Defending my blogging assignment

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:

Dear Parent,

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.

9 Replies to “Defending my blogging assignment”

  1. Very well done Colette. And thanks so much for sharing this experience as these guidelines will be helpful for so many other that are destined to have these same experiences. Parental buy-in is so important, and your approach here validated these concerns and in fact, showed how you were authentically dealin with these via the skills of digital citizenship.

  2. Thanks Alec. After following the journey of Al Upton last year I knew I needed to be prepared for a challenge. The thing that doesn’t always come across in a letter home or written explanation is how important it is for our students to have REAL online experiences in the classroom with a qualified teacher who will guide their students through the process. How else can you teach digital citizenship without “practicing” online?

  3. Great ideas! I really like how you acknowledge very logical concerns and helped parents follow your train of thought. I’ll be forwarding your post along to some fellow staff members.

  4. We skirted the whole issue by keeping the blog closed and on our intranet. I do, however like the concept of blogging as a method of teaching digital privacy and competency.

  5. I have about the same experience each year with my elementary students. And like yours, any parent that balks initially has always relented after I talk to them and show them examples of our work. I also put a letter to parents on the back of the release form explaining what we have done, will do, won’t do … so things are spelled out for them, and since it is on the back of the release they can’t say they never saw it (well actually of course they could, but I figure it helps).

  6. We skirted the whole issue by keeping the blog closed and on our intranet. I do, however like the concept of blogging as a method of teaching digital privacy and competency.

  7. I have been using blogs as an alternate means of submitting assignments and teaching kids how to use the Internet to build quality content that positively represents themselves, rather than being mindless consumers of content on the web.

    Up until this year I have simple used Blogger and had the kids make their blogs private and today I have had no complaints.

    Even though I have not had any complaints from parents, admin or anyone else I have gone to using Moodle to manage my students, assign work and host their blogs. So far it seems to be going well.
    .-= Keith Rispin´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

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