Whilst browsing Edublogs the other day, I came across this informative post/forum titled ‘We Should Talk – What are you doing to ensure student safety online’. I felt encouraged to use blogs within the classroom after reading this post by Ronnie Burt & Sue Waters, from Edublogs, who teamed up to give teachers advice on student safety when blogging.
Evidently, we believe that blogging is a wonderful online tool that can be used as a class or individually to enhance learning outcomes through collaboration. And rather than being afraid and sheltering our students from this type of tool, we should equip them with the skills necessary to build a safe and respectable digital footprint or online profile.
Below are five tips from the post which should be addressed when working online with students.
1. Set Clear Guidelines
Both parents and teachers should have an understanding of what is appropriate and inappropriate online behaviour. Edublogs suggests creating guidelines together as a class. The discussion surrounding this exercise will create an opportunity to educate students about online safety, and students will have a sense of ownership over what they learn. Click here to view some example guidelines.
2. Use of Student Names
First and foremost, it is important to have parental permission if you wish to use a students first or last name for an online profile.
As teachers concerned with safety on the Internet it is best to demonstrate in these situations the importance of keeping personal information limited. As such, I would be sure to use only the first name combined with either a number or letter that is unique to that class, so as to keep the identity of your students as safe as possible.
3. Use of Photos
Use of student photos, and especially linking names with specific photos, raise questions when blogging, sharing videos, or using other web services online. Most of the people who view your class blog will be well meaning parents, students, community members, or interested visitors from around the world, but unfortunately, without making a blog completely private, those people with bad intentions can also visit public sites.
Decisions on whether to use student photographs or not is often more about protecting educators from having problems with parents or administrators who have concerns about cyber-predators.
A safe compromise is to only use photo taken from behind students. Or another solution is to get your students to create their own avatar using these online reources without using a photo!
4. Public vs Private
Most people will choose to keep their students’ blogs private, however, knowing that they could potentially have a worldwide audience can be very motivating for students.
‘From experience we’ve found that when educators allow their students to publish their content in a public space they spend more time educating their students and reinforcing appropriate online behavior than those that use private sites locked behind a password’
Edublogs also has a great tool which alerts you to any comments or posts that are made. If you are interested in this approach here’s how you moderate all comments and posts on student blogs.
5. Student Work & Confidentiality
There are times when confidentiality needs to be considered. In any situation where a student could be identified as belonging to a particular group or categorised in some way e.g. as special needs, whether through a post, comment or photograph, it is best to be cautious and make the blog private.
As Common Sense Media puts it in one of their 10 beliefs,
“We believe in teaching our kids to be savvy, respectful and responsible media interpreters, creators, and communicators. We can’t cover their eyes but we can teach them to see.”