5. Ethical Considerations

This blog network is on a web server and is therefore accessible to the public. With this in mind, the following considerations should be made:

Informed Choice

Learners should be fully informed of what their projects will be, and the responsibilities and requirements in advance.

Personal Responsibility and Empowerment

It’s generally more productive to give learners the responsibility to manage, personalise and edit their own blogs. This tends to generate a stronger sense of ownership and personal investment in their projects, and also helps them to develop responsible attitudes towards themselves and each other, and a sense of “We’re in this together”. Teachers and admins should be available for guidance and mentoring, and only to¬† intervene at critical moments. On occasion, learners may need some encouragement to consider the implications, possible interpretations and consequences of the content of articles that may want to publish. They should consider that, in the case of a publicly published blog, their friends, partners, families, teachers, educational administrators and employers could possibly view their blog articles.

Appropriate and Inappropriate Content

Learners should be informed, from the outset, of any topics or subject matter that we consider to be too controversial or inappropriate to publish on a blog post. If learners are unsure, they need to be able to consult with any relevant parties immediately and receive clear unequivocal advice, before they invest time, resources and effort in creating content. Additionally, it’s a good way to learn about journalistic integrity.

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

Learners and teachers shouldn’t publish PII such as birthdays, dates of birth, telephone numbers, home addresses, social networking IDs, etc. It’s also a good idea to have a moderator with super-administrator priviledges, who gets an email notification every time a new post is published, that can edit out any PII that gets posted.

Young Learners, Cultural Sensitivities and Legal Responsibilities

This server is hosted in the UK and therefore falls under UK legal jurisdiction. It must comply with all legal requirements regarding data privacy, protection of minors and duty of care laws. In the UK, the minimum age to create an account on a web service is 13 years old. Younger learners will need written permission from their parents. However, there are also cultural sensitivities to take into account. In some countries it is illegal to publish pictures of minors without explicit parental consent, in others it is culturally unacceptable and, in some cultures, it is unacceptable to publish photos of women’s or girls’ faces. We should respect the wishes of parents and learners, and either blur or remove any offending images or other content.

Restricting Access

In some circumstances, it may be difficult, impossible or undesirable to display a class or individual blog site to the public, so we may want to restrict access to selected individuals. A “live blog” that is constantly being edited and updated would be difficult to “police” effectively 24/7 and so we may need to take measures to ensure that inappropriate learner generated content doesn’t reach the wider public.

For example, learners may want to write posts as electronic “postcards”. Blog posts can be a very effective way of writing home and letting friends and family know how they are and what they’re doing, which can be a strong motivating factor for writing extensive and meaningful articles (It’s also possible to include automatic translation tools for family and friends who don’t understand English). Each blog can be set up so that only visitors with a unique password can view it. In this way, learners and teachers can email the password to individuals who they want to permit to see the blog. If a password is compromised, it can be reset instantly by an administrator.

Anonymising Users

In some cases, it may be desirable to completely anonymise all learners, teachers and admins on a blog. In this case, they can use pseudonyms or “pen names” to protect their identities. Only learners, teachers and admins would know each others’ identities.