It's Diablogical!
A Collaborative Diablog on Feminist Pedagogy
Quick thought about privacy seems to be a great place to go for information on teaching with technology. I just found this article about teaching with blogs this morning. Check out what the author writes about how he handles privacy and FERPA issues in the classroom:

Yet there remains one troubling element: student privacy. Is open blogging this way consistent with FERPA? As best as I’ve been able to determine, it is as long as students “opt in.” (I did give students the alternatives of writing in the class LMS site or writing in the class wiki site. No student opted for those.) My experience suggests, however, that is not quite sufficient. If most students opt in, peer pressure may drive others to opt in as well. More importantly, however, students choose to opt in when they are largely ignorant of the consequences. Might they feel regret after they better understand what the blogging is all about?

Based on my discussion with the students on this point, essentially all their reservations about blogging would have been eliminated were they to have blogged under aliases. One of my students figured that out on her own, for self-protection. A few others took out any mention of their name on their blogs partway into the class. I’ve been thinking of the next class I will teach and how I’ll adopt aliases in that setting. My current plan is to assign aliases generated by concatenating the names of famous economists (I teach microeconomics) with the course rubric and number. Then in the bio section of their blogs I’ll have the students post a little about the economists who are their namesakes. The actual aliases will be a little long and clunky this way, but in the colloquial way students are apt to communicate with each other, I’m sure they’ll embrace shorter forms. And this way they’ll become acquainted with some of the giants in the field, not a bad byproduct from satisfying their privacy need. I had briefly considered using something considerably shorter, say a number. But that conjured up thoughts of The Prisoner and that’s not the ambiance I’m trying to create for the course.

What do you think about this idea of assigning aliases? While I like the learning opportunities that assigning students a famous alias might offer, I worry about how this reinforces the teacher as the authority. What assumptions is the author/educator making about students and their ability (or inability) to think through the consequences of writing on a public forum?

2 Comments to “Quick thought about privacy”

  1. KCF says:

    I think it’s kind of awesome yet presumptuous to assign students aliases that correspond to “famous economists” It’s awesome in the sense that I really enjoy his assignment where they have to post a bio about the economist they’re taking as their namesake, but it’s also concerning in the sense that I don’t think I could reasonably/ethically/responsibily do the same with the “big names” of feminist academics. Can you imagine “Dear Suzy Q please know that your alias for course blog posting is Gloria Anzaldúa or Jane White – you’re now to be known as bell hooks for the rest of the semester.” HA! I see so many issues with this, if the people are still living and/ore are heavily googled what will happen when said person comes across all of these blog posts that have their name attached to them? Sometimes, students say things that are not quite on point (i.e. offensive, racist, sexist, homophobic) I certainly don’t trust that in this sense they could write under the alias of some of my feminsit heroes! Not to mention how upset I would be if I found out someone was doing this in their class!

    As someone is really invested in the processes of oral history and/or testimonio I also take issue with assigning aliases and not giving the students an opportunity to decide for themselves. I always give my students the option, but I think we take away their voice and the power between linking one’s own writing to our experiences as feminists by forcing them to stay hidden behind an alias if they are actaully comfortable being associated with what they write. For those willing and excited to use their own names we should be excited by thier willingness, not using our authority to tell them that we don’t trust what they will do publically – these are all college students, they should know these things, and a responsible feminist teacher would make them aware of these issues.

    Lastly, in response to the last question you pose, we talk about this idea of how blogging makes our students more accountable to their ideas because their thoughts are entering the “public” sphere through cyberspace. Is this another reason for the need to bust the public/private binary? Let’s discuss this further in our diablogue today!

  2. SLP says:

    Great point about the problems (in terms of search engines, etc) with taking up someone else’s name. I wonder what people have to say about this on twitter–and how it works there?

    I also like how you want to talk about this in terms of busting the public/private binary! I can’t wait for our discussion in about an hour!