should plogs be public?

Six graders snicker at the word plog. It sounds dirty, not in our Victorian sense, but in that innocent sense that you expect twelve year olds to have. Kids like turning it into phrases like "Don't plog the toilet," or into a makeshift cursed word like "Son of a plog!" Still, despite the strange terminology, students take pride in their plogs.

When I pass back their final projects, a student asks me what we should do with them.

"Save them, I guess."

"Can we make them public?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, there is this site I go to and it's like a library, but you can publish your plog and anyone can browse it."

"Wouldn't that be dangerous? I mean, wouldn't you worry about creepy people?"

"Maybe," another student interjects, "but I wonder if that's mostly hype. I mean, we let kids sing solos and do concerts for the public, right? And our school already has a baseball team. What's the difference?"

Another student adds, "Actually, a plog seems a little more anonymous. At a baseball game, they see you in person, learn your entire name and have physical access to you. A plog just means they have access to your public thoughts."

"Anyone in the world could visit this site," I point out.

"Do you really think anyone in the world is just going to randomly find out plogs?" a student asks.  "No,  they have to be searching for it. And if someone across the globe wants to take a boat to our great city and read the work of a bunch of sixth-graders, I say go for it!"

"What if you accidentally said something personal?" another student asks.

"Am I going to quit going to a diner because someone might eavesdrop?"

Another student points out, "I'd like to know what people think of my writing. If someone leaves a bad comment on the margins, I can always erase it."

"I don't know," another boy says. "I get random mail from strange people. I'm not going to divulge my secret, but apparently I have a large some of money in an account in Africa."

Finally, Ruth, a typically shy child, raises her hand and says, "I don't want my posts to be public. I think they belong to the classroom. They should be read by us. These walls aren't all bad. They define our community. I wrote with my classmates in mind. If I knew the public wanted to read my plog, I would have written it a little differently."

A boy adds to her comment, "If we knew that these would go to a public site, we would have been too careful in our approach. We would have tried to sound more important or more humble or more grown-up. I'm with Ruth. I like the barrier we have of a classroom wall."

I quickly develop a compromise, "What if we took this route? What if we played it safe at first and created a three-tiered approach? We could copy and paste the best parts of our personal plogs and made that a public magazine. We could then share our personal plog with the class and then have a separate private journal."

The class agreed with this solution, but then a boy pulled me aside and said, "Mr. Johnson, I think we should get to choose if we make our personal plog private or public. I think every student should have ownership of his or her voice."


  1. Nicely presented. Your compromise makes sense to me and suits the collective need. The answer to the final remark presented by the boy wanting to have his own choice is obvious to me. The boy will create his own blog beyond the boundaries of the classroom. I did wikispaces with my students in school. Within days a number had created independent (and in one case more successful) personal spaces. Others began blogs despite my disinterest in the project. We are constantly constrained by boundaries of authority our students do not choose to recognize.

  2. Frankly - I am worried. you present yourself as a kindly old codger. But I wonder if this is who you really are.

  3. I am indeed a fictional character. I am not sure what you mean by kindly or old. I am neither.

  4. As I suspected - you are a dangerous radical thinly disguised as a defender of traditional values (aka old codger.)

    Have you considered the expense of going 1:1 pencil in your school?

  5. I will say this much (and this is why I alienate people): My view of technology involves tension and paradox. I want students to know it, use it, understand how it works, find ways to maneuver it. It's a deeply human need. On the flip side, I want them to be skeptical of ways that technology dehumanizes, how it ruins community and how it erodes the sacred. I want them to work with and rage against the machine. It's a mystery that requires something more than mere binary thinking. Alas, the world turns out to be more than ones and zeroes.

    Light works as a ray and a particle. I'll never understand that either.

    In terms of "expense," the greatest expense of any medium is more than mere economics. A wise man once said it is impossible to serve mammon and love people at the same time.

  6. The unintended consequences of pencils in your school will be immense. Do not dabble in that darkness. Escape while you can.

    Think of the children.

    And, don't you know, there is a war on?

  7. Hey, I just saw the vintage advertisement for Kodak. I was thinking about using some vintage ads in posts about my uneasiness in embracing corporate-sponsored technology.

    I have little ones at home. They learn with blocks and mud and sticks. It might not make them digitally literate, but they're learning. They are slowly learning about technology and I am slow to embrace it. Call me a Luddite if need be.

  8. The Luddites did not need pencils to defend their way of life.

    As long as you don't give the "little ones" pencils you should be OK with your plan for child rearing.

  9. I like the students having an option. I'm coming across a lot of blogs from teachers who say they're making students create blogs as an assignment. Does the world really need student blogs as assignments mucking up an already crowded internet? I came across another teacher who was wondering if she should EDIT those blogs. Imagine giving writing assignments and not worrying about these students putting typos all over their blogs with their names on it?

    Then the issues of privacy. Why force students to put their assignments where anyone can see them if they're not comfortable with it? Not everyone is meant to (or wants to be) a published writer.