I’ve been wracking my brains trying to formulate a comprehensive web policy for my PK-12 school. There are boiler-plates out there, but most don’t get into the subtlety and nuance of various new technologies. In my previous post It’s got to play in Peoria, I discussed some rationale for integrating Web 2.0 into our instruction. I also outlined some strategies for enhancing student safety: moderation and keeping access to published material limited.
The options I mention can be best displayed on this grid:
Moderated and unmoderated refer to control over publication of content. In a moderated environment, a student may submit something for publication that must be approved by an adult in terms of policy, appropriateness, and content, before it is actually published. Unmoderated means that the student can publish without approval.
Moderation has impact other than security, it affects the ownership that the creator has over the content.
When content is moderated, the user must wait for someone else has viewed and approved what they have done. This can delay the display of the materials resulting in less user satisfaction and reduces spontaneity. Students feel less ownership and empowerment.
Public and private represent an oversimplification of access to the content. At one end of the spectrum what is published is available to the world at large, including search engines and archives. On the other end, whatever is published can only be viewed by the creator.
The choices have consequences beyond security. They also impact the creator’s sense of audience.
Audience is an important motivation to create. It also makes the creator more mindful of quality. A volunteer working after school with a student told me how he wanted to show off his blog and how much more motivated he was to do a writing assignment because of it. Another very poor writer found her voice and the skills fell into place. Others just wrote more. A wider audience also increases opportunity for collaboration. Private access, while safer, limits the audience and conteracts the benefits.
If access is further controlled by putting the data on an intranet rather than the Internet it is even safer. It may, depending upon how it is configured limits the students’ access to the content to the school setting making it unavailable from home and other places outside school.
These are a few parameters in web publishing policy that one might consider for student web publishing, as well as their consequences. Again, as we will see in future posts, these matrices represent gross over simplifications and that these dichotomies are more realistically represented with shades of gray.