Mar 162008

I’m starting this post with a quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Professor Umbridge has just walked in on the first day of the Defense Against the Dark Arts class and told the students that instead of using magic in the classroom this term, they will be reading a theoretical textbook. Hermione raises her hand:

“… there’s nothing written up there about using defensive spells.”…

Using defensive spells?” Professor Umbridge repeated with a little laugh. “Why, I can’t imaging any situation arising in my classroom that would require you to use a defensive spell, Miss Granger. You surely aren’t expecting to be attacked in class?” …

“Surely the whole point of Defense Againse the Dark Arts is to practice defensive spells?” [said Hermione].

“Are you a Ministry-trained educational expert, Miss Grainger?” asked Professor Umbridge in her falsely sweet voice.

“No, but -”

“Well then, I’m afraid you are not qualified to decide what the “whole point” of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new program of study. You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way – ”

“What use is that?” said Harry loudly. ” If we’re going to be attacked it won’t be in a -” …

…what good’s theory going to be in the real world?” said Harry loudly …

“This is a school, Mr Potter, not the real world,” [Umbridge] said softly.

Al Upton is an Adelaide teacher who has used blogs with his Year 3 classes for the last 5 years. Each year he gets signed permission slips from parents of kids involved in his projects, including the standard “talent release” form for their photos.

On Friday he took down his classroom blog and replaced it with a single post that says in part:

This blog has been disabled in compliance with DECS wishes (Department of Education and Children’s Services – South Australia)

It seems that this blog in particular is being investigated regarding risk and management issues. What procedures should be taken for the use/non-use of blogs to enhance student learning will be considered.

A couple of parents had taken issue with the use of kids’ photos on the classroom blog – and with the Mentor a Mini project that involves blogging educators from around the world leaving encouraging comments on the kids’ blogs. Two nights later, there are over 60 comments on the post. They are worth reading.

It’s made me think about how I would feel if I was a parent and knew that my child’s photo with a first name only was up on a blog that identified their class and school. I would be very uncomfortable.

I’d also be uncomfortable if I had a 16 year old who took his own photo or video and posted it to Facebook. I think I need to face the fact that my kids will be doing that for themselves very soon – and accept that teaching them how to do this safely is something that I would value in their schooling.

The Minilegends could use avatars instead of photographs. Through his classroom experience, however, Al has learned that the avatars that the kids like best are their own photographs. A real photograph is extremely empowering. Digital identity isn’t just about the text you write, but how you portray yourself in total. Kids need to learn how to construct a digital identity – especially with some job ads now asking for links to applicants’ “online presence”.

My reason for not mentioning my kids’ school in my posts is more about letting them tell their own stories for themselves, rather than not identifying them. Al’s innovative use of classroom blogging teaches children to tell their own digital stories, with wise and helpful guidance. Many parents do not have the skills to do this.

Blogging is real world stuff, just like playing a school hockey match is real world stuff. I suspect that a Minilegend would be more likely to get injured playing sport than by their blogging activities .

I hope that the same parents don’t call for the banning of hockey coaching and a less risky environment. An environment that involves no sticks, no balls, no games outside the school, no outsiders present at hockey matches and the kids never, ever being photographed in the local paper as part of the Under 12’s Team.

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  2 Responses to “Minilegends classroom blog gagged.”

  1. I’m also working on overcoming my uneasiness about pictures of my children online. I’m actually not even sure what my uneasiness is based on, but Al’s situation has surely brought this topic to head and I think the conversations about it have been excellent. Lots to think about. I love your Harry Potter intro, it’s perfect for the situation!

  2. A witty, thoughtful response to this delicate issue – well done!

    And a link to a research study that might be of interest to people following all this:

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