Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Lesson

On Thursday I introduced my students to their new wiki for the novel unit Great Expectations. The excitement that was traveling through the computer lab was amazing and inspirational. I noticed a few students who had not engaged in the class much this year become filled with motivation. I left school that day thinking how it was one of my best days of teaching.

Then, at nine that night, my principal called. He had just received a phone call from a parent who said that someone had put some racial and sexual comments on the wiki and signed her son's name to it. I closed off the site to public viewing and changed the password right away. I was crushed. I had taken all kinds of precautions to protect the safety of my students, and then someone in my class (or who someone who got the password from someone in my class) caused another student harm.

The next day in school students were talking in halls and many were as upset as I was. I spent the day working with my administrative staff looking at the histories of editing and listening to some students who had information on who might have committed the act.

I was upset all day and thought how I had learned a tough lesson about trusting my students. Then I started thinking more. By the time I had gotten to the website after my principal's call the night before, a few students had already "cleaned up" the site. As my students were talking about the vandalism they were demonstrating ownership of the site and let me know that they still wanted work with it.

I will have the site up again as soon as we upgrade to add more access control. One thing that my students were excited about was that their wiki could be read by many people around the world - I do not want one or two students to ruin that authentic writing opportunity for the rest.

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