Blogging Incognito

Incognito...

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user Raïssa B

We’re trying something different this year. Our class of 11-going-on-12-year-olds is lucky enough to be piloting Google Apps for Ed. for our board/district, but, unlike last year, I’m going to have my students blog anonymously*.

Students are going to create ‘alter egos’ of themselves, whether it be a superhero, animal, wizard, pilot, or professional skateboarder, and write in role for the year. They won’t necessarily post from that perspective all the time, but they will represent themselves as somewhat of an alternative identity. As the teacher, I made this executive decision for three main reasons.

First, I wanted to respect the awesome community I teach in. I know some families aren’t comfortable (yet) with the idea of self-publication and intentional digital footprinting. I don’t see why I should be making that decision for them.

Second, I wanted to incorporate art and design into the learning with social media. I very much am borrowing an idea from my love of teaching drama when I talk about writing in role. Moreover, I’d like to see my students taking considerable control over their graphic design literacy.

And third, I want to test the notion of whether you really have to be yourself to learn how to be yourself. Adolescence, of which my students are walking through the doors of, is a time for experimentation and natural identity play. Will their grasp of digital citizenship and autonomy be weaker or stronger for having played Superman before revealing they are Clark Kent?

I’ll let you know how it goes. I’d love to hear your feedback on this idea.

*Students will not be anonymous to myself or each other, but they will be to the public.

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13 thoughts on “Blogging Incognito

  1. I think this could be a great transition for hesitant takers. For many families the anonymity of their child is important. This is a cleverly creative way to support those families and still provide a similar (if not more engaging) learning experience through writing and connecting.

  2. What an interesting approach. I love how you’ve addressed the concerns and needs of your community while engaging and moving your students forward. I am very interested to see how this develops over the course of the year and how it influences their writing. I will also be curious to learn student views on this come June. Very intriguing… I look forward to hearing about this journey.

  3. I LOVE this idea! I, too, am a lover of theatre arts, and this is a fabulous way to get students to write and learn about character, the latter of which they’ll be doing almost subconsciously. I look forward to seeing how this turns out!

    Which site will your students use for their blogs?

  4. Very interesting inquiry about blogging incognito and I look forward to seeing how it plays out. Just curious, are all the students on board with this idea or are their some students that prefer to blog as themselves?

  5. I hear you on the reluctance Royan but what I am wondering about is the idea of accountability. A lot of cyberbullying and nasty things on the Internet do not usually come from kids using their own name; it often seems it is coming from those that hide behind an anonymous name. I know exactly why you are doing what you are doing, and see that you are thoughtfully scaffolding families (not just students) on the work that is happening. My question is about when will be the next step to show that kids are responsible for who they are at all times?

    This is something that I have struggled with myself so I would love your thoughts.

    • I struggled with this one too because I also believe we need to teach students to be authentic, real, and truly themselves. I thought about the bullying and whether this would inadvertently facilitate students’ development in being anonymous online rather than their true identities.

      At first, my idea of blogging incognito came from a compromise I was making with my school community, administration, colleagues, and district. All of our stakeholders are at drastically different places on the social media continuum. Upon reflection of my experience last year, I felt I was being somewhat arrogant in asserting that I knew what was best for my students in an all encompassing way. I was also at risk of putting myself on such a metaphorically deserted island to be in danger of drowning in the vast sea around me. I am not interested in martyring myself for my ideologies about schooling.

      As you know, navigating social media and transformative use of the internet in our climate depends on the understanding that mistakes must be made and used as learning opportunities. I don’t feel comfortable that this culture exists in our (the collective ‘our’) systems. Yet.

      So, it started as a compromise, and now I’m seeing the benefit to learning already. I will blog soon about this.

      Thanks for the comment, G.

      • Royan,

        Thanks for your honesty and thoughts. This is such a struggle because, to be honest, this is new to so many of us. The path does not need a flashlight, but really, a machette. Not many have been on it before,

        I am SO glad that your students are moving forward.

        Keep on keeping on 🙂

  6. i tweet as MissShuganah. i blog as MissShuganah. If I didn’t, I am not certain I could share as much as I do. I speak about my experiences as a mother to kids in the CPS system, and most of it is not flattering.

    While I get the point of George and others, I have personally been bullied by the system. I feel I can only speak out against those who have under a pseudonym. Perhaps that is incorrect thinking on my part? Certainly wouldn’t be prudent for me to use my kids’ real names. As it is I feel I have been walking a fine line.

    I have been online for almost thirteen years. I have been bullied by people using their real names as well as pseudonyms.

    I’d review use of pseudonyms on a case by case basis. If a student is a responsible citizen then why not allow it? Shouldn’t be a problem since you can monitor all students.

  7. Interesting… I came to the same conclusion for my Gr. 7 students, although I hadn’t thought as deeply about the literary/drama potential. My students have chosen aliases on a class theme, painted pictures of themselves in art, photographed, edited, and posted their avatars online in media literacy, and so have created a “digital identity” for themselves online. I’ve emphasized that this is a learning process, that this is their “work” identity online, these are their “work” accounts, and their “work” is learning as much as they can.

    Some parents in my school community are simply not ready to have their child “exposed” or placed in a vulnerable position by allowing their child to post anything online, or even ME post anything if theirs online. Some have withheld permission for their child’s photo to appear online, even if it isn’t identified by name. I believe it’s my job to overcome their fears and resistance by demonstration, education, and our success. And like you Royan, I am not prepared to jeopardize the entire process by risking it all. I believe the benefits of going forwards with student anonymity far outweigh the losses and/or risks during this time of societal change. I am going slowly and doing the best I can to be sensitive to potential pitfalls, and to build digital citizenship values long before the kids dive in.

    Perhaps I’m kidding myself – yep, perhaps what some of my students will learn from me is that they can use the anonymity of the internet to harm others. I am actively working against that. I am teaching them that they are accountable to me, to their peers, their parents, and all of the people with whom they communicate. But more importantly, I am trying to help them learn that they are accountable to themselves, and that more than anything else, THIS is what will help them to develop a feeling of personal pride, honour, and self-esteem inside.
    Canadians have worked very hard to create the relatively peaceful and respectful society in which they get to live. I am trying to help them see the rewards and benefits of being responsible digital citizens, and the very unique opportunity they have right now to help create that world online.

    Aliases? Avatars? Anonymity? These are small-change issues to me because there are too many issues at stake at this point in time. That’s my thinking anyway, right here, this year.

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