ogged dropped me a line this morning pointing me to a discussion taking place over at Crooked Timber this morning about the potential conflicts between class blog projects and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Eszter, who originated the discussion, suggests that the provisions of this act might be used to say that class blogs cannot be public, because FERPA prohibits educational institutions from releasing student information, possibly including information about what courses students are enrolled in (and, by implication, the presence of a student posting on a course blog reveals their* enrollment status).
Ezster goes on to argue that, should course blogs be forced to retreat from the public sphere, most of what is good about them would be lost. Indeed, one of my key goals over at The Literary Machine this semester is asking my students to see what happens when they write in an environment that is not simply machine-mediated, but public. One possible solution, suggested in the comments, is allowing students to post under pseudonyms (but requiring that they distribute those pseudonyms to other members of the class).
None of these issues occurred to me as I started up the blog — just as none of them occurred to me when I had students participate in any number of other web-based projects in the past. Are there other such ethical concerns that we ought to be thinking through about the relationship between blogging and the classroom?
*Via Languagehat, a defense of the singular “they.”