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."