For over a month, my students have engaged in working on a few different wiki projects (Utopias, –Isms, and Book Discussions), but the excitement climaxed when they started collaborating with a group of 8th graders from Wallingford, CT. The students started to create their own spaces to talk about the issues that were close to them as well as some issues related to the projects that they were collaborating on. Daily, I would have students come up to me and tell me about a conversation that they were having with a middle schooler on the other side of the continent. This, needless to say, was unassailably cool.
Last night, though, every student from Wallingford was removed from the spaces that they formerly had called home. The following were the reasons given for this total reversal of technology integration and collaboration:
A parent has complained about wiki and even contacted the State General Attoney to see if it violates anything. Her grievances about the wiki were the following:
1-there were three personal pictures — all on the map of the home page
2-some kids used their real names on pages or as a username
3-in my post on icon I identified that where I live and that I teach at a “blue collar school”
4-I had pictures of the school and the rooms which could provide a blueprint for a killer
5-some kids put personal descriptors “I am five feet tall with brown hair named Sam”
6-on my “lesson plan blog’ One thing i wrote down last Thursday was something like “Myspace words of Wisdom” which she interpreted as me telling the kids about how they should join. I actually had a heart to heart talk with the kids about what they were including and the problem with the public sites. We just had two students in CT have full scholarships revoked after the University saw their MySpaces.
The other part of this is that the school system looks down upon “outside” websites run by teachers.
So because the attorney general is now possibly involved, that implies risk to a minor, and that’s frankly not something I am going to play around with.
The question I kept thinking about after reading this e-mail is, “Who failed?” Was it the teacher who didn’t set up enough rules and guidelines for the students that were written down? Was it the parent who failed to work with the teacher and understand the nature of the collaboration? Or, was it the students who couldn’t grasp the public nature of the internet?
Because of one or a combination of these factors, these students are being shut out of an avenue for self expression and learning. What can we do so that this doesn’t happen to us?