productive even outside the bounds of
the subjects we teach. Never before
have those needs been more easily
met than through such acts of electronic communication as blogging.
A personal blog, by its very nature,
is personal, whereas a professional
blog relates to the work in which we
as educators are engaged. It is perfectly natural for us to have personal
and professional views of ourselves.
When we cross over one area into the
other, though, we should be thoughtful and deliberate about it. Injecting
something of personal concern into
our professional communication has a
powerful humanizing and connective
effect, so the chance to do so should
not be ignored. But it still requires
the care and responsibility associated
with professional communication. The
same applies in reverse: Adding professional commentary to our personal
We need to model for our students habits of communication that are positive
and productive even outside the bounds of the subjects we teach.
writings can enhance their positive
impact when done responsibly.
If, after we put thoughtful and deliberate care into the personal electronic
communications that we make public,
we end up having to take responsibility for our comments, all the better!
What better way to illustrate to our
students that effective communication
requires us to consider the effects our
words might have on our listeners or
readers. The nature of conversation revolves around offering and push-back,
point and counterpoint. We may not be
responsible for how others react to our
words, but effective communicators
What about the extreme case of
punitive action, such as censure or
dismissal from employment, resulting
from personal communication? I would
have absolutely no desire to work for
an organization that disregards open
and honest discussion or assumes that
I have no self-control when it comes to
keeping my personal life from affecting
my professional responsibilities. The
message that sends is: “We value your
work but do not value you. We would
prefer if a machine could do your job,
but we haven’t figured out a way to
make that happen yet.” It would be
better to retain dignity and integrity by
finding employment elsewhere than it
would be to work in such conditions.
James Maxlow began his career as a middle
school math teacher and has spent the last five
years in instructional technology. He is the lead
technology curriculum integration specialist for
Newport News Public Schools in Virginia.
what they thought of this mandate. Before I knew it, my story was spreading
through educational press circles with
headlines like “Education Dept. Restrictions on Blogs Rile a Staff Blogger” (New York Sun, May 9, 2008).
The story became fodder for much
debate in the blogosphere, throughout
my department, and beyond.
Then people at work started to
avoid me. Some colleagues came
straight out and said they were afraid
I would post something they said in
my blog. Others were leaving e-mails
I sent unanswered. I felt like I had
contracted the plague.
Weeks later, I wrote a post about
a class of mine that, among other
things, shows teachers how to use
Google text messaging as an educational tool. The Sun picked up that
post, too (“Despite School Cell Phone
Ban, Course Sees Them as Aid,” May
16, 2008). As a result, the facilitator
scheduled to teach the class asked
Engaging in an activity that constantly places you under examination makes an
already difficult job even more difficult and potentially jeopardizes job security.
to back out because he was afraid
he would get in trouble. Then my
employer told me that I had to make
sure no cell phones were used in the
class, even though it was for teachers,
not students. Suddenly, a course I had
been running successfully for quite
some time was under deep scrutiny.
Not long after, an inappropriate
anonymous quote appeared in another
newspaper article. Guess whom my
employer assumed was the source?
Me! I always blog/write/speak under
my real name. But it didn’t matter.
Because I had a blog, I was suspect.
My colleagues shared that this
fallout was exactly the sort of thing
they had warned me about when I
began blogging. Although none of
it deterred me personally, I realized
there is a real risk in blogging that I
had not initially considered. For even
the most innovative of educators, engaging in an activity that constantly
places you under examination makes
an already difficult job even more difficult and potentially jeopardizes job
security. For that reason, even though
I believe educator voice is important,
I think most will ultimately find that
blogging is just not worth the risk.
As a technology innovation manager for the New
York City Department of Education, Lisa Nielsen
oversees the creation and implementation of
innovative technology and instruction. She has
spent more than a decade working in various
capacities in educational innovation at the NYC
DOE and Teacher’s College, Columbia University.