Occasionally I get an email like the one below, and sometimes I write a response that I think is worth sharing here as well. I know this is not “news” in the world of edublogs, but I felt I articulated my response well and want to be able to refer to it later. I also hit on a humorous example from my own teaching experience. And, of course, maybe one (or some) of you will have better answers to this call for help.
At any rate, a colleague of mine, a district technology coordinator, recently forwarded me the following email from a teacher (with the subject line “I need your help”):
Hi [Technology Coordinator],I need you to help me with a blog problem. I have been using edublogs… [and] it has been going well until last week. One of my students was upset with another one because she thought she was prank calling her. She logged in as the other student and then said inappropriate stuff. We were able to trace it in the “Manage” section of the blog and match the IP address, so we knew who the student was. Unfortunately, there was a copycat who wanted in on this action. He/she did the same thing, but I can’t match the IP address. I tried in all 3 sixth grade classes. I’m in over my head here. Can we trace IP addresses? Should I just not use blogs? I need some tech help and some guidance.
My response addressed the technical issue only briefly (and here someone else may be able to suggest better tools), and then turned to what I think of as the teaching-heart of the problem:
Well, she can trace an IP address to a particular ISP by using tools like this one: http://www.arin.net/whois/Or, she can trace an IP to a particular city using tools like this one: http://www.geobytes.com/IpLocator.htm?GetLocation
But without going to the police to get a warrant for the ISP’s DNS records, it would be tough (or near impossible) to sort out who it actually was… unless the ISP turned out to be the county or district (if it happened at school)… then by contacting the right people you could trace it to a particular computer at that date and time (if they have the necessary records).
All this is to say, no, she can’t trace it. And in any case it is far more important to treat this as a teachable moment and to handle it the same way she would a similar infraction in her classroom.
Imagine kids were writing on the board when her back was turned and blaming it on each other. Would she stop using chalk boards (or white boards)? At one point some of my sophomores used to say “word” whenever I turned by back (after I made the mistake of getting mad at one student for saying “word” all the time). I couldn’t tell who was doing it at any given time… and I didn’t have the option of, say, taking away the air in the room. The way she would handle this situation is how she should handle the blog situation. (Or perhaps its more analogous to vandalism that happens when other kids aren’t around to see it, but I think the point is clear.)
For my money, I’d say have an earnest conversation about it with the kids. Address the initial inappropriate response to the alleged prank calling, and the inappropriateness of the copy cat “crimes.” I think you can make students understand how “low” that is. A dose of guilt wouldn’t hurt and you can call them to something higher. Make sure they know that any further infractions will be deleted and ignored. Then delete and ignore any more copy cats. Why do you think they wanted “in on the action” – or rather, attention – in the first place? (You might later impose consequences for the class if it is still bothering you or other students too much.)
This is definitely what I would call an educational technology “and life” response to the question. I hope it helps and doesn’t come off to preachy. ;)
Any of you (particularly those of you who have dealt with this in your own classes) have anything to add to this?