Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Monica Said

Saves me the time of writing it myself:

Wikis are fantastic and I have found them quite useful in the classroom. There is value in using them wisely, balancing the needs of all (including parents).

I’m still befuddled as to the reason why the educational process of young people has to be broadcast to the whole world. Unless there is a compelling reason (pedagogically) for wikis to be public, why make them public?

As a parent, I would want to know who my child is sharing their personal information with, like this parent. Was the parent asked to sign a waiver or memorandum of understanding before the project began? Were the details laid out? Was a risk-assessment performed?

As an educator, I want to make sure my students have a safe learning environment, where their mistakes can be used formatively for their own learning benefit. I fail to see how broadcasting these learning initiatives around the world helps with their future career, especially at a young age.

“…the problem is most parents, and most educators just don’t get it yet…” That’s a sweeping statement. Does a parent “not get it” because he/she has concerns about the safety of his/her children that may not have been addressed by the educators?

(And I fail to see how this issue is our own little Iraq. If you mean to compare this to a dictatorship, then there would be no open discussion or debate about these issues.)

There are two extremes–those avoiding all technology and those embracing all technology without due process. We can help reduce “battles” by skillfully assessing and addressing concerns before they arise. Educators can use this as an example of what information should be shared, and how parents can be a part of the solution.

Well, I guess I'd be a bit less fearful. I don't need a risk-assessment. But it seems quite clear that the real reason that these kinds of collaborations are being done on open wikis on the public internet is because we lack the technical capacity to do them in a more controlled, translucent (as opposed to transparent) way for younger children. And I find Will's response to be pretty thin gruel:

Monica: Thanks to you too for the thoughtful comments. Much appreciated. I think the compelling reason why we should make this work public to the world is so that they have experience doing that with us in the “room” to guide them. I really parallel it to teaching kids to drive. We wouldn’t only let them drive around the neighborhood before sending them off to get their license, would we? Or we wouldn’t say “here are the keys; go practice on the Interstate by yourself.” Their worlds are going to be globally connected. Now is our chance to help them navigate what that means.

I mean, are we teaching kids best practices for collaboration, or are we teaching them the easiest possible way to do it?


Bill Fitzgerald said...

Setting up a wiki to be public for a class, or a school, or a group of people, is a ridiculously simple endeavor.

Of course, running these wikis in a publicly visible format brings more visibility to the instructor running the project.

But I had an extra spoonful of cynicism with my coffee today.



Gnuosphere said...

Make the wiki public but the names of the primary individuals developing it anonymous by default.

Perhaps this is what Jim meant by "steps can be taken to protect privacy of course".

And of course, the possibility of pushing aside anonymity should be kept open depending on the circumstances.