Sunday, December 13, 2009

What To Do With Inappropriate Posts

For the first time, I had a student who wrote something that was very inappropriate in a blog post. I've used blogging with students for about a year now, and was very surprised that this student decided to use this platform to discuss such private information. The post was not mean or anything, it simply disclosed all kinds of personal information about her life and her family. As I read it, I had to decide just how I would deal with this issue.

I did not want to come down so hard on this student that she felt discouraged from sharing her story with others. I needed her to understand that her student blog that is connected to other students and to the world through my classroom blog is not the appropriate place to post her inner most feelings about her childhood. As I read her post, it occurred to me that her writing felt like something I would read on myspace. Almost all of my students have some sort of social networking account; I did not realize that they would confuse the public and private sphere so drastically.

This was a learning experience for me. I now plan to talk openly with my students about the identity they create when they write online. I don't think that many students understand that what they write online will follow them for the rest of their lives. Some students seem to have an awareness of this fact but many do not. I know now that I need to talk with them about their online persona and the different types of writing that they'll post online and what's appropriate where.

Luckily, this student was completely understanding of the fact that her post was not appropriate for our classroom blog. I hope that she still feels like she can use her words to let out her frustrations and fears. Part of me wants to give her an old fashioned pen-and-paper journal as a place to record and collect her thoughts. Another part of me, though, is excited that she wrote pages and pages of what amounted to a good start to a personal memoir, à la Jeanette Walls or Tobias Wolff.

Whatever comes of this for the student, I know that I need to think about backing up the train, so to speak, and starting the new year with a lesson on blogging without sharing personal information to the entire universe. After all, once your persona is out there, it's almost impossible to go back and recreate your online self.

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