Is Openness and Sharing Fair to Our Students?

For our third debate, we discussed the topic of openness and sharing in the classroom. To start off with a somewhat unrelated note, I admittedly went into this debate expecting something different (I thought I understood the question just by reading the surface level, and neglected to read the description attached to it), and was initially rather confused by the debate contents. What I THOUGHT the debate would be about was whether or not being open about your personal life was fair to students, or if it would be better to keep your personal life and work life completely separate. Just goes to show that properly reading things, even if you think you understand them, is very important!

Anyway, onto the debate itself: How fair is it for students if a teacher uploads pictures of them or their work online as a means to share with parents, or as a way to document learning? As always, we started with the pre-vote, and the results didn’t surprise me a whole lot.

(Apologies for the low quality images, I forgot to take pictures of the results during the class and the YouTube recording was in a very low resolution)

The pre-vote for the debate (Blue is AGREE and Orange is DISAGREE).

The numbers are a little hard to read, but I believe it is 11.1% agree and 88.9% disagree. I said these don’t surprise me, mainly because I think most of us have been conditioned to think that any method of sharing of work is effective, as long as we can be sure that the people we want to see it (such as parents) will be able to see it, and putting it online is (arguably) the best way to do that. However, the post-vote debate DID surprise me quite a bit.

The post-vote for the debate.

A fifty-fifty split! With how one sided the pre-vote was, this surprised me immensely. It seems likes Ashley’s defense of her side paid off, as the agree side came from a 11.1% approval rate to a 50%, which is a huge jump! So, what were the arguments in the debate? Let’s get into it!

Openness and Sharing is Unfair: Arguments

In the article, “Teens speak: Should students publish their work online?”, the author goes over not only arguments to show why sharing may be unfair, but also reasons for the opposition! This makes the article more credible in my eyes; I’ve always thought (and maybe been told at some point?) that the best arguments are able to provide pros and cons of both sides, but still be able to lean people towards the side that they are arguing for. Regardless, the arguments it provides against openness and sharing is protecting work from being copied, and keeping personal privacy online.

When I think of the idea of sharing students’ work online, I think of a picture of a piece of work being done. If this piece of works happens to be an essay, the chances of it being plagiarized are quite high, even more so because it is a picture. When checking for plagiarism, most people will type phrases from the essay into a search engine (or use websites specifically for checking the internet for plagiarism), and see if anything pops up. However, if someone is copying off of an image, that won’t pop up – the words on an image don’t actually leave any trace. A search engine just thinks it’s a picture, which would make plagiarism of this type of work REALLY hard to detect.

As for keeping personal privacy, I think it is only fair that students are able to choose what kind of information that is put out there on them. Having your teacher put out your full name, age/grade, and the school you go to (perhaps without your consent) can be very problematic for someone who does not want that information out there. This idea is further backed by the article, “Should You Use Students Photos Online?”, where they mention most of the ideas I just talked about, plus mentioning that photographing students and putting them online could lead into trouble with parents, caregivers or administration who have concerns on what is posted online.

Openness and Sharing IS Fair: Arguments

Using the same article as previous (“Teens speak: Should students publish their work online?”), it mentions a couple arguments for why sharing students’ work can be very beneficial. The more important of the two, in my opinion, is the idea that sharing works builds confidence and allows the student to gain recognition. Having someone comment positive things on a post where you shared your students work can be quite a confidence booster for the students who have had their work shared. To have it ‘approved’ by other people (perhaps from around the world) can be a really nice thing. The article also mentions that hard work is worth sharing, partly to do with the reasons above (that ‘approval’ or ‘recognition’ from others can be a very big confidence booster).

Another argument comes from the “Pedagogical Documentation: Opening Windows onto Learning” article, where two lines in particular stick out to me.

“While documenting, teachers become researchers. As teachers delve into their “story of the movement of children’s understanding (p. 3), they are also learning about themselves.” 

and

“Through documentation, and the conversations it inspires, learners are empowered to articulate their thinking, feelings and beliefs about themselves and their learning.”

Both teachers and students see the benefits of sharing, and by extension, parents/caregivers. Teachers benefit in the way that they can reflect on how students are understanding given material and what improvements they might be able to make, and students in that they can reflect on their thought patterns as they do their work. Parents or caregivers, of course, benefit from being able to track their students learning progress in nearly real-time, rather than only when report cards are given out, or at parent-teacher meetings. Being able to share work online can be very beneficial to all parties involved.

My Thoughts

Again, this one is kind of tricky. I can definitely see the benefits to why you would want to be very open to sharing students’ work online, but I can also see why many are hesitant to do so. The idea of personal privacy, a possibly negative digital identity, and wanting to keep work private are all good points to why one would want to keep their work off the web. On the other hand, sharing your work can be beneficial in that it lets you, your students, and their parents or caregivers reflect or check in on the work that is being done in class, while also building up confidence in ones abilities.

Both sides raise very valid points, but based just on the debate and the readings here, I think I lean more towards the ‘Openness and Sharing is FAIR’ side. As it is with most of these debates, while I can sympathize with the cons, the pros just outweigh them too heavily in my opinion. Perhaps in the future, when I am a teacher and can hear the opinions of the students and the parents, my view could be changed (or reinforced!) but for now, I am on the disagreeing side of this debate.

 

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One thought on “Is Openness and Sharing Fair to Our Students?

  1. Hi Jesse! I agree with you completely that many of these debates have been so controversial that it makes it very hard to choose a side! I think that is the main importance to doing these debates and blog posts is to get us thinking about the controversial topics that we will be facing when we are in the classroom!

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