As Will Richardson convincingly argues in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Web 2.0 has broad-reaching implications and potential benefits for students, teachers, and the educational field in general, but it bears noting what is put at risk when we utilize this communication technology. The ability to publish instantly to a global audience must be exercised with a certain degree of caution. Before students and teachers begin broadcasting on blogs, wikis, and social networks, attention must be paid to the notion of privacy, or lack thereof.
Richardson addresses the issue when he writes that “These technologies make more of our lives transparent to others in ways that many find unsettling” (Richardson, 5). I agree. Many people do find sacrificing privacy for the ease of publication unsettling, especially when students (lots of them minors) are the ones doing the publishing. To his credit, Richardson discusses that uneasiness with an extensive explanation of the importance of privacy settings, anonymity, parental consent, etc. However, the same degree of emphasis does not seem to be placed on protecting the privacy of the teacher.
A teacher who wants to introduce his/her students to the authorship opportunities of the internet will undoubtedly take precautions to protect all involved, but others who are not attempting to integrate internet communication into their classrooms are still at risk; perhaps even more so. Consider a scenario where Johnny the student comes home from his first day at a new school (maybe in a new city) and tells his parents all about his day. Benign so far. Well, Johnny’s mother is not the type to take her child’s education lightly, which is great, and she did all the research on the new school and feels confident that Johnny’s in the right place. Just one more thing to check: the names of his teacher(s). Now, Mr./Ms. Unsuspecting Teacher, like most people, has a Facebook page with perhaps a bit too lenient privacy settings. Before long, Johnny’s mother has identified some less than flattering photos and is on the phone with school administration.
Admittedly, this brand of privacy breach is much less vile than a seedy individual gathering information about children, but it could definitely cause some real problems for a teacher.