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July 11, 2008


Arthus Erea

I have posted a response over on my blog: http://myfla.ws/blog/2008/07/09/the-140-character-lesson/#comment-149986



You've raised some valid points here regarding our responsibilities as both educators and adults when interacting with legal minors.

If Arthus were just another name in the blogosphere, our perspective might be different. But we all know his age: that makes his Voice more valuable, in some respects, yet also adds a level of vulnerability.

Arthus is not looking for our "protection" but he is entitled to it nonetheless.

I am careful about adding to the online presence of my own 20-something children. My level of concern skyrockets for students in my district.

We break new ground here. It's important to do so with great care and consideration.

A. Mercer

Man, this must be my day for commenting on your blog. Must be watching NECC from afar (and being on summer break) but your posts have been excellent.

I had my own version of this here: http://mizmercer.edublogs.org/2008/06/18/youtube-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/ where I had taught kids about making videos, but not as much about when they post stuff, they are creating an impression for the whole-wide world to see.

Christian Long

Arthus: I wrote this on your own blog (as you already know), but I wanted to add it here, too. In short, my reply wasn't specifically to you; instead, it was to the others like who bear moral and legal responsibility as adults (18 or older) when it comes to advising, collaborating with, or highlight students who are legally children. I wrote the following (after you commented to me, as noted above by you):


Hardly on the "grain of salt" scale, your comment deserves being taken quite sincerely/seriously. Much to learn from. Likewise, much to reflect upon. While any of our efforts as writers to add clarity to a multi-faceted and inherently complicated set of concepts runs the risk of adding confusion, let me share the following in terms of my original intentions, your response, and where I think this lies on a larger level.

1. You owe nobody the status of 'teacher' in terms of blogging conversations. Whether I or others possess a 'teacher'-like voice when we blog -- based on our professional and life experiences -- certainly does not force your hand to accept it as such with regards to your personal stake in things. Only your immediate family and those educators formally working at whatever school you currently attend deserve such a title in relation to you.

2. While my comment (above) is certainly fair game for you (or anyone) to dissect, it wasn't really directed to you (save for being respectful by acknowledging this as your blog in my opening salutation). My comment was directed to the other adults who are directly involved in this, or may be involved in other similar dialog with teachers/students in and around the blogosphere. That is why I was careful to emphasize the formal/paid side of "educators", rather than the conceptual "we're all teachers" over the course of our lifetime element. If anything, my comment was (and continues to be) less about the specific scenario you were recently part of. Instead, it was meant to look at a larger pattern of interactions between well-intentioned paid/professional "educators" and pre-18 y.o. "students" within the blogosphere. I do take your comments sincerely, but I also know that it my comment was not directed at you.

3. Intellect aside, our ability to engage in serious/sincere conversations inside our classrooms and inside the blogosphere demands that we accept the roles of a) legal and b) moral implications. With regards to a "student" that is under the age of 18, the courts and society both demand that adults must play by different roles than children (using the legal sense of the word, not a pejorative sense of it). Arthus -- intelligence, computer/coding/digital knowledge and blogging 'personality' aside -- you desire for 'peer' status with legally adult bloggers (etc) holds ground in terms of common decency, respect, and our collective interest in 'learning'. On the other hand, once you get into moral and legal realms, it begins to fade in terms of legitimacy (not because you or someone else lacks ability, but because society and the courts deem it as such). Because of that, any adult who acts in a formal or informal way in the blogosphere must still behave in a way that a child is not required to. Consider your ability to make mistakes when it comes to blogger discourse/debate to be more protected than that of an adult who is working beside you or in opposition to you.

4. With that in mind, the focus -- as I stated earlier -- is not about you (whether "14", a blogger who is a "kid" or "student", or whatever). No. It is, however, very much about the adults who are engaging you and using you as an example. Thus, my challenge to the adults (and myself) is to begin seriously thinking about the implications of our behaviors/choices when it comes to collaborating with and speaking children who are playing a role in the larger blogosphere (or our classrooms or educational projects). Again, this is NOT about you as an individual. The courts and society -- frankly -- couldn't care less about that, to be honest. They do, however, care very much about our behavior...hence, the focus on my earlier comment.

5. I have had the growing suspicion for sometime now that many of the adult edu-bloggers that I know and read -- both those I agree with and disagree with -- are failing to have honest conversations about the roles our own philosophical belief systems and professional/edu-political stances are having on the lives and reputations of the very children we blog with and about. Again, this is NOT about you, Arthus. It is about the adults because we are not legally or morally 'peers' of the children we blog with or about...and we can never be until they are of legal age and the playing fields are level in the eyes of larger social systems than our own blogging networks.

