(via Clancy Ratliff) Interesting couple of threads running through the higher ed universe regarding how students should refer to themselves in their class blogs. It’s not so much a safety issue at that level as it is a student being linked to work that is less than excellent issue. Like what happens when someone does a search on them before a job interview and the freshman comp essay full of misspellings and grammar errors pops up. Jill Walker says

If a student has to publish under her full name during her learning experience, and makes mistakes, they’ll show up for every future employer or lover who googles her name. That doesn’t seem like a safe environment for learning.

What a concept, huh? But it’s true. I know that whenever I come across a new source these days I find myself Googling the name to see what comes up. Or what doesn’t. (I would hate to be dating these days…)

I don’t have any problem with giving students at the college level a choice of how to represent themselves in their blogs. As Jill says, some are more comfortable than others with their online lives and won’t even think twice.

That’s why I’ve recommended to my blogging students this semester that they use pseudonyms unless they’re quite comfortable about claiming their identity online. Many of them do. As they become more secure in the environment, and especially once they understand, really understand, that anyone can read it now and in the future, then real names are just fine and a good part of establishing a durable online identity that you’d be happy for anyone to see.

Certainly, however, owning your ideas whether they are text or video or whatever raises the stakes, in a good way, I think. There’s no question that the bloggers I read think hard about what they write and about whether it’s correct or not. I find it hard to get to good ideas that are delivered poorly…must be the English teacher in me. But I find it equally as difficult to get to good ideas given anonymously. In fact I’m at a point now where I don’t subscribe to any anonymous feeds.

But on the high school level, there is no choice. I’ve mentioned that we only let our kids use first names, pseudonyms if they prefer, and that they refrain from even mentioning other students by full name. They’ll have plenty of time after high school to lay claim to their public body of work. But I struggle with this nonetheless. We want students to take ownership, we want them to be a part of the larger conversation, yet how much ownership can they take when they write anonymously? And when they know that the site will be “depublished” at the end of the year? While it doesn’t totally take away the value of the blog, it certainly diminishes it.

Not sure what the answer is…