I’ve often dreamed about using a blog in the classroom; students’ smiling faces as they work to become viral blog stars. Then, the reality sinks in: there are so many possible dangers and complications related to giving students access to a keyboard and the internet. Sometimes, freedom of speech is a little, too, well, freeing.
Blogging can be an incredibly powerful learning tool. Everyday we do Google searches and a lot of the content we find are people’s personal blogs, or retellings, of their experiences of a certain person, place or thing. Currently I’m in the process of learning about many different things, including outdoor climbing and photography. When I want to know where the best climb in Southern Alberta is, or what lens to use for a certain photo shoot, often what comes up are blogs.
So, back to the not-so-free freedom of speech. While blogging can be productive, entertaining, educational and sometimes lucrative, it also cracks open an internet door. A door which can get kicked open by trolls.
We’ve all witnessed them by this point: those people who purposely try to poke a pin in everything. The range of trolling varies; some people simply want to point out the flaw in a statement or argument. Fortune even suggest that trolling could get worse. Others, called flamers, simply want to watch the internet burn. They post inflammatory and, most times, completely biased comments simply for attention. This is what worries me about using blogging in the classroom.
Students could either become trolls, or become the victim of trolls. Blogging, much like journaling, is an expression of thoughts, fears, and desires. It can feel completely freeing and private…only it’s not. Once something is on the internet, it’s out there for good. There are ways to minimize traffic, but it’s still out there.
Obviously there will have to be a great deal of internet (and blogging) etiquette taught and reinforced prior to launching an activity like this (kind of like what Honeybear Lane says here) . In addition to this, measures will have to be taken to approve posts before they go live – to avoid any opportunities to troll, flame or otherwise take advantage of the freedom, and facelessness, the internet can provide.
This is one thing I look forward to in this course – how to use websites, and the creation of websites, as a tool for education…a tool without a pointy end, hopefully.