Wednesday, April 14, 2010

to censor or not to censor - that is the question

My general attitude has been to let students do whatever they'd like with their pages - they can add photos, music and even additional off-topic postings as long as make seperate and clear entries for their course work. In 90% of cases, this has worked great!

However, since students are required to view each other's blogs, I get worried about the few sites with vulgar content (i.e one students title banner features Tupac giving the viewer not one but two middle fingers! Another has girls - facing away from the viewer - taking off their shirts to flash a highway; another has some off-color rap song playing. Personally, I don't care enough to want to dictate the terms of students' blog designs, esepecially since its only a few. However, I fear that others will be upset.

Should I lay down the law or celebrate first amendment rights? Since students are free to chose the people on whose blogs they read and comment, am I ok vis a vis "comfort level"/ sexual harrassment etc.?


  1. Lizzie, would you consider these blogs to be class space, or their own personal space? Can you make it so students can refuse to visit a blog if they find it offensive and face no grade penalty for their refusal?

  2. You know, I used to have that problem, but not anymore. I think it is because I tell students that the blog for class is "for class"--so that my blog plus their blogs adds up to "class". One of my evaluation categories also includes "appropriateness" and another "clarity of language". Outside the assigned blog entries (12 so far this semester in 101/103) they may add what they like as long as it is relevant to the discussion, but that they should also feel free to create a second blog in their blogger account (or Facebook page, or Myspace, or whatever) and link it to their class blog. That link, we do not have to follow and is not part of "class".

  3. I have managed to avoid this problem so far by insisting that the students' blogs be dedicated to the themes of the course. And probably with a little luck.
    But I think Jason's decision to include "appropriateness" in the rubric is probably the safest course.

  4. I think this is one of those cases of what to do now vs. what I'll do next time I use blogs.

    For next time, as J and A suggest, you may want to create a simple rubric that covers all the things that are popping up this semester (nothing like grades to motivate student behavior). And maybe have a few lines in the syllabus about blogging next to no cell phone talking, etc.

    For this time, a general conversation (not lecture) about what information should go in the blog would work well, I am sure. You could even make it a blog reflection--after all, the class would be thinking about writing, audience,persona, etc., all of which falls under "Composition," so it's not like it's busy work. And while you are at it, you may want to ask them how appropriate/smart it is to put all their personal info up in the blog for the world to see...