T Sale's Blog

Monday, February 05, 2007


Today a student of mine made an offhanded comment that I found rather disconcerting, though still interesting. My English 10 students have been reading some King Arthur tales and are currently working on their own original tales. One student informed me, “Mr. Sale, you’re going to be the villain in our story.” This wasn’t what I found disconcerting; I’ve been the villain or hero in a number of student productions. But the student went on to say, “I got some pictures of you dancing from Steph’s Facebook.”

Now I don’t make a habit of dancing for my students. I’m not brave enough to strut my stuff amidst the other faculty dancers at the winter assembly. However…when I introduce Oedipus Rex and Greek drama to my AP Lit students, I have them form the shape of a Greek theater with their desks, and I explain how the chorus used to dance in the area called the orchestra (which in Greek means “the dancing place”), and I walk around in what I guess you could call a minimalist version of the chorus’s dance. When my 10th grader mentioned the pictures, I remembered that Steph (one of my AP students) did have her camera that day and took some pictures. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I guess I’m still living in the round world, rather than the flat one, and it never occurred to me that pictures of me in class would turn up on the Internet.

Of course, one of my first thoughts was of that infamous teacher from Overland whose student surreptitiously recorded his lecture. I thought about how you establish a level of trust with your different classes, a trust that can easily vary depending on the maturity and sophistication of the class. It struck me as a bit of a violation of my…well, not privacy, but of my person, that pictures of me could be published online without my permission. After all, I’m not Lindsay Lohan, and I never worry about the paparazzi. Is turnabout fair play? What if I took pictures of my students and put them on this blog? Sounds like a ticket to early retirement to me.

On the other hand, this is probably the logical next step to student gossip. I know that comments I’ve made to one class, thinking I was talking only to that particular audience, get repeated to me by students in other classes, in other grades. Besides, this could be a new avenue to educational reform: let all the kids have their cell phone cameras out all the time and record and post online everything we as teachers do. Wouldn’t that keep us honest. It would be like a daily “drive by” evaluation by your favorite administrator. If everything we did in class was available for public scrutiny, wouldn’t we make sure everything we did was meaningful and relevant? Would we ever use sarcasm or belittling remarks on a student? Would we ever waste time chatting with them or sharing our own political views when we should be teaching them? Would we ever feel free to be spontaneous or experimental?

Of course I’m getting ahead of my self. I don’t even know if what my 10th grader said was true (guess I’ll find out when I see his project later this week); I wouldn't be able to look at Steph’s Facebook unless she “friended” me (there’s another ugly neologism; isn’t the word “befriended”?). It’s just that I don’t know if I’m ready to have my picture all over the Internet. Especially because I’m not a very good dancer.


  • At Mon Feb 05, 09:18:00 PM 2007, Blogger Karl Fisch said…

    Thank you for this post. This is part of what I've been trying to talk about - with both cohort 1 and cohort 2 - but to no avail.


    It's here, like it or not. We need to be talking about this with our students - and with each other. Assume everything you do is recorded - both audio and video. Whether we like it or not, the technology is already here, so maybe we better start addressing it. We can talk all we want that they "shouldn't" do that, but as long as they "can" do it, and we haven't talked with them about why they should think about whether they "should" do it, how can we blame them?

    Another interesting question - do you have a right to "privacy" in your job at a public school? My best guess is that we are going to go through a period of time where that is debated vigorously, and in the end the answer will be "No."

    I'm not necessarily saying that I'm arguing for that, but I think that's how it will turn out. I think we crossed that bridge a long time ago. As soon as humans had the ability to "record history," we crossed that bridge (come to think of it, that may have even before we knew how to build a bridge). Oral histories, hieroglyphics, the written word, recorded images, recorded sound, recording moving images, and now the ability to post all of that for mass distribution. This was part of what I was trying to get at with both "Did You Know?" and "2020 Vision." And you know it's only a matter of time until we have holographic recording devices in our pockets (the iHolo?), to be re-broadcast on a holodeck near you . . .

    But I feel like I've been talking into a void, a bubble in the space-time continuum around AHS. Folks outside the bubble (well, at least a couple) - have been having conversations about this for a while, and seem able to participate virtually via The Fischbowl (and many, many other blogs). Why, oh why, have I been unable to get this conversation going at AHS?

    As far as how it affects teaching I, again, choose the more positive view. I think for some folks it will be like a straight-jacket (and they will quickly retire). But, in the end, I believe it will be freeing. There's a book whose title I can't remember (maybe you will, since it was most likely science fiction), where they discover the ability to travel to any moment in time, in any location, and observe what actually occurred (including the present time, and I think even the future). In the beginning it was abused, and there's no question it changed the whole concept of "privacy." But, if I'm remembering correctly, after a while things got better. It all goes back to the ethical question of "Would you do [something] if you knew you would never be caught?" But now the question become, "What will you do when you know you will be 'caught' every time?" Yes, I'm probably hopelessly (hopefully?) naive, but I believe humans are basically good , and will respond to this new "challenge" accordingly.

