Blogging in the Classroom: Keeping It Safe for All

Blogging in the classroom can be rewarding as long as students use the platform safely. In this post, safety guidelines are discussed as well as how to secure your sites and monitor student work. #internetsafety #bloggingintheclassroom #comprehensionconnection #internetcitizenship #bloggingbenefits
So you've been thinking about creating student blogs with your class and how blogging in the classroom can help your students get excited about reading and writing. You've gotten familiar with the platform options, and you're ready to jump in. Before you do, be sure to read through this post. Any time your students are involved with technology beyond the walls of your classroom, you must make sure it's safe. Today, let's talk about safety and security.

Blogging Concerns

Free Resource: Blogging in the classroom can be rewarding as long as students use the platform safely. In this post, safety guidelines are discussed as well as how to secure your sites and monitor student work. #internetsafety #bloggingintheclassroom #comprehensionconnection #internetcitizenship #bloggingbenefits
If you've watched the news, been on social media lately, or even chatted with your parents, then you probably know how important it is that we protect our students' identities, safeguard them from inappropriate comments and content, teach them about what's okay to share and not share, and share how we practice responsible internet citizenship. In a diverse classroom, you will definitely find a spectrum when it comes to the level of concerns parents have in regards to internet use, and no matter how they feel, it is our responsibility to follow our divisions' rules on acceptable use and do all we can to protect our students. Some parents share anything and everything, while others share nothing. Parental permission with anything that goes out beyond our classrooms is essential. Your division likely has a permission form for photos of students, names, and even student work. Even if they do, I would advise that you protect yourself and get permission from all parents before you go any further with your blogging plan. I am sharing a sample letter just to give you an idea of what I included in my letter, but you should create your own as the rules may be different in your district.

Ensuring Blog Safeguards Are in Place

Identifying Information

What information can students include with their blog posts? Can they use their names or photos of friends? These questions must be addressed as part of teaching your students about blogging. Students need to remember this golden rule of blogging, "Assume anything you include in a blog post is viewed by the public." To help keep things concise, here's a checklist you are welcome to copy and use.
☑ Stick to first names or fake names in your blog posts.
☑ With photos, never include the faces of students without parental permission.
☑ Keep your location private.
☑ Before publishing, have another person proofread for safety.
☑ Set boundaries on the content and language used.
☑ Check and double check privacy settings.

Social Media

Because it is so easy to share information on social media, it is also important that students are informed about social media safety. Sadly, there are people who do not have children's best interest in mind, and even prey upon them. Just like we prepare students on how to handle encouters with strangers, we need to prepare them for how to handle social media.

In addition to the safety issue, we also need to address the legalities. Students as well as teachers freely use images they find on the internet, but be warned. Unless an image is "free for commercial and personal use or public domain", it should not be used. Are there safe places to locate free images? Yes there are. One site I love is Pixabay, and photos clearly state whether they are available for free use or not. It is easy to search the site for just the photo you need. Students can also take their own photos, but again...they must not include people without their permission. You can also google "photos for commercial or personal use" or "public domain photos". There are blog posts that include lists of sites you can use out there too, so do a little homework and then help your students learn what's okay to use and what is not.

On the same line, we must address plagerism. It is never okay to copy another person's words and use them as your own. I think many teachers think it's okay if it's for classroom use and often it is. I think it is important though to model giving credit to the author whether it's a poem from Jack Prelutsky, a quote from Patricia Polacco, or another teacher's science project. When children blog about something they've read, it's especially important that they know how to properly credit the author.

Finally, one word of caution on spam. Another place you'll need to monitor is in blog comments. It is very common for spammers to embed links to inappropriate content or websites that we DON"T want our students to visit. To avoid this, you can adjust the settings to eliminate commenting, limit commenting, or make comments public. When I first began blogging, my comments were set to public which led to a lot of work deleting them. Now, my blog only allows comments on posts less than 10 days old. With student blogs, you can limit who can see the posts to just those you've approved with most platforms and therefore, commenting would be limited to just your class or your students' parents. This is what I'd recommend with classroom blogging.

Security Settings


Blogging in the classroom can be rewarding as long as students use the platform safely. In this post, safety guidelines are discussed as well as how to secure your sites and monitor student work. #internetsafety #bloggingintheclassroom #comprehensionconnection #internetcitizenship #bloggingbenefitsNow it's time to get into the nitty gritty of settings. Because I am a Blogger blogger, I'm going to do screenshots to show how even blogger can be used safely for the classroom. The image above shows how to find and adjust the settings for Blogger. Once you've got the privacy window opened, you'll see three options: public, private-blog author only, and private-these readers only. For most blogs, public is what you'd want, but for blogging in the classroom, limiting the readership to just students and their parents is preferred. 

Blogging in the classroom can be rewarding as long as students use the platform safely. In this post, safety guidelines are discussed as well as how to secure your sites and monitor student work. #internetsafety #bloggingintheclassroom #comprehensionconnection #internetcitizenship #bloggingbenefits
In addition to limiting the readership, you will also want to ensure that all readers agree to not sharing posts, pictures, or content with others outside of approved readers and that they will limit comments to only positive feedback with appropriate language. To secure your comments, go to Posts, Comments, and Sharing and match it to the image on the left. 

With student blogs, the teacher will be the administrator, and each student is a contributer. This way, you have full control and can edit should you have one who isn't able to abide by the rules. It will take a little bit of set up, but no matter which platform you choose, you will have a little bit of homework to do in order to easily supervise (and grade) the work. [This video] shows how to set up a classroom blog. If you are a Google school, this really is an easy process and provides the modeling you as a teacher would want.

Permissions

Blogging in the classroom can be rewarding as long as students use the platform safely. In this post, safety guidelines are discussed as well as how to secure your sites and monitor student work. #internetsafety #bloggingintheclassroom #comprehensionconnection #internetcitizenship #bloggingbenefits
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that a permission form is very important. In your permission letter, you need to clearly explain how blogging will be used with your students, the goals you hope to achieve, the expectations all students will follow, what will and won't be shared with the content (get initials beside each to know what parents approve of and don't approve of), and allow parents to express their concerns and/or additional rules they may have. To download the permission letter I shared at the top, simply click it or click [HERE].

Additional Reading:

Using Picmonkey to Add Pizzazz to Your Posts

In the next few days, I will share suggestions on how to create a great blog post, using social media to get your blog post seen, and the secrets you should know about improving your blog site. I hope you've enjoyed these posts, and will come back over the next week.

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