Al Upton & The MiniLegend’s Blog Given Order for Closure

Al Upton & The MiniLegend’s Blog Given Order for Closure

aluptonmin.jpgLast year I was incredibly fortunate to be able to work closely with the Al Upton and the miniLegends, a class of Year 3 students, aged 8 and 9, during the 31 Days to Build A Better Blog — which involved completing daily tasks to improve our blogs — with an added incentive of Chocolate for the Most Improved blogger and Best Commenter.

Al’s been blogging with his students for the past five years and this year Al Upton decided to take student blogging, with his new group of miniLegends, to the next level and invited the educational blogging community to mentor a mini.

Unfortunately Al and his miniLegends have had problems this week; the end result being that today he was given an Order of Closure by Risk and management/Special Investigations Unit from the South Australian Education Department to remove his Al Upton’s MiniLegend class blog.

What happened was a few parents became concerned over the use of student images on blogs and potential for cyberstalking because global adult mentors were interacting students. Al had followed all the right procedures and obtained parental consent.

Al would like us to use this opportunity to inform/educate parents and Education Departments of the value of blogging for learners and to discuss the true realities of cyberstalking /bullying. Please take the time to leave your comments, thoughts and links either here or on Al’s blog.

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32 thoughts on “Al Upton & The MiniLegend’s Blog Given Order for Closure

  1. I did write some support for Al over at his blog, but I did wonder about the use of pics when he began his project.
    I just assumed he had all the right permissions from all the parents. Maybe he did?
    I hate that he is the crossfire, but his situation can be a learning experience for all of us.

  2. Yes Kevin he had parental consent for use of photos and support of his Principal. Concerns were with the images and the fact that adults were interacting with the learners. We are hoping that Al is able to discuss the issues with the Department next week.

  3. Like Kevin, I have left a comment on Al’s blog about this situation.

    I respect Al for taking this step forward with his students.

    This is all very much ‘unchartered waters’ for educators.

    I would like to run some ‘how to blogging’ workshops with the teachers of my children’s school – and I would like them to have the confidence and skills to take the Al Upton path.

    The ‘read – write’ web is no longer a ‘new concept’. It is a very real and exciting learning opportunity for our students.

    It is also a means by which a lot of young people are carving out their identity. And because this is so new to them and their parents, and their teachers, it is even more important that educators help their students to develop the skills of operating in an online environment.

    Al, I take my hat off to you, please, please keep pathing the way for the rest of us educators – test the boundaries, muddy the water, challenge the mindsets.

    Allison Miller

  4. As i commented on his own blog. Whilst I can see the issues re. adulty involvement there comes a timewe need to STOP mollycoddling kids. A time when we say ‘this is actually of intrinsic value’ and people need to just read the TRANSPARENT nature of the responses the kids were getting to see that the initiative was superb.

  5. It would be helpful to have guidelines for the kind of activity Al was managing with the students and outside mentors. Sounds like he was doing all the right things.

    On the question of pics – parental permission and no names or at least not whole names as determined by each community seems the best strategy.

  6. I left a comment on Al’s blog as well. This is such a shame, he had the permissions, asked for help from his own learning community. What better way for students to learn appropriate online behavior than from those of us who are teaching it to our own children and students. I hope this is resolved positively for all.

  7. It seems that this along with Jabiz’s (@intrepidteacher) “resignation” this week (and who knows what else over the year or so) that we have much to discuss as a community. Where is best blog or Ning to do this, to continue with this dialog and shape future directions?

  8. As a person extremely heavy involved with the internet industry I would NOT recommend putting pictures of kids, group shots or otehrwise on the web. Picture where they can’t be identified, like back views are okay, but anything else parental permission or not.

    In fact I wouldn’t put pictures of any child under 16 in a public area.

    They just become too open to digital abuse.

    I don’t know if Al did this, but I woudl have moderated all the comments and edited them as needed. Even suggesting the kids reword replies to comments or just not respond to some.

    I woudl have then documented this as an interaction policy, and distributed it to all the parents as well.

    It’s shame that we are all (male especially) viewed as sexual predators when we are just trying to help the kids.

  9. Let’s hope that ultimately, this situation will highlight and publicize the positives of what Al and his class have been doing with their blogging. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the reality of online activity. When done properly, as has been the case in Al’s situation, we provide our children with the opportunity to learn and practice safe internet use in a supervised context.

  10. Sue,

    I just posted on my blog about Al’s situation, trying to offer information rather than just criticism.

    This is a battle we will be fighting for years to come. If the students are not taught guidelines for safe and effective online communication in school, where and how will they learn?


  11. Interesting comments to an interesting situation – Gary it’s great to have your input about the real and present dangers.

    I think this whole situation highlights the difficulties in viewing the issues clearly. Yes there is danger, yes there is great opportunity and educational value.

    What I find amazing in all this is the knee jerk reactions. Given that we work in an era of collaboration, connection, it is amazing that such far reaching decisions could be made without open consultation.

    I like Al’s approach to try to use it to educate and change views, and to do this, we MUST acknowledge the dangers openly. By airing them they become less scary anyway.

  12. Oh dear, fear out of conservatism at work again. There is no doubt though, that photos of kids online would be ripe for abuse … sadly. This is reality.

    Let’s trust this is not a blanket end of the matter and that the SA Department of Education will undertake a thorough, unbiased and unfettered discussion with all stakeholders regarding the matter.

    Al, your work should be congratulated. It’s been pioneering and groundbreaking. Of course there were also bound to be hurdles, naysayers and anxiety in its wake. As a community of educators (and many as parents) we need to continue addressing the matter. It’s not the end, just a turn in the road.

  13. I was impressed by Al’s attempt at using established bloggers to be mentors for his students but have to say I was surprised at his use of student photos to promote this – does it matter what a student looks like?
    Maybe mentors need to be other students but a few years older – yes I can hear the replies to this that they also be ‘abusers’ but there are some ‘established’ student bloggers out there. What about within his own community / school.

  14. Hi Sue,
    What a disappointment this must be to Al and the minilegends. I have just started some student blogs and was going to ask for some mentors from those educationalists I have blogged with for a while…. but until this is resolved I might leave that on the back burner.

    How can students learn to be safe and savvy 21st century digital citizens unless they are shown how and allowed to experiment safely under the guidance of a teacher?

  15. Hi everyone thanks for your thoughts and feedback; with so many I decided it was best to write a follow up post explaining the background behind Al’s work plus highlight many of the great comments you made. The post is located here.

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