  • At Tue Feb 06, 08:29:00 PM 2007, Blogger Karl Fisch said…

    Thought you might find this post interesting in light of your post.

  • At Mon Feb 12, 11:38:00 PM 2007, Blogger Mr. Kuropatwa said…

    Hi Terry,

    Last semester some of my students took to recording mp3 files of my lectures. The first time this happened I didn't know about it until I saw/heard it posted to the class blog. They're a good bunch of kids and there is a high level of trust between us. I gave them permission to record me anytime they like but suggested they make it a habit to ask permission before doing that in other classrooms in the future.

    I'm into my second week of podcasting all my classes in one of the courses I teach. (Karl linked to a post from my blog about it.) My students also write to the blog daily about all our "goings on" in class; something I call a scribe post.

    In a sense, it does "keep me honest" and focused on what I'm teaching; but in another, more important way, it has made me a better teacher. My teaching has become more deliberate.

    I started this to improve my student's learning. I think it has done that. (I'll be post some "sample stories" of how it has done so to my blog soon.) I know everything is being recorded, and since I want it to be instructive for students if they listen to it afterwards, I'm careful to repeat questions that are asked and in general am more conscious of what I say and how I'm teaching.

    I find teaching in a transparent environment improves both teaching and learning in my classroom. Nonetheless, there is still a comfortable atmosphere in the room and I "feel free to be spontaneous [and] experimental." Listen to the podcast; you'll see what I mean. ;-)

    As a matter of fact, I think it is when we try something experimental in our classes that students learn some of their most important lessons from us. Beyond the content we are teaching they learn to be risk takers and play with the content, which in the end, is the best way to learn something. More than that, when we do so in a very public forum (like a class that podcasts all it's content) we show them it is nothing to hide or be shy of. In a similar manner, I don;t want them to hide thir thoughts or be shy in my class either ... it dulls the conversation; and the learning. ;-)


  • At Tue Feb 13, 10:32:00 AM 2007, Blogger jholliman said…

    I guess if 'all the world's a stage'...and we're all players...we must be on our toes every minute we are performing.What's a 'facebook'?

  • At Tue Feb 13, 10:33:00 AM 2007, Blogger mferrill said…

    Wow. I'm not sure how I feel about students using camera phones in class. Just two weeks ago some of my sophomores asked me if they could use their phones to record me acting out vocabulary words--I said they could. Now I'm wondering where those filmed segments might appear.

    Your blog has given me food for thought. Thanks.

  • At Tue Feb 13, 10:35:00 AM 2007, Blogger mmoritz said…

    I talked to my students about what kids are posting. Just the other day I saw a newscast on kids posting on youtube their teachers rants in front of the class. Of course, I went to my students and asked about it. While we were discussing this, I was reenacting what I saw on the youtube and of course, one of my students recorded my reenactment. We talked about how absolutely detrimental having that posted on the web could be. Eventhough I was just showing kids what I saw, if edited correctly, I would look like a very irate, scary teacher.

  • At Tue Feb 13, 02:47:00 PM 2007, Blogger lgaffney said…

    This is something I have thought a lot about. In fact, every time I open my mouth, I feel I have to provide a disclaimer.
    For example, our English Literature textbook (district approved textbook, might I add) has an excerpt from "Genesis". Many English Literature teachers tie this text to Wilde's Dorian Gray, a connection I find thought-provoking and worthy of analysis. Although this is an excerpt in our textbook, and even though I certainly did not explore the religious implications of this text, I had nightmares for several nights that I lost my job for teaching religion. Particularly after a student asked, "how are we allowed to read this in school?" Eek. To me, this is frightening. I am a human being--sometimes I say intelligent, meaningful things and sometimes what I say could be misconstrued when taken out of context. To me, public school or not, someone taking my thoughts out of context is threatening and scary.
    And by the way, Terry, I am sure your dance moves are fabulous. :)

  • At Tue Feb 13, 02:51:00 PM 2007, Blogger C. Makovsky said…

    One day in A.P. English,I was goofing around and wrote on the "agenda" that I always list on the board--"Topic 1: WTF is going on in Chapter 1 of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?" The kids laughed and, of course, I planned to erase the comment as soon as class ended. I too forgot about cell phones. One of the seniors whipped out his phone and took a picture of what I had written. I thought his reaction was funny--but also shocking and just a wee bit scary. I wonder what else they've "captured" in my class.....

  • At Wed Feb 14, 01:09:00 PM 2007, Blogger Meyer said…

    They've been capturing us for years. The infamous journals of comments by many of our peers have passed from class to class. The stories of the mistaken drawings, unintended double entendres, etc have usually become gossip and even legend. Yet now it can be edited into something it wasn't and shown to the world as you. Sometimes it is you (like the youtube version of Thriller that has reconnected me to many long lost students and friends), but what if it isn't? Where is the protection? As a law teacher, I often hear attorneys speak of how hard it can be to defend the innocent as sometimes the evidence doesn't fit that reality. Will teachers become Supreme Court appointments, who in order to get to that stage, have simply needed to remain off the radar by doing nothing controversial or meaningful?


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