On Tuesday, The Palm Beach Post reported that “more and more e-savvy educators [are] using blogs.”
One concern addressed by the article is that of student privacy concerns. This is a very real concern, and it is something I need to figure out when my classes begin in August and my classroom blog is going full steam. One teacher mentioned in the article used ID numbers for students rather than names. She also uses comment moderation to ensure that inappropriate comments from visitors (or for that matter, students) do not appear on her site. Many publishing platforms offer some kind of comment moderation. Comment moderation is used on this site, for example, mainly because comment spam is such a problem.
The Palm Beach County school district’s official policy on teacher blogging, related via technology programs specialist Kim Cavanaugh: “We’re certainly not encouraging it, and we’re certainly not discouraging it. There are so many security and privacy issues.” Cavanaugh added, “We’re certainly exploring some safe ways for us to do that. In a perfect world, every teacher would be able to sink their teeth into it.”
However, Will Richardson, who keeps a blog at Weblogg-ed: The Read/Write Web in the Classroom believes “it’s less a safety issue than a control issue. It just poses some very new challenges that they don’t really want to deal with because it’s easier not to. They have the easy excuse of saying it’s not safe.”
I think he has a valid point. There are new challenges, and I think teachers need to be cautious and protect their students. I think a lot of teachers will use that as an excuse not to try it. I ran the idea of using a blog with my students by my own administration, and they seemed excited about it, but my headmaster seemed concerned about the extra time involved for me and the possibility that inappropriate content could be posted by students. Once I assured him at least that the latter was not a concern at all, he was all for it.
However, concerning protecting students, I happened to read a few entries of Will Richardson’s blog, and he brings up a valid concern in The Blogger Problem:
I got an e-mail from a teacher who had just done a Weblog training using Blogger, and the issue of the “Next Blog” button in the top right corner came up, as in what if students click through to some inappropriate site? Oy.
I actually hadn’t thought about that, but he is right. Keeping a class blog on Blogger introduces this concern if the teacher does not disable the nav bar on the top of the site, but doing so also disables searching for the blog. Of course, the teacher could probably add a Google search box to counteract the loss. When Richardson tried surfing from a test blog he created at Blogger using the “Next blog” button, he encountered several spam sites designed to increase Google ranking and a blog dedicated to nurse porn. Clearly either disabling the nav bar or using another service would be in order, but Richardson explains the larger issue: “We need to continue to try to convince schools to teach students how to deal with the crud that they are going to land on whether they hit it from a Blogger site or not.”
That is certainly true, but I can only imagine the parent and administrator complaints that would ensue if Johnny surfed from his class blog to a nurse porn site. Oy, indeed.