Category Archives: Blogging

Dream Bloggers

Who would you like to see start blogging?

I would love to see Jim Burke and Carol Jago start blogging. Both have contributed so much interesting dialogue to the field of English Education that I can’t see how they can fail to be excellent bloggers. Of course, there is that sticky problem of how much time they already devote to their careers…

What Am I Doing This For?

The obvious answer is “me,” because the students don’t seem to be getting much out of it. This is a short vent about my students. Each day, I post an update to my classroom blog. It doesn’t take long. I find it enjoyable. I give them a short literary story, then I recap the day and make announcements. I also created a wiki for them.

They won’t, WON’T use them. It’s frustrating. Why am I bothering? I don’t want to give up, but I feel… sort of defeated. Do I need to require them to use the blog and wiki in order to ensure that they will be? That just bugs me to have to do, but I’m not above it.

But the kicker is what they said yesterday. They might actually use my site if it was on MySpace. Can you freaking believe that? They claimed it would be easier to check. Oh, much easier I’m sure than typing a URL once and bookmarking it so you never had to again. I have already resorted to posting extra credit on the site and not mentioning it — ever — in class. Mixed results. Well, no results, really.

OK, tell me to keep plugging away and it will pay off eventually.

MySpace. Please.

More on Student Blogging

Without realizing it, I seem to have hit upon a hot topic in the technology in education blogosphere with my post about student blogging yesterday. I was simply thinking about concerns I have about my own students — and reminded that I had meant to post about those concerns by Bud Hunt.

I have been visiting the posts written by others, and I wanted to say that I wholeheartedly encourage the use of technology in education. I have found blogs and wikis a valuable resource. My students aren’t yet participating as much as I’d like, but I see some real potential. What scares me is the “blogging” they do on their own time. I am concerned that they are posting things that could lead to their harm. I think it is our job as educators to, well, educate them about the dangers online. Actually, I think it is the job of parents, but I have to wonder how many of my students’ parents can possibly know they have MySpace.com sites when I read the things they post on them. I floated the notion of having a learning session with students during one of our morning programs, but I haven’t yet heard from the powers that be.

That said, I think benefits outweigh the risks, and I hope that was clear.

You can read some excellent posts on this topic at:

If you’ve seen others, let me know.

Students Blogging

I recently wrote about students being suspended for blogging at a Catholic high school in New Jersey. It seems that the dangers inherent in student blogging have been a hot topic recently in the education blogosphere. Ed Wonk writes about students in Texas who faced disciplinary action because of the content of their blogs. But what if their writing is actually putting them in danger? What if they are doing reckless things, such as posting their cell phone numbers, where they live, where they go to school, and lying about their ages? What if they’re getting involved with people who are dangerous? Bud the Teacher recently asked himself this very question.

Most of my students have MySpace.com sites. They are posting fake ages and admitting to drinking and drug use. They are posting provocative pictures of themselves. In other words, they are inviting the attention of a pedophile or a dangerous person like David Ludwig. My husband is a true crime writer for Court TV’s Crime Library website. He has become quite savvy at tracking down the weblogs or websites of both victims and perpetrators in the news over the last year, beginning with Rachