Friday, October 03, 2003

More on Blogs, School and Privacy

In an earlier post about issues surrounding blogging in school, I picked a random LiveJournal user as an example of someone who obviously likes to write, but probably wouldn't learn much from a blogging assignment about a topic she didn't care about. After getting some traffic from the link, she posted about it and responded with some smart ideas about blogs in school, including when they might be most appropriate:
"I would imagine that while giving students blogs in subjects like science or math might only inspire a select few to ramble on about their projects, the idea could be quite useful in a course for english, social studies, psychology (or in more advanced foreign language classes)."
I've heard others use this right-brain/left-brain split before -- I wonder if it's true? Yesterday I was digging into issues of privacy and security, and two pieces of legislation (U.S.) kept coming up: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). We've looked at COPPA before, and it didn't seem to affect our work because we don't often deal with kids under 13. But FERPA is interesting -- if a school purchased one of our products and it was used to collect student records and information, FERPA guidelines would apply. I find it disturbing that students don't have more control over their own records, but that's another issue altogether -- I need to research this further.

I've been excited about LiveJournal since Lisa gave me a tour of the basics a couple of weeks ago. The way they handle user profiles, friends, interests and permissions is just genius -- and the application is open source! Jenni points out how the security/permissions features might solve some of the privacy issues:
"The security feature on LiveJournal and most other blogging sites allows for a measure of privacy - perhaps require the student to make x number of public posts in a certain amount of time, but if they want to write about something more private, they can do so and it is up to them whether to leave it public or simply use a filter. Feeling secure tends to make people feel slightly more free in their writings."
This is good stuff. The next hurdle is the issue of acceptability. If your English teacher gives you a blogging assignment and you post something nasty, you're in trouble with the teacher because you know the rules. But if a school district purchases online portfolios with blogging capability for 10,000 students, people will inevitably be offended by something students post -- who's responsible for monitoring and controlling what's ok? We know that more control equals less freedom, and if you give students less freedom, they're likely going to disengage. Or would limited journalling functionality be better than nothing? I'm still hoping there's middle ground in there somewhere.

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