Melissa recently asked me some questions about blogging with students, so I thought I would answer them here. Thanks for asking and giving me an opportunity to share what I do!
-What tool do you use for your
student blogs? Is it secure? I am up against admin that want to make
sure that our kids are safe using blogs and I have to battle with them
not understanding the richness of a read/write web.
It depends upon what you mean by secure, Melissa. I use 21 Classes, which allows me to set up a teacher's blog with links to all the students' blogs. No one but students may leave comments, but anyone may read what they say. I am beginning to see some dialogue back and forth between the students, but this mostly happens when I give them time in class to respond. Also, their blogging to date has been assignment driven. For example, I ask them to respond to a reading or answer a question.
I hope to move to a different form of blogging second semester, when I will give them more leeway. In fact, I hope they will begin using the blog as a place to reflect on class or school issues.
Our entire English department has embraced NCTE's literacy standards that encourage us to use the technology tools that allow us to collaborate, create, and publish in a connected environment. Of course, we do try to protect students' online profile by not using last names or pictures on the site.
– What type of lesson do you do with your students prior to launching the blog? Blog etiquette…etc.?
We typically do at least one session with all Upper School students on "developing a positive online presence," where we talk about the trail of footprints they can leave behind. Before we begin blogging in class, we talk about not using first and last names in ninth grade. (Older students are obviously taught/treated differently.) We also spend time talking about how we respond to one another–and discussing how writing online is different from communicating face to face.
I don't know that I have protected my students from any possible scenario they might face. But I also believe this is the time to use these experiences to teach them how to handle being online. Most are there anyway; whatever we can do to guide them in managing information, connecting and networking with friends and others, and thinking about the kinds of images they are creating for themselves will benefit them down the road.