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Thursday, October 27, 2005

What can you blog about?

There was some discussion a week or so ago on WCENTER about blogging and writing center work. Many people were rightly worried that if we blog and describe specific sessions we have we run the risk of having the student writer encounter the description through a search and, therefore, becoming shocked an demoralized by seeing what has been blogged about them even though it had been done with complete anonymity and careful consideration that telling details would be left out. I would assume that those who are against public blogging of specific sessions don't believe that a peer tutor would openly ridicule a student writer, so it cannot be a fear of mockery that drives their opposition. I still wonder what is to hide about sessions from the people we work with? What would demoralize them so? We do work with fledgling writers and we should be very considerate of their emotional needs and strive to do no harm. Can we ever write publicly about them in an anonymous fashion?
Can we, ethically, ever share our interactions openly?

Note I was going to write about an interesting experience that one of our peer tutors here at SLCC had with a student yesterday that was relevant to another discussion going on WCENTER currently, but thought twice about it upon remembering the previous discussion.

7 comments:

  1. Clint -

    I remember that conversation on the WCENTER mailing list. I remember wondering if concern for students' privacy could be taken too far, and at what point we could ever describe any tutoring session about any student in any online context, even if every identifying aspect removed, and session descriptions written about only on school-approved sites that only certain people would be allowed to see.

    At Stony Brook Univ. we use Blackboard, and our director has set up a discussion board for us tutors to have a place in which we can discuss sessions. If, as a community, we were more inclined to blog, this would be a good place to do so, inasmuch as only those who are tutors and have been added to the Blackboard site can even access that. Would this be acceptable, or should we just not discuss sessions at all unless we do so in person - after everyone has gone home, we close the doors, lock them, and turn off the lights? After all, theoretically that student could walk by at an inopportune moment.

    I would not be for saying anything specifically about the student - writing about his name, of course, would be indiscreet. But how realistic might it be for a student who has just had a session (or at any point in the past had a session), do a Google search on "Tutoring Sessions at My School" and come across something written with such specific identifying factors that he would be able to identify himself? Surely, the more experienced you become as a tutor (or director), you realize that many sessions have the potential for very similar identifying factors.

    I'm not sure that disallowing blogging about difficult sessions is the best course of action. There are always people who will believe that anything you write, even if you block your IP, blog from a computer 15,000 miles from home, and sign the entry "Anonymous" will lead to your being found out. Yet if writing about a difficult session leads to a discussion, which in turn leads to a better understanding of a session, which leads to better tutoring, then this can only be helpful.

    I suppose this all comes down to what language one would use that would be deemed appropriate. While no one would want to hurt the student's feelings, it seems that the best courses of action would have to be extreme: either don't post anything, or post in such a setting whereby only tutors in the specific writing center would have access.

    How would you propose to share your interactions openly? Do you want to share those interactions just with the tutors at your own writing center, or do you want to promote a discussion among tutors nationwide (or internationally)? I think there has to be a level of trust: Not putting identifying marks on the session ("Tim Jones"), but in just describing what happened.

    I suppose it all comes down to how likely you think it might be that the student will even think of searching.

    As a P.S., I'd be interested in hearing about that session - but then again, I'm interested in hearing what others are doing at different colleges, and others' experiences.

    Maybe we need to have a WCENTER mailing list explicitly for tutors.

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  2. That's a thoughtful response, Michelle. There actually is a peer tutoring list, but it has not seen action in about 4 years. I don't even know if it really exists any more. Its lack of action was one of the reasons I started PeerCentered online discussions in the first place. Those had marginal success but I switched media a few times and finally got to making PeerCentered a blog.

    I think I will post again soon wondering why peer tutors do not seem interested in discussing issues online with each other (unlike their directors or graduate students involved in WC work). I've posted on that topic before, but it could use further expurgation.

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  3. Anonymous10:33 AM

    I think student tutors offer a great value in tutoring.

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  4. You raise a lot of interesting points, and ones that I think we all need to consider. Is it ethical? I wish I knew.moola

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  5. >I think student tutors offer a great value in tutoring.

    NO! no! :)

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  6. martha11:09 PM

    good point! what's the problem in sharing those sessions openly to others. It helps other.

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