Al Upton had a day he'd rather not repeat yesterday. Without rehashing all of the details (I wouldn't want to get any of them wrong) it culminated with a request to close down his widely renown and globally acknowledged class blog, the miniLegends. If you go to his blog now, you will be confronted by the following:
Order for Closure
This blog has been disabled in compliance with DECS wishes (Department of Education and Children Services - South Australia) It seems that this blog in particular is being investigated regarding risk and management issues. What procedures should be taken for the use/non-use of blogs to enhance student learning will be considered.
From the close of school Friday, Al's distress tweets could be read from twitter and the story for his perspective started to emerge. Al's classroom is less than fifteen minutes from where I teach and the immediate potential consequences for my own fledgling classroom blogging program started buzzing through my head. We work for the same system, belong to the same professional association and we even applied for the same position once (which he currently holds as an eTeacher). I arranged a Skype call with him later in the evening to
find out what was going down. This was a start of a marathon Skype meetup that garnered partipation and support in equal measures from progressive educators all over Australia. (I bowed out at around 10.30 pm local time but Sue Waters tweeted that the conversation continued for a few more hours afterwards.)
Al mentioned that he wasn't interested in blame but wanted to turn this around into a discussion point that help inform and lay out a way forward that isn't based on fear and paranoia. The fact that well over 30 educators from all over the world and all education sectors had left comments of support within 12 hours of the breaking news at the Closure page of Al's blog shows he is not alone in this desire.
Sean FitzGerald's comment seemed to sum my point of view:
Very disappointing. I’ll just add one point, which I haven’t seen made yet, which is this… what is this modelling? You make a mistake in good faith and you get slammed? Why couldn’t this situation have been used to clarify safety guidelines and make whatever changes to the way you were working in line with those? Why shut down your whole operation completely? It seems more like punishing and making an example of than correcting behaviour. Oh wait… this is school.
Al is a digital pioneer, someone who I've modelled many of my ideas on. He is 100% focussed on benefitting his students and has fittingly been named CEGSA Educator Of The Year in 2006 in recognition for his efforts. He hasn't just started this student blogging thing yesterday. He is open, been more than willing to share his ideas with me, been willing to compliment me on my blogging as tool for teachers' professional learning focus and amazingly is talking this whole thing up as an opportunity to shine some light on online literacies, safety and ethics as practiced (or not) in this state.
I hope that this turns out to be the proverbial "storm in a teacup" and the miniLegends are back to normal as soon as possible. Meanwhile, to prevent the embers of paranoia from heading my way, I think I will be asking my Blogging Coaches to just wait for a while until this issue resolves itself and I myself am clear about what our department is prepared to support in terms of students' learning using the Read/Write web.
Meanwhile, I'll just end this post with a quote from Dianne McCordell's post that summarises a lot of the reaction I've seem from edubloggers as they become informed of what has occurred in this quiet part of the world.
Many school-aged children spend unsupervised time on home computers. Conscientious parents are alarmed by stories of online predators and cyber bullying but don't have the skills or knowledge to instruct their children in digital safety. The classroom is the logical place for students to receive safety instruction and participate in guided practice.
Our children and teen-agers must have fluency in communication and collaboration to be successful in the world they inhabit. Rather than encase them in armor, we should arm them with knowledge.
Reacting with fear and shutting down opportunities does not seem to be the best response.
Hear hear – it’s pretty tragic that we’re experiencing this in Australia too – whereas of the 60%+ Edublogs users who are in the US we haven’t come across anything like this in over 2.5 years.
Anyway, as I said before, Edublogs is 100% behind Al on this.
Yes Graham, great post. The amount of support globally for classroom blogging thoughtfully expressed is one of the positives to come out of the situation (another one was the marathon skype session – yes I was part of it till 2 am local time.)
This is the second incident like this I”ve run across in the last few weeks.
I agree–why the overreaction? Why not, like anything else we do in schools–correct the problem, iron out the details, and resume the project?
What are we modeling for students? I think discussing this openly is an important part of the learning.
What a great post. I too will be talking about this on my Blog.
The big issue is the lack of disclosure. Why has the blog been closed, what is the issue here? This is, as said previously, a knee jerk reaction.
Lets get real here. This is 2008.
Hang in there everyone!
No ….I havent dissapeared totally.
I’m just getting sick of the dispiriting trite that is permeating the edusphere as it reels in those responsible for making education for kids relevant and engaging.
This news is just sickening.
Ok…..heavy drinking needs sports teams to pull their heads in. The carer’s pension is but a snippet o the navy’s misspend on helicopters and now teachers with any nounce are getting the pounce for what ? ?
Sedition ? Inflammation ?
That open educator logo is becoming more and more relevant Graham. What would they make it say otherwise ?
Closed educator ?
A measured and, I guess, deliberately understated response, Graham. It has been wonderful to see the great support that Al has been garnering from all corners of the globe, and many, like me, from way beyond Australia’s shores. A decision such as this is just so antithetical to what education is supposed to be about – but it does tell us we still have along way to go before we can begin to say we are winning the argument(s).
It is typical of Al Upton that he does not want to attribute blame but wants to use the whole episode as a learning experience. I feel we should take his lead and try to engage in a constructive way where we can with those who would agree with the decision by the South Australian authorities (and there are many, of course, in every part of the world, including my own Scotland).
I wonder – has anyone from the authority actually spoken up, openly, in defense of the decision yet?
In Support of Al Upton | Teaching Sagittarian
I agree with the majority of posts here, and from other blogs around the web. I do not understand why it is the initial reaction of schools (and higher) to first filter, block, and close down these valuable activities. It would make more sense (to me anyway) to begin by teaching students how to navigate and learn in this new world that they will soon be a part of, with or without an education about it.
Ed Tech Crew » Ed Tech Crew 36 - Podcasts, Flickr, Mashups & Minilegends