A teacher (excited about blogging!) talked with others in her building and her ISP concerning safety issues and the educational validity of blogs. Pasted below is a summary of a conversation we had later.

A representative from her ISP “said there were some ‘liability

issues’ and that it was ‘generally not accepted educational practice’ to use blog sites because the district has ‘no control’ over them and they are trying to close up all the blog sites as quickly as they find them.”

To say that blogging is not accepted educational practice is incorrect. Thousands of teachers and schools around the country are using blogs as a way to improve learning. The Teacher Timesavers article, the Blogging Idea File article and the What are the Possibilities? article all document ways that teachers are using blogs. On my blog page at Social Studies Central are more articles and research documenting the use of educational blogging.

Send him to the Blog Research page or the Best Practices link page that shows just a FEW of the many ways teachers are using blogs (and Blogger) with kids.

Okay . . one more.

So . . . I would suggest your ISP is perhaps more concerned about its liability than yours. I would ask them for examples of court cases, lawsuits, or other examples of liability cases. I am not saying that there aren’t any out there but I and others in our office haven’t heard of any.

I don’t think any software is perfect in terms of “liability” but if a district and teachers can show valid attempts to select appropriate software and practice appropriate strategies, you lessen the “risk.”

“That kind of sounds odd to me when you consider that “the district” really has no control over the current web site because I am the only one who updates and maintains the site anyway. Sometimes, even from home! Hmmmmmm.”

Many ISPs are concerned because there have been so few court precedents concerning digital and virtual use in schools such as copyright, intellectual property, bandwidth use, equal access, safety issues, etc and they would rather err on the safe side. And I would agree that it is a valid concern. But your job as an educator is to move kids into the digital world appropriately and safely. So . . . if you (and the district that hired you!) are asking kids to use blogging tools as part of the curriculum and instruction (which we would both agree is educationally sound), then you (and the district) ARE assuming a certain level of liability. (My brother’s a lawyer. I think it’s wearing off!) Even if the Blogger site is not on your server and you are doing some of the work off-campus, if you are asking students to participate in that activity then you do have some legal responsibility.

“I need some ammunition to pummel him with to convince him that we are no longer in the dark ages and that kids are doing this at home anyway. Can you offer some?”

The first place I would send him is:

The Pew Internet and American Life Project

The Pew Foundation has MULTIPLE reports and documentation about how kids are using the Internet, including blogs. The front page right now has two links to two reports titled “How the Internet Has Woven Itself Into American Life” and “The State of Blogging.”

Others?

“Kids Blogging”

“Why Weblogs?”

New York Times article:

“January 11, 2004, Sunday

My So-Called Blog

By EMILY NUSSBAUM (NYT) ABSTRACT – Emily Nussbaum article on new generation of obsessive self-chroniclers, who maintain Web logs, or blogs, that contain mundane minutiae of life; news media portrays blog explosion as transformation fostering thousands of minipundits, but 90 percent of bloggers are between 13 and 29 years old and many blogs are short-lived experiments; for others, they are way of life, containing daily record of private thoughts; blogs are not only recitation of events, but also interactive forums where readers can comment”

Here’s one about how blogging students are doing better in school than non-blogging students:

“One thing I thought of was it would be nice if the blog sites were open so we could teach kids to blog and post to sites responsibly. I talked to a couple of girls today about blogging and they have a couple of blog sites apiece (that are currently NOT blocked by our ISP!) but the information they had posted worried me some because there was LOTS of personal stuff such as their full names (first, middle, last), where they live, who their siblings are, parent names, etc. It looks to me like that if kids are already blogging, there is very little additional liability for the schools and we can actually be helpful in teaching them how to post responsibly. Am I wrong or am I on the right track here?”

Part of your job, whether you use blogs or not, is to teach kids how to travel in the digital world safely. We both know that the kids are already there. Get the book “Millennials Rising” by Howe and Strauss or/and do a quick Google search on millennials (I mentioned the group on Tuesday; basically anyone born since 1980) and you’re realize that kids live and die with the digital world. But . . . they don’t know how to live and work in that world responsibly. Kansas State Library and Media Standards (available at www.ksde.org) REQUIRE districts to teach appropriate behavior: search techniques, evaluation of information, citation, intellectual property rights, etc.

So . . . yes, kids are already blogging and yes . . . I agree with you. You have a responsibility to teach them how to use it correctly. Your comments concerning the two girls is a perfect example.

Your liability (as I understand it) begins at the schoolhouse door. If those two girls, for example, are already blogging outside of school, not your problem. But . . . when you ask them to use that tool as part of their education, you take on that responsibility. So don’t forget the problems and issues we talked about on Tuesday but if you research the pros and cons and do what you can to eliminate the cons, you should be okay.

Summary? Blogs are new, there will be problems, they’re good for kids, they’re already using them and we need to help kids use them appropriately. The sooner, the better!