One of “Anne“‘s colleagues who had gotten a whole bunch of elementary school teachers blogging has had his district shut all of the sites down because they don’t allow student messaging in their telecommunications policy. Apparently, they want to be able to filter everything that goes up on any of the sites on their servers.
I think that I’ve chronicled the fine line that I’ve had to walk with similar issues at my school. In my perfect world, student weblogs would be as free and open as a teacher (and parent) feels comfortable with because one of the best parts of blogging is having an audience that can become a part of the process. But I totally understand the concerns of districts and boards of education who are trying to figure out exactly what to do with this new read/write Web that we’re exploring with our kids. (I mean really, blogging as student messaging???) On the K-12 level, the first priority is to keep them safe. But there is also a very strong desire to control what goes up on these sites, to make sure that nothing casts a less than positive light on the experience. Of course, we all know that that’s not the way Weblogs work. (Did I mention I’m on my third piece of wood to knock on?)
So, the call is up for research that will attest to the educational benefits of using blogs. And, of course, aside from the anecdotal evidence provided by teachers who blog, there isn’t much. We just kind of know it in our gut. Anne says it well:
We know weblogs can be a wonderful tool that has countless possibilities for great academic use. Our kids are in the middle of all this technology and we could be at the forefront teaching wise and appropriate use to kids. We can get them to think about how writing can be a tool for them to effect change and make things better. All this usually just scares schools though. They seldom give educators credit for having the ability to responsibly oversee projects like this. I think a lot of fear exists among administrators to take a risk when “taking a responsible risk” is exactly what is needed to push learning forward.
The thing is, Anne is still one of the few teachers I’ve seen who actually gets her kids to blog, as in the verb. And as I’ve said before, I really think that’s where the value of Weblogs is. What most schools (and to some extent, teachers) are afraid of, I think, is the simple transparency of Weblogs. Our kids work, out there for everyone to see? The messy, sometimes unsightly learning process exposed? Students wrestling in public with incomplete thoughts and ideas? Let’s just stick with test scores, ok?
This is a disruptive technology. And the disruptions will become more frequent as more teachers push the envelope. But there is a big discomfort hump we’re going to have to get over for this to really have a chance.