The point where I have to take a serious look at the privacy issues surrounding my students’ Web logs has arrived as we’ve begun to rewrite our AUP to include aspects of student publishing. The nuance between teachers publishing student work on the Internet and students publishing their own work is an important one as to me, at least, there is a higher degree of ownership when content decisions are being made by the author. But, of course, it also opens up some potential problem areas that deal with appropriateness, correctness, etc.

In having students publish and write in their Web logs the way I do, I have found that I have to trust them to be appropriate, and I have to be ok with imperfections. It’s just not possible for me to read every word before it is posted. Even with just one class of 24 students, the output is pretty intense. So far, they have acted very responsibly with this opportunity. (But these are pretty responsible kids…last week when I was out on Friday, a sub never showed up. They never told anyone, just went through class and actually worked. I yelled but smiled on Monday…) Mistakes and proofreading errors are common, however, and I deal with that as well as I can. (It would be nice if Manila got a spell check…)

The venerable State of New Jersey has other hoops to jump through, however, including mandatory permissions for the identification of students by name and other personal information. To be honest, I’m not sure what CIPA and COPPA policy is on this. (Any pointers anyone?) Now, I don’t have a problem with my students’ sites in terms of making them compliant. The new issue that is arising is the use of other students’ names in the stories that my own kids are writing. Absent a check of each student’s level of ID permission, I have no idea whose name is allowed to be published on the Internet and whose name can’t.

None of the potential solutions are great. I could zip up access to their sites, which neither I nor my students want. Or, I could have them go back and edit out any names, use initials or pseudonyms or whatever, but somehow that seems like it would detract from the quality of the work. (That’s more my issue than theirs.) We’ll see…

All of this will impact how the new Web site will work as well. If we have teachers posting content, they’ll have to be aware of the “rules” and procedures for identifying students. The whole process is so cumbersome right now that we’ve got some brainwork ahead of us to make it easier on everyone. Just something else to add to the list.