Sunday, February 17, 2013

Being (not) Anonymous

I recently read Growing Up in a World of Anonymous, an article by Peter DeWitt. In his article he focused on two main points:
(1) Anger infused comments
(2) The effect on students of not being a role model in voicing your opinion online or anywhere else and proudly displaying your name. DeWitt explains in detail that most anonymous posts come from people that
"will post comments of negativity as though they have nothing better to do than find the worst things they can say about the writer, the topic or society in general." He also brings up the negative effect this will have on children, and students. They see their role models (parents, teachers, etc.) pseudo-participating in a topic they are interested in and assume it is the best way to participate. In this sense Dewitt describes it as "a pack mentality where one person inspires the next to write something more awful"

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. DeWitt that we need to set better examples so I want to expand his argument and relate it to my own experiences. I currently lead a five (5) course Educational Technology Endorsement for teachers in my district which includes twenty-five (25) teachers and about (10) principals and five (5) central office administrators. The first course was advanced computer applications and introduced blogging for the first time to all but one participant who had been maintaining a class blog for two (2) years. When I did a survey on the course after, I only received three (3) choices out of four (4) as follows:
  • Loved it, I can see blogging as a valuable tool for my students and myself! (0%)
  •  Neutral (35%)
  • I will more than likely not use this is the future. (40%)
  • I see no purpose to blogging in my professional or personal. (25%)
Additionally on the optional "What part of this course would you change?" I had six people (17%) recommend removing the blogging portion. Additionally out of 35 participants, only eleven made their blogs public. These were, to say the least, very disappointing results.

In response to my request that for everyone's professional growth (optional) they should make their blogs public,  I received the following comments from first year teachers to 26 year veterans:
"I don't feel comfortable letting the whole world read my blog, what if I say the wrong thing?"

"I'm new to this whole blogging thing, I don't want to embarrass myself"
I attempted to explain that many blog posts come up as blunders and many more come up successfully helping the blogger to articulate something about their passions in such a way that they grow professionally and/or personally.

In response though, I decided to not push or require any more than 2 or 3 blogs a course, but I will not remove them because I see huge opportunists to help facilitate a great tool to help teachers reflect, when most are not reflecting more than is required on lesson plan templates.

Additionally, although open for change, our Commissioner of Education takes a pragmatic view of blogging when I requested to do a PD on it at a state-wide meeting.
"I just don't want individuals to use it as a place to share their pet peeve but rather as a professional forum to improve the quality of education." - Dr. Sablan, COE.
A prudent contention for blogging, but if we don't try we will never know. Additionally if we set up a system as mentioned in Dean Shareski's Huffinton Post article How to Make Better Teachers it will provide a safe forum that also holds teacher's accountable for overly negative comments:
""Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least five other teachers in the district as well as five other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and five other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better."
Even thought this system might not actually happen for a few years in my district and a lot of trial and error by me and the participants of the endorsement classes. I will keep blogging and have other blog in the remaining courses and tweeting directly to our hash-tag #psstech, especially with posts where leaders bear some of tough moments such as when Dr. Cook blogged about Where is My Leadership Mojo and How Will I Get it Back?. To show that errors, mistakes, and fears are just good to get out in a reflective way to grow and learn from as are successes.

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Being (not) Anonymous by Anthony Pascoe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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