10+ years ago, filters and blocking tools were banning access to most blogs and web publishing services in schools around the world.
In fact, this is exactly why The Edublog Awards were started – to showcase the excellent work being done with blogging in schools – hoping it would begin to break down these barriers and change the minds of nervous administrators and teachers.
Perhaps it worked! We’ve made significant progress since, as services like Edublogs are hardly ever blocked in schools now. And the use of blogs in education for many is integral to lessons and student learning.
So today, I propose starting a new important fight, through debate and discussion, that could significantly change the way most are currently blogging in schools…
Should students be allowed to publish school work publicly on the web?
We get asked this question constantly.
School administrators, who are rightfully risk-adverse, often immediately say that no public posting is allowed. By decree, access to any student work must be limited to only those approved and with passwords.
Teachers, afraid of potential headaches due to students saying something inappropriate, bullying, or not having total control also get nervous about allowing students to publish freely online.
And, I’m very mindful of the fact that the privacy feature built into Edublogs is one of the number one reasons why schools choose our service. My answer to the privacy question isn’t really good for business.
But, when you look at all the benefits that publishing to the web can bring to student learning, the answer is most definitely yes.
No matter the age or experience, we believe that blogs are meant to be public.
The Pros of Posting Online
- students are writing for a real audience – not just the teacher
- with no passwords to keep up with, parents and relatives can simply access the work
- when students know anyone can see their work, they will try harder
- students can easily share with their peers using social media and other means
- visitors from down the hall or around the world can comment and collaborate
If you hide student work behind passwords, then you might as well have them print everything out and hand it in the old-fashioned way. You are losing out on connections, extended dialogues, and the motivating factor of working for an authentic purpose.
Tips For Allowing Public Posting
There are often legitimate fears and concerns around students posting publicly to the web. But with proper guidance, monitoring, and common sense classroom management, the benefits always outweigh potential negatives. Here are some tips.
Let Students Know
From the beginning, be upfront with students that the work is public. Let them know that their parents, other teachers, fellow students, administrators, community members, and anyone can and will visit. Have students articulate what this means for the quality of work expected.
Have and Review Guidelines and Rules
You should have ongoing discussions about being smart on the web. Include things like not using full names, no photographs with names, not sharing personal contact information, and not posting any personal stories that you wouldn’t want people to know 10 years in the future.
Get Parent Permission
If needed, get parent permission. This will depend on the local policies and procedures in your school.
Vicki Davis shares 18 excellent examples on how to secure parent permission here.
Encourage Sharing and Commenting
There’s nothing less motivating than publishing a post and not having anyone read it. Make leaving comments part of student assignments. Use twitter (hashtag #comments4kids) to get readers from around the world visiting student posts. Leave comments yourself.
The discussions that happen at the end of posts in comments are ripe for learning opportunities.
Give Students Freedom
Allow students to personalize their blogs with photos, themes, and colors. Let students write posts about their interests or hobbies, share their favorite videos, and more on their school blog.
They need to know that they own the blog so that they take pride in it. In traditional LMSs, Edmodo, and most ePortfolio systems, everybody’s space looks the same. The ability of blogs to be personalized and unique add to the ownership and excitement, which can increase the quality and creativity of work.
Be Public Without Fear of the Public
It may not be the students you are nervous about, but more the potential interaction with the general public. This is a fair concern, and there are things you can do to allow public viewing but not allow public comments.
For example, go to Settings > Reading and choose to block search engines. This way, only those that have been given the direct link to the student blog will ever be able to find it. Random visitors won’t come from Google or other means.
Also, go to Settings > Discussion and choosing “Users must be registered and logged in to comment”. This way, not just anyone can leave a comment.
On Edublogs Campus networks, these settings can be chosen and mandated network wide for all students at the school or district level.
Don’t Stress Over Moderating Everything
While we do have moderation tools built in (so teachers must first approve posts before they are live), have the goal be that students can freely publish at will. You can monitor after the fact, but busy teachers will have a difficult time keeping up if blogs are used regularly.
Many teachers will start out approving the first few posts and then once students show they can handle it, give up the control.
Do You Agree?
Of the hundreds of thousands of student blogs we host on Edublogs.org, currently only around 40% are public.
This tells us that for the majority of you that already know the benefits of blogging, you still choose to keep things private.
What barriers or fears are keeping you back?
Let us know in the comments below.