Trusting, But Less Naive…and Looking For Help

I used last week.  Twitcleaner is a Twitter app intended ot help you manage the people you follow, so you can weed out inactive ones.  I found some interesting patterns–the ones in my list either had been inactive since may or last November.  The puzzle-solver in me wants to know why, so I dug a bit deeper to try to figure it out.  My hypothesis is that the November people were either:

*ones who had just joined and perhaps didn’t tweet past the class where they were encouraged to sign up–or

*they were hacked and they gave up after that happened.

The “May Twitter quitters” I figured just might have been taking a break near the end of school, or had taken off for the summer. I found one that was a surprise, though, even though I hadn’t noticed the Twitter absence because I haven’t had time to be on Twitter much the past few months. Knowing a co-worker, I wrote that person and asked if the Twitterer was okay.  Turns out s/he’s not and I found out something I wish I hadn’t. It’s made me very sad.

The week or so before, Scott McLeod had written a post called, Can you ever really know that edublogger beside you? Turns out Steven Anderson was also writing about the same topic: Social Media and Relationships The comments both places are interesting, and could easily be seen as depicting personalities. How people express themselves and what they say shows their personality, and lets us get to know them better, right? I know I certainly feel like I express myself honestly and put myself “out there” in many ways on my blog and in interactions on Twitter and other social networking sites. However, people can say anything on the web, and we can only know whether it is the truth through extended and repeated interactions with that person, right?

I don’t know that anymore. I know I have unfollowed people I’d like to learn from because of their language, because I DO read Twitter at school, and I don’t want curse words on my screen. I am sad this person was so obnoxious in their actions I had to not only unfollow, but block them. I had interacted regularly with this person.  I had met this person at NECC 09.  I had even had a drink with this person. But I didn’t really know this person, and that’s the point Scott makes in his blog.  That’s the point several commenters on his blog make as they ask if we ever really know anyone. How many times have husbands surprised wives (or vice versa) with some habit or behavior the other knew nothing about or we’ve found out something about a neighbor or friend that completely shocked us? I’m from a small town where everyone knows everyone else.  I’ve had very little personal experience with scandal or distrustful situations or incredibly obnoxious behavior–whether it involves drinking or not. I am incredibly naive…though less naive than last week.

I agree with many of the comments on Scott’s blog where people say they are choosing to be trusting. I am, and I will continue to do that with educators whom I meet online. I do think we should heed the warning here, on Wes Fryer’s Blog via Beth Still, though.

However, I have been really “out there” with my elementary kids. I haven’t hesitated to ask educators in my PLN to interact with my students on their wikis–and I have let educators join their wikis to interact with them. I am REALLY rethinking that practice… and how to set up situations to allow my teacher Twitter buddies to give my kids feedback–or respond to their polls–in ways that don’t quite open up my kids so widely to other possibilities like the potential for private interactions with adults, or older students. I’m thinking a Twitter account might serve that purpose. I’m thinking a conversation with Adam Frey (co-founder of wikispaces) is possibly in order to ask if moderated comments could somehow be allowed. I understand wikis are about collaboration, but when asking for responses or help from strangers, there has to be a way to do that safely for my students.

So, as I think about next year and setting up my kids for understanding global connections, share with me how you let them pursue their passions and create their own stuff on the web, AND interact with the world?  I’m not looking for structured projects between classes–I do that, and encourage the kid to kid  and teacher to teacher interaction.  I’m looking for ways to let my kids receive feedback from anyone on their personal creations, but not be able to then turn to a private space for interacting. Suggestions?

3 thoughts on “Trusting, But Less Naive…and Looking For Help

  1. You are light-years ahead of me in your experience and understanding of the world of blogging, but your fears echo the thoughts I have been having for months. I want someone to tell me how to introduce blogging at the Christian Academy where I will be working, and to guarantee my students safety from overexposure to the world. I will be anxiously awaiting any responses to your post and any further insight you share>

    Kimberly, it’s really not about fear for me, it’s about caution. Jeff Utecht, in his latest blog, Overcoming Our Fears, addresses this topic from a different point of view which has certainly given me pause, especially when he quotes a kid, Adora Svitak, who has done a TED talk.

    By the way, with blogging, it is easier to control the audience interactions than comments on a wiki, as you can moderate them and the comments are public. On a wiki, once someone joins, s/he has access to wikimail to all members of the wiki and those wikimails can be private. It’s the potential for those private emails that I worry about a bit.

    I set up my student wikis so that all wikimail comes to me as well. (See my blog on wikisafety.) It means I currently have a folder in my email box with over 7000 wikimails in it that my kids have sent each other this year. Yuck–what teacher wants to deal with that? 🙂 However, I want to make sure I am monitoring them and that my kids are safe…(and my goal this year is to get parents to take on that role!)

    So, bottom line is that as you begin, don’t overscare anyone, yourself included–just be smart and think about how you teach kids to be safe in real life. Just because many convenience stores sell magazines inappropriate for young children, does that mean you keep them out of those stores? No, it means you teach them not to pick one up and look at it, to ignore them, to deal with it. Do the same thing with safety on the web. I’m just trying to figure out how to give my kids as much freedom as I can and also do that without losing sleep worrying about them. 🙂


  2. Thank you for your admonitions and advice. And on that note, what site would you recommend for hosting my first class blog? I have had a twitter account for about 10 hours now and may make this my first “tweet”.

    I’m most familiar with edublogs and found it simple to set up my kid blogs. It would be a good question to ask on Twitter, though. 😉

  3. Hi Mrs. White,

    Like Kimberly, I am a student of elementary education at the University of South Alabama. I read your comment to Kimberly about handing the censorship role over to parents. What kind of ideas do you have about implementing this? And, what kind of interactions/ responsibilities do you already have with and designate to your parents? Do you have any advice about parent/teacher relationships for a day-one teacher?


    Hi, Anthony,
    Call me Paula–Ms. White is way too formal for colleagues learning from one another. 🙂 You might like to read this blog post of mine, Monitoring Wikis. That will give you a ton of information about how I currently set up my wikis for kids to be safe. I literally have every wikimail they send come to my mailbox, because I use MY email address when creating theri wikis. This year, I’m going to ask parents for THEIR email, so they see what the kids are writing instead. 🙂 I will still be able to log in and spot check, but the bulk of the reading and regular monitoring will fall on the parents.

    As for advice for a day one teacher? That’ll be my next blog post–by Monday if not before. Have a great weekend!


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