6. The Keating example was used for obvious reasons, although I'd like to echo something you said and also take it one step further. You said: "I think you miss the crucial point: Keating was entrusted with the teaching, and therefore the well-being, of his students. He was both their teacher and their mentor." Agreed. And from your POV (as you've clearly articulated above and many times before), we are not your "teachers" on any level. Fine, no worries. On the other hand, as long as we are legal adults and you are a legal child, we are held to a different standard in the eyes of the courts and society. You can reject our conscious/subconscious "teacher" voice, but we cannot ignore our responsibility on legal/moral grounds when it comes to how we engage and discuss/exemplify children in our ongoing edu-blogging efforts. My Keating example was not to suggest that you must accept any of us (me included) as your "teacher", thus your response above was logical and something I can easily agree with. The example was offered in order to force me and networking colleagues to begin looking deeply into the mirror in terms of how our assumptions/behaviors with regards to highlighting children who blog (etc) to serve our own professional, political, and philosophical goals. Again, because I do not believe you are really the point of that larger conversation, I was not implicating you in it. Instead, I was looking for a larger pattern that extends well beyond the specifics of what you were directly involved with over the past few days.

7. Conceptually, I agree with this in terms of the philosophical issues of conversation/dialog: "Truthfully, you are just learning with the rest of us. The very idea that you (or anyone) can be personally held responsible for what happens in the community at large is ridiculous, at best." You're right. That being said, the courts and society as a whole couldn't care less about the web 2.0 rhetoric of "learning with the rest of us." once you hit the age of 18, you'll be right. Until then, we are held to a different standard than you are and no amount of semantic gamesmanship will change that.

8. Finally, the issue of your 'age' is real, whether you/we like it or not. Objectively, you are given the freedom to proclaim the "I'm only 14 (or 15, or 16...)" position while simultaneously embracing the "we're all just learners and peers" status. [note, I'm not saying these are your direct words nor how you consciously think, but they are what the rest of us must juggle when we engage you and talk about you, for better or worse] The rest of us are not afforded the same age/shape-shifting flexibility with regards to our status or responsibilities. Because of that, I think we (the adults) are culpable for creating an overly impressed/focused network of edu-bloggers and conference goers who hold you up uniquely on a rarified pedestal due to your age (before even your legitimate voice/skill). Like it or not, 2 things seem true: a) many edu-bloggers who passionately point you out as a terrific/healthy example of what IS possible when it comes to digital:native (or choose your phrase from their POV) are hungry to find concrete examples of School 2.0's evolution. Until there exists a wide swath of children/pre-18y.o.'s like you who can also be used as concrete examples that the edu-blogosphere points to, you will continue to receive an unfair percentage of the focus in a way that makes 'age' an impossible thing to ignore. Most days this works to your advantage; other days, however, it is irresponsible (on their part) and not to your long-term credit.

I do not pretend that this is perfect, Arthus. But I do offer it to clarify my original intent as not being about you and also to remind all of us that 'age' is an unavoidable issue in this on-going journey until you are 18 (and embrace the same range of legal/social responsibilities that the rest of us are forced to).

This is not about intellect; it's about perception and something larger than you as a single 'student' example. Likewise, it is not about those of us on both sides of the 18y.o. line arguing that we are truly 'peers' in a legal/societal sense. We aren't until all members are at least 18 and assume the same level of legitimate responsibility.

For what its worth, I agree with your final statement. It was about behavior, period. And it was blown up beyond what it was originally worth. Furthermore, you have done solid work articulating your own role/responsibility, and to that I applaud you. All that being said, I will return again to my statement that this -- for me -- is not about you, but about the larger issues the rest of us as adult educators must begin to consider when it comes to highlighting children as examples in our efforts to validate School 2.0 (or whatever one chooses to use as a framing device).

John Powers

Wow! This thread really has me thinking. I'm not firm enough yet to know what I think.

But AlyT's comment on Arthus's blog resonated simply with "caught." Something about doing something stupid online is that when you ask yourself: "Did I really do that?" Sure enough you can go check. Communication gets messy. Pulling back and then checking, I sometimes find that, no, it wasn't the other guy it was me. The owning up becomes essential. I really loved Arthus' apology post and his engaging writing.

I'm not a teacher nor have any regular contact with young people. Still I'm glad you point out that adults do have obligations to act well in their interaction with minors online.

There are tricky situations with adults too. For example, sometimes there are things I learn with friends that I would like to share online. I try to be very discrete about it. I'm 52 and lots of my friends have no online presence, so I feel I must respect their privacy. I'm much more comfortable mentioning friends who do present an online presence.

So, I'm still thinking, but sure do agree with Diane that we all must take care.

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