International Association for Mobile Learning

Key Issue: Maintaining anonymity versus respecting a participant’s desire to keep up a digital identity

Scenario: Whose story is it?

Research question:

Can creating an online newspaper in school using handheld mobile devices with cameras to capture and upload stories effectively boost children’s literacy?


It is common to see people on the spot when a major event happens using their mobile phones to upload images and comments to the web whether to formal news sites or via social networking sites such as Twitter. Sometimes these citizen journalists are anonymous through the use of pseudonyms and sometimes the profile associated with their comments provides full details of their job and location. If researching whether children can become similarly enthusiastic about reporting and subsequently develop their writing skills to what extent should anonymity be enforced?

Questions to be considered:

  • Will the online presence of the newspaper be publicised?
    By the school? By the researcher? By inspectors of education sharing good practice? Does sharing at a conference count as publicising?
  • Who would the children want to show their work to?
    Parents, friends, family, relatives living overseas, other schools?
  • What is the children’s opinion as to whether the researcher should protect their anonymity?

Who else should be asked, parents, teacher, head teacher?

Other issues that may arise:

Use of pseudonyms online – identifying the actors in this situation

Other similar situations:

Researching mobile learning opportunities in the study of nature may mean discussing whether a participant’s discovery such as an invasive species, a visiting migrant bird or the location of a rare breed should be anonymised or publicised. In this case there are the possible consequences for the species itself as well as the participant to be considered.