When Working in the Open We Create a Better Product

This is to serve as Weekly Writing #9  (Unit 5 Week 2)
This week’s weekly writing centers on the idea of working in the open.

“The idea of requiring students to present their work via the internet is often met with trepidation by educators. Which concerns are valid? Which are hype? What are the merits of having students present in a public space? In which circumstances do the advantages supersede the concerns? For your writing post this week, weigh the value against the danger of public homework and online student participation.”

I require my students to work in the open on WordPress blogs they set up. In the past I allowed students to choose from WordPress or Tumblr. However, since so many business websites are being built on top of the WordPress engine, I felt it essential for my students to become familiar with the dashboard and as many intricacies and difficulties as possible during one semester.

That does not answer the request to weigh the value against the danger. Simply stated it only explains why I choose to have the students perform in this manner. To best answer this question I offer this list of pros and cons:

Pro: through my reading and my experience a student who knows that others–not just the instructor–will be able to see the product they are creating causes them to work harder, polish the product more and–in effect–take the time that is appropriate to the learning process. Instructional designers at UAF eLearning & Distance Education espouse the need for public opportunities to shine–during iTeach Learning Assessment Cycle trainings. 

Pro: this is an excellent avenue for students to build a portfolio which they may be proud of and one to which they can easily point potential clients or employers. In essence after my course is over these students have their own domains and live samples of their work. I would recommend that they go back and clean it up or reframe parts of their work.

Con: I would highly recommend against working in the open in the K-12 arena. FERPA issues and possible dangers from predators seem too high. Furthermore I feel that students need to gain a level of understanding of what it means to share on a level of this nature that comes with maturity and practice. That being said having the students work in a fashion that is open IN THE CLASSROOM where they put materials out for their fellow students to see and comment on would be very worthwhile.

Con: Chris Lott possibly said it best in Public vs Private Considerations on the iTeachU website:

Obviously, it wouldn’t be ethical to require all activities be out in the open: some conversations and work involve personally sensitive information and should be limited to just the classroom community or even just the individual student and instructor. Discussions in a psychology course, for example, might be most effective when they include sharing of personal thoughts and history that–even if FERPA compliant–are nonetheless should be limited to the more trusted peer community.”

Author’s Note: Does this suffice? Have I concerned myself enough with the issues? I know I give every student the option of using a moniker when working in the open. I cannot open the can of worms that is the hype (for or against) in the amount of time I have to dedicate to this post. Furthermore, I do not want to. When asked by a co-worker what would I do if a student refused to work in the open (paraphrasing), I replied that I would ask the student to drop the course. I’m not being insensitive to the issues, I just feel that strongly that students who want to learn Internet Authoring & Design, must be okay with publishing to the Internet.

Lott, C. “Public vs Private Considerations”  Retrieved from http://iteachu.uaf.edu/develop-courses/planning-a-course/public-vs-private-considerations/ Accessed August 16, 2014.