Wednesday, February 15, 2012

You Teach a Child to Blog...Common Concerns with Student Blogging Answered

You teach a child to blog and the whole world opens up to them.  And yet, with that whole wide world comes a whole lot of responsibility.  Some of the more frequent questions I receive is how I keep my students safe when they blog, how do I prevent cyber bullying, and how do I convince parents that this is worthwhile.  While I may not have all of the answers or any quick fix solutions, I do have a lot of passion for this.

First things first; student safety is paramount.  I use Kidblog for this reason.  It allows me to control who sees our posts, who comments, and also how open I want our account to be.  But I don't just give students their account information...there is a lot of preparation before then:
  • We talk at length about blogging, why it is important to us, why it is a privilege.  
  • We visit other student blogs and we discuss whether we agree with their posts, with their etiquette and we decide how we want to represent ourselves.  
  • We discuss what constitutes an actual blog post and what we share with the world.  We discuss the difference between Edmodo and Kidblog, and there are many.
  • I show them scary videos of giving out information on the internet to strangers, we discuss how the Internet is like the mall.  
  • We talk, reflect and then have further discussions before we even do our first mouse click.  we create a paper blog to get a feel for commenting and I show my own blog to show them the power of blogging.  
  • And this isn't an only at the beginning of the year conversation, it is an always conversation. We always discuss safety, we always practice it, and we remind each other whenever need be.
Then there is the ugly reality of cyber bullying, and yes we face it head on and battle it.  I have never had another child bully a classmate through blogging.  They revere it too much.  That is not to say that all of my students love each other, they don't, they are 10 years olds, but they do respect each other.  And I think that is the most important ingredient to prevent cyber-bullying; respect.  We respect each other, and the differences we may have.  We respect the privilege that it is to have a blog, to have a voice to the world.  We discuss how this is a big deal and how we would never want to hurt someone purposely or even shine ourselves in that light.  There is no anonymity on our blog, I make sure of that, and the students would have to sign their name to any comment that they leave.  While they may not always get a long we still have a sense of community that we work hard on achieving and maintaining from the very first moment we are together.  I love my students as if they were my own kids and I think they feel that we are a family.  That feeling takes us far.

Finally, the apprehension of parents.  I have been incredibly lucky with my parent support but I have also worked hard for that.  I have been completely transparent with the purpose and scope of our blogging.  I have shown them examples and the direction in which I want to take the students.  The communication is paramount to the success.  I am not trying to exploit the works or thoughts of their children, and I am not bringing them into danger.  They know I work hard to keep them safe and I think many of them appreciate the inherent internet safety message that these students embrace.  But there is an opt out; blogging is not mandatory, nor is it part of their trimester report card grades.  I have never had anyone take the option, they hear about it before they come to my room, and it is highlight for many.  Parents understand that and I think they love seeing their child's thoughts on so many times, their growth as a writer, and  how their child is handling the responsibility.

Student blogging has changed the way I view my students and their voice.  It is now an essential part of our classroom, our community, and of our curriculum.  We revere, we tame it, and we use it properly; sometimes for fun and sometimes for serious study.  There is no one solution to everything but there are several ingredients that have to be present if student blogging should be successful; respect, communication, transparency, and expectations.  With those in place you will go far.

6 comments:

Mark said...

Another fantastic post -- your students are fortunate to learn how to be a digital citizen through your teaching instead of making possibly harmful mistakes and learning the hard way.

Mark Barnes said...

You've hit the proverbial nail on the head. I use KidBlog, and my students absolutely love it. They blog in class, at home and on weekends -- because they want to do so. There is great responsibility with this, and the conversation is ongoing. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

Unknown said...

Wonderful Post. I use kidblog as well, but I create a "cover webpage" so that I can embed a visitor map. This is the third year I am helping the 4th graders (9/10 yr olds) with a culture studies blog. This year it has really taken off and we've had hits on the blog from individuals in more countries than we have researched. The cover webpage also allows for languages other than English, which I had trouble loading in kidblog.

This year we'd are inviting guest posts by 9 or 10 yr olds if they write about a country we haven't already written about. Let me know if you have some students that might be interested. Our website with the link to our blog is http://4thgradeculturestudy.wordpress.com/

Thanks again for a great post, you reminded me to keep the conversation active.

Christian Sarono said...

This is one of the best posts that I have ever read over the internet. It has given me a lot of interesting and useful ideas as a webpage owner as well. Great job!

Amy Waderson said...

As a mother of a teen who was cyberbullied. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of educating them about internet safety. A lot of great information about this is on http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-ib. It offers a lot of advice on ways to deal with cyberbullying as well. I hope this is helpful.

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