During last week’s BCSSA conference, when I presented on Social Media: How District Leaders Can Build Community, I shared some of my personal thoughts about blog comments and some of the rules I have around them. Some tweets about this got some traction, so I want to revisit the topic in more detail.
One of the greatest fears teachers and administrators have who are looking to enter the blog world, is what people might say in a public space and how they might respond. We are not accustomed to being so ‘public’, and the technology and the openness are both very new. For many, the blogs that are most familiar are those which allow people to post anonymously, or who adopt difficult-to-track pseudonyms. One only need visit some news site blogs to see the nasty comments that can develop there.
In the education world, we need to model how we expect students to behave and engage, and this has led to some of my guidelines:
1) I do not allow anonymous comments on my blog. People identify themselves by name, or by an easily trackable identity. I realize there may be some issues people do not want to be identified with for fear of repercussions — so, a blog may not be the right venue to put their views out there.
2) I will also not engage in blogs that allow anonymous comments. There are some very interesting educational blogs that are okay with this and, as much as I want to contribute to the discussion, I don’t. It’s my way of protesting against, and not condoning, some of the nastiness that can develop in these spaces.
3) I allow more than 95 per cent of the comments on my blog to go through. I think there have been two, maybe three comments that have not been posted over the last year. It IS okay to disagree on an issue, but it’s not okay to use inappropriate language, or to make it personal. If one wants to make personal attacks — again, blogs are not the venue.
4) If someone is going to take the time to read my post and respond — and I do appreciate the time and thoughtfulness of all who do comment — I need to take the time to return a thoughtful comment. It is often said, the comments and discussions that ensue are the best part of a blog — they are what makes them so rich. Whether it is a compliment, question, or a challenge to an assumption, it is about the public conversation, and I make it a point to try to engage everyone who leaves a comment within 24-48 hours of the blog.
I always come back to what we want our students to do; how we want them to engage, be critical thinkers, but we also want them to be respectful, thoughtful citizens. A number of our principals are stepping into the blogosphere, and it is a great professional network, largely encouraging and supportive. So, as we all go forward into digital space and become part of that network, we will also be modelling for those who follow.