FERPA and the Use of Emerging Media in the Classroom


Slide Image Courtesy of Benjamin Howard

I revamped my biotech course making it literature-based using Pointing From the Grave and Genentech. As I read these books, I kept recalling Where Good Ideas Come From, a book assigned by @elliotkingphd. Since biotechnology is all about innovation, why not add this awesome book to the mix? In this book and elsewhere, Johnson talks about the importance of keeping a commonplace book. Because the flow of ideas spurs creativity and innovation, I decided to do a public version online. I was quite pleased with the idea and began implementing my plan. I discussed this with my husband who innocently asked, “Have you cleared this with your chair?” Way to rain on my parade! It was a valid point so I contacted the Records Office first to determine potential issues.

An interesting conversation ensued about FERPA, content ownership, and academic freedom. Technology is always one or more steps ahead of law; there was nothing on the books about what professors should do in this instance. We decided to ask students to use aliases (or their real names, if preferred) and sign waivers to protect all individuals involved. This got me thinking: How is this different from students publically presenting their research findings or writings in real life? What about two classrooms across the world skyping each other to discuss a topic? What of when I’m required to tweet a hashtag that denotes what emerging media course I’m currently enrolled in? What of public VoiceThreads? There’s very a fine line between too much restriction that stifles creativity and collaboration and not enough protections to ensure individual privacy. I enjoy interacting with my classmates online and frankly, it’s the future.

With a public commonplace book, students can showcase content they’ve produced for a course. This can be attractive to employers especially if they are English, Writing, Communication or Journalism majors. Students also learn how to conduct themselves in a public space, understanding that whatever they post online remains online… forever! It teaches them to be responsible digital citizens. It also helps them be creators and contributors to a body of knowledge, and strangers can interact with the content, expand students’ understanding of a topic.

As of the time of this writing, the course commonplace book is private but students are writing with the understanding that it may be made public. It has the potential to be an awesome 21st century classroom project!

Damilola Akinmade @damiakinmade

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University


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