs had the same kind of privacy settings as I.PH, then the content could have been made viewable only to the class and to selected individuals. Less sensitive content can remain viewable to the public. This also adds the benefit of teaching the his student’s not only writing, but the value of good judgment regarding their privacy and how they deal with it online. That said, I do hope that this gets sorted out in a way that is fair to all involved. Thanks for a good read! Blog on!