Saturday, March 22, 2008

Safety and identity on the Internet: the case of Al Upton and the miniLegends

I have been following a fascinating story in blogging land about a teacher called Al Upton. He teaches young children in South Australia and for the past few years has got his class blogging and has hooked the children up with online mentors from all over the world. Despite going through stringent procedures to ensure the children's safety, there has been complaints and the authorities have closed down the scheme. I am not going to go into the whole story here - to find out more, have a look at Al's blog.

Whilst this story has no direct relevance as such to me as a midwifery educator because my students are adult learners, there is no doubt that even adults worry about their online safety. When I first started this blog, I couldn't make up my mind as to whether I would be anonymous or not. In the end, I have made a deliberate choice to use my online identity as a branding exercise and as an authentic way of engaging with midwifery and education communities.

Two things has struck me about this ongoing story. The first thing is the power of social networking. When you look at the comments left on Al's blog as well as blogs written by people all over the world, you realize how far this story has traveled and how it has affected people. Social networking has an amazing global potential for collaboration and lobbying. Just imagine what midwives and women could achieve if we all got together to run a campaign promoting normal birth using online social networking principles and Web 2.0 tools.

The second thing that has made a big impression on me is how powerful education can be when it is led by teachers like Al Upton. When I consider my son's journey through education, I wonder what his attitude to school would be if his attention and imagination had been captured by innovative teachers like Al. He views school as a waste of time, which greatly saddens me as his mother.

But I also have to ask myself, how can I be the 'Al Upton' of midwifery education? How can I engage with my students in an innovative and exciting way? If nothing else, Al's story has made me think about my own teaching, and has resonated with people all over the world.

Image: Yellow eyed penguins, Dunedin


Claire Thompson said...

Sarah, I like your take on the Al Upton case. It really has given so many of us pause to think about how we operate on-line as well as how we can improve the learning experiences of our students.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Claire