Each semester my students create their own blogs around the theme “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”. I use this activity as part of my digital citizenship unit. I want the students to experience what it means to be a digital citizen in an authentic manner.
I’m careful. I clearly explain to the students the purpose of the blogging project and I send home a letter to the parents asking them to approve their child’s topic, Many students choose topics such as pollution, recycling, global warming, mosquito nets, charity, alternative fuels, etc.. See this post about how I use Web 2.0 tools in my blog assignments.
This fall, I had one parent who was concerned about allowing her Freshman daughter to post online and participate in the blogging activity. The signed permission slip came back with lots of questions and several email communications questioned the value of the project (I think she thought it was going to be more like a journal).
Here is a copy of my response:
I understand you concerns about the blogging project and protecting your child’s privacy – that is exactly why I am teaching this digital citizenship unit.
Too often today students don’t even think twice about what they are posting online and who will be reading their posts. I feel the best way to teach students about Digital Citizenship is to have them practice it in a safe & protected environment.
Here are some of the things I am doing with the students.
1. Draft your message before you post. Take time to carefully think out what you want to say and how you will say it. Each student drafts their posts in a Google document before posting to their blog. I encourage them to only blog about the topic at hand, “change the world”. We do not discuss where we attend school, our activities, etc. This is not a personal journal. The only difference between our blogging project and making a PowerPoint is that your classmates can have a conversation about the topic.
2. Design your blog carefully. Some students did put their photos on their site immediately – and now are correcting that. I have showed the kids how to take an image and modify it in Photoshop to protect their privacy or consider using an avatar to represent them instead.
3. I have only invited a few schools who participated in our blogging project last Spring to comment on the blogs. Most of the commenting done right now is done by students in the student’s learning circle (3-4 students). I moderate all comments before they are posted and don’t hesitate to delete comments that are not well written, have nothing to do with the topic, or are inappropriate (though none have been).
Too many of student’s assignments in school are not relevant to their lives or do not encourage communication among students. I believe that blogging (in a safe environment) can do that. Having an authentic audience to write for and having classmates comment on the writing raises the level of quality of student work and engagement. They are eager to see what their friends say and in return – create posts that are interesting and “comment worthy”.
I do respect your decision and your concerns, though. That is why I have parents sign and approve the topic. I still want your child to participate and offer a couple of solutions.
1. Change all posts to “private”. I will be the only one who can view and comment.
2. Change all posts to “P3” or “V** Computers” – this will limit viewing and comments from either her class or only students from our school.
3. Allow posts to be public but I moderate all posts and comments (I already approve all comments).
4. Remove blog completely and all the assignments will be done on a Google Document.
I am happy to report that the parent agree with my philosophy and the girl may blog along with her classmates.
Teachers – if you are planning on blogging with your students – clearly plan out your goals, get parent buy in and moderate all comments and posts. I’m glad I was prepared.