Imagine a world where people don’t judge you based on your race, your gender, the way you look, or the clothes you wearâ€¦ Instead, you’re judged based on the quality of your ideas and how well you’ve expressed them. That’s one of the potential benefits in having your students use an anonymous pseudonym when writing online.
Now imagine a world where people are lulled into a false sense of security because they are hiding behind a pseudonym and think they cannot be held accountable for the comments they make onlineâ€¦ That’s one of the potential problems in having your students blog online without using their real name.
As more and more teachers start integrating technology into the classroom and begin playing with class websites and student blogs, the question comes up: should teachers have students use a pseudonym or their real name when posting content online?
Using a pseudonym to change the messenger is nothing new. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, used the pseudonym of PlannedChaos to try to clear up harmful misconceptions about himself. When the moderators on Metafilter forced his hand, Adams came out and then posted a response on his blog:
“…the messenger changes the message.â€¦ The messenger with a strong self-interest is automatically non-credible and should be. There are some types of information that can only be communicated by an unbiased messenger.”
SteveoM’s comments on Adam’s blog (April 20, 2011) sums it up quite nicely: “that’s both the beauty and danger of the Internet, anonymity.”
We publish our ideas online using both pseudonyms and our real name. (For example, Mr. Kuroneko is a pseudonym.) Over the past few years, we’ve also allowed students to publish their work online using their real name, a generic student ID, as well as pseudonyms of their own choosing.
Last week, we were helping teachers to set up their class websites and the question came up whether you’re allowed (or should) use your students’ real names as their student logins. Last month, a visitor to this site asked why we thought it was a good idea to have a pseudonym. As we gear up for a new school year of class blogging and online literature circles, now seems as good a time as any to think about the pros and cons of having your students publish their work online using their real names.
(Of course, you need to check with your school administration, your school board’s policies, your parental consent forms and media release forms which will all dictate whether student work can be published and how credit should be attributed to the student – for example, first name only, full name, etc.)
Having said that, here are some things to think about when having your students post content online.