The good news is that it seems like there’s a new entry into the safer student blogging arena every couple of weeks these days. David Warlick’s Blogmeister (free) is gaining quite a following, and the well-established ePals gang has just released its very robust SchoolBlog software (not free.) And I’ve been sworn to secrecy about a couple of other entrants soon to be coming forth that I think will take classroom blogging to an even higher level. All in all, there ought to be quite a few choices for schools who are looking to cover the bases in terms of keeping track of who is doing what in the blogs.
This is all a good thing, I know, but I have to be honest that it feels a little sad to me as well. It’s like the Wild West of blogs is coming to an end. There’s always been something powerful about the lack of a gatekeeper, something that makes it both scary and seductive. When I first had my students blogging four years ago, their blogs were open to the world. Nothing but good things came of it. They met people from Spain and Japan and Canada and all over the states who shared their ideas and questions and knowledge. It didn’t happen often that someone we didn’t know chimed in with a comment, but when it did happen, we all shared in a positive experience. Were we lucky? Maybe. But I think that by and large people are good, and it was nice to have that borne out in that class.
Four years hence, I still think people are good. This is a totally complex issue, I know, much of it dependent on age and place and all sorts of other stuff. We’re all just kind of throwing it against the wall to see what works and what doesn’t. I know there are risks out there. Tucker is sitting right next to me and just published his first blog song about Winnie the Pooh to the world. Comments are open. Is the fact that I’m even mentioning that somehow exposing him unnecessarily to danger? I’m sure some will think so, and I’m not going to argue the statistics. I would rather think it’s an opportunity for good people to let him know that they appreciate his six-year old effort. That he will learn that writing and publishing and conversation are opportunities for learning. Call me a dreamer.
My biggest fear is that we’ll just be replicating online the contrived structure of peer review we currently have in our classrooms. That would be such a shame. But we live in an era of such fear, fear of terrorists and pedophiles, fear of not passing the test, fear of not getting into the right school, fear of litigation, fear of taking anything that even resembles a risk. The transparency that the Read/Write Web offers resembles a big risk to many, but it’s a big opportunity as well. I hope our march to eliminate all risk for our students won’t also eliminate the potential that blogs and blogging can offer.