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November 29, 2009 / Ben Chun

Students, Accounts, Privacy, and Safety

I had a very productive Thanksgiving holiday, if by productive you mean “found cool stuff on the internet”. One of my best clicks was OpenProcessing.org. This site allows anyone to create an account and upload Java applets created exported from Processing. There’s a commenting feature and a mechanism for creating collections. In short, it’s the perfect solution to the problem of getting this kind of student work online reliably and being able to see it all in one place. I think Art Simon over at Lowell put me on to the site at the end of the last school year but it didn’t really sink in until just now how useful it might be.

I emailed the info address at OpenProcessing and Sinan Ascioglu who runs the site replied right back and let me create a classroom, which is essentially just a collection that people can submit their work to. And now all I need to do is get all my kids to put their work up on the site. And for that, all they’ll need to do is create an account. This means picking a username, password, display name, and giving an email address. This is where it gets tricky.

I’ve always followed a policy of not letting student’s full names or individually-identifiable photos get out on the public web in association with my school or classes, and in particular being sure to never instruct students to publish that information. There must be times I’ve messed this up, but I have in my mind for some reason a general idea that we’re supposed to protect student privacy. Presumably this is because you don’t want some psychotic adult to be able to stalk a kid by googling them and figuring out where they go to school. At the very least, you don’t want to be responsible for their name being there if someone does do that. Now that I’m about to have my kids create accounts on this new site, I’m wondering if my rule is paranoid, or if I should be more paranoid, or how other teachers handle the situation. When students win awards or perform well on sports teams, the media publishes their full name and school affiliation. Is that different in some meaningful way?

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