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Reporting From Inside

Is it appropriate for a college student to blog and twitter about a class she’s taking?

The professor conducting the class in question at New York University says no.

Not surprisingly, Quigley was not happy with the story and was upset that Taylor had not sought permission to write her first-person report about the class, and told Taylor it was an invasion of privacy to other students in the class. By Taylor’s account, Quigley had a one-on-one meeting with Taylor to discuss the article, and Quigley made it clear that Taylor was not to blog, Twitter or write about the class again. That was upsetting to Taylor, who had been planning a follow-up report for MediaShift that would include Quigley’s viewpoint and interviews with faculty.

Ironically enough, the course is called “Reporting Gen Y” and is in NYU’s School of Journalism.

Mark Glaser, who writes the MediaShift blog (part of the Public Broadcasting System web site) decided to dig deeper into the professor’s concerns and the school’s policies dealing with this issue.

He quickly found that the school has no policy because they leave such things up to each teacher and the legal aspects of blogging from inside the classroom are not much clearer.

The whole story is a very interesting example of the conflict between the trend to make the operation of institutions like schools more transparent and the desire on the part of many teachers and administrators to keep them closed.

So, if you’re a teacher, would you want a student to be reporting on what goes on inside your classroom?

The question is relevant even if you teach in K12 and not college, because the issue is coming to your school very soon, if it hasn’t arrived already.

Probably one more reason why educators should be proactive and write their own public reports on their classroom practice as a balance to what students will be posting.

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tip on this Tim. Very timely since I am giving a presentation Monday on the uses of new media on higher ed. The NYU employees quoted in the article all sound like they’re grasping at straws in trying to defend their defenseless actions. A couple of the academic commenters for that post also sound rather crazy in calling a student in a class an undercover reporter. That’s hilarious, but perfectly typical of academics (I am one) not wanting any transparency about what goes on in their classrooms.

    At our local elementary school I can walk in the classroom any time I choose and observe my children and the teacher for as long as I want (or so they tell me). Could they stop me from blogging about that experience? No. Would they try to stop my fifth-grader from blogging about it? Probably yes.

  2. It’s interesting that the teacher is hiding behind the supposed privacy right of the other students in the class. I’m wondering what expectation of privacy a student in a university class has in the first place…

  3. Dave

    If Alana’s point is to voice her dissatisfaction at NYU’s approach to new media (or to report on this as a protected journalist), she could easily accomplish that without naming the professor and introducing a threat that she’ll name her ‘naive’ classmates. If her point is to actually get the professor and school to change their approach to new media, then she should take that up with the professor, then the department/school before publicizing the situation.

    As it is, it really seems like she’s aiming to catch eyeballs more than she is trying to be a journalist or a student, and I don’t blame NYU for trying to restrict either her psuedo-journalism or her insider access (by removing her from the class) until she learns professional ways to approach journalism.

  4. Would it be “inappropriate” for a student to write down another student’s quote in her paper notes and then later write/blog about it? If not (and I’m guessing the professor’s not yet prohibiting writing down what other students say), what’s the difference?

  5. I think that’s a great point, Scott. I did some live blogging during NECC this year, and I know others were, even thinking about commenting through UStream. I actually felt bad for the presenter because it seemed more attention was being paid to online. Having said that, I don’t think there should be anything wrong with it.

  6. I have to respectfully disagree with Dave (3). I don’t see how her intent is relevant here at all. Either she has a right to do this, or she doesn’t. I think she has a right to do it.

    However, since the professor holds all (most of?) the power in this relationship, any student has to fear the wrath of the grading process. This would be a lame reason for a student to get a bad grade from a prof, but by no means near the lamest. But remove her from class for exercising her rights to free speech? Sounds like something they’d do in China. Not too comfortable with that.

  7. sean kursawe

    If the information is accurate, what is the harm in students writing about what is going on in the classroom? I think an educator who encourages this and embraces it will seem more transparent and confident with what is happening in their classroom.

    sean kursawe

  8. So, what if the student goes out for coffee with friends after class and has a conversation about the class. Is that okay? Same content, different “medium.”

    Shall we prohibit parents from asking their children what happened during the school day because of privacy concerns?

  9. Straight out reporting what I’m doing in class I would have no problem with. Setting me up with students misbehaving to create a scene to film for YouTube. I would have a big problem with.

  10. Tim, I just read about this; I’m not sure what to think right now. I see two positions bouncing around, back and forth, in my head. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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