More on What Happens When Students Get Comfortable in their Blogging–and Blog about Us!

Bryan sent me links to the student-blogging-the-professor-and-the-professor-finding-out story and the the student’s posting after he realizes his professor has been lurking about his blog, and of course I found it quite amusing.

For me it’s been the other way around a bit. My students read my blog, I know, and I’ve written before about how at first it felt a little strange when they trackbacked my postings to their blogs or left comments because it hadn’t dawned on me that they would be among my modest readership– I was surprised that they would even be remotely interested in what I was blogging (except, of course, since I was largely blogging about them, it would interest them–duh). But most of the time they just read along without responding or linking–and I might hear about it in the hall: “Nice post, BG” but mostly I don’t hear about it.

And it’s fine by me. I’m glad they read the blog. Knowing that they read my writing–my blogging–makes me on some level try to model how blogging is a great way to keep a reflective practice, but an even better way to open up our thinking and to get out there and participate, to stir up the ideas and see what comes back. And I know my blogging here has inspired a handful of students to want to try it for themselves outside the confines of the classroom. I don’t care if I know which of them reads the blog. They don’t need to identify themselves–it’s part of the beauty of the blog.

But something bothers me a tiny bit about a professor reading a student’s blog without ever letting on until the end of the semester in an albeit slyly funny way–with no harmful intention whatsoever. It leaves me with the slight taste of Big Brother peering over the shoulder, of the old power paradigm at work keeping teachers up on the stage and students in their seats.

Granted, the kid was blogging and so anyone has the right to read the posts. But do we have a different kind of responsibility to let our students know we’re reading their blogs if they haven’t identified themselves on it nor have they openly identified us yet we know who they are and that they’re, in truth, writing about us?


5 Responses

  1. No. Why on earth would we?

  2. Do We Tell Students We’re Reading?

    If they are our own students, then I think it would be wise to have a discussion whenever necessary…

  3. I guess I don’t necessarily feel I would need to inform the student per se, but I definitely would not want to “announce” the fact that I had been reading a student’s blog the way this professor did. That does seem like a power thing to me.

  4. There seems to be a wider issue at stake here than just blogging – although it’s certainly true that it is through blogging that we get a great example of it. That issue, as I see it, is an issue of privacy, or perhaps of information control.

    Firstly, why would someone choose to hide themselves under a pseudonym and then write about other people – also in some cases under psuedonyms and in some cases not – and then be foolish enough to let that information be widely enough known that the subject matter can identify themselves? There is clearly an aspect of power-play here, but it isn’t that clear to me who has the power and who does not. They may only be learning, but students still should be able to understand that a secret is only kept that way when it is told to noone at all.

    Secondly, this is an area so grey as to have its own gradations – surely, we all – including previous comment-writers – can imagine a scenario in which the pastoral role could lead to some sort of ethical obligation to inform the child. Equally, it is not beyond reason to state that such scenarios represent the outliers of the population, and that we should be bound only by rules that – in general – avoid invading another person’s privacy.

    This, however, brings us back to the first point. If we know that a given student is the author of the blog, and given whatever ethical standard we are assuming is upheld, then it seems rare indeed that one should be obligated to inform the student – that is, that knowing a writer’s true identity is the necessary and sufficient condition for informing said writer. One does not, in this model, have a responsibility towards the child to inform them in any way.

    Whether an individual chooses to inform that person is a different matter, and one that I imagine would be bound by a different set of moral codes.

  5. Great blogging story

    bgblogging Follow the links on this one to read about the “anonymous” student who blogged about his law professor and was uncovered. Face it folks, there is no such thing as true anonymity on the net, so be prepared to…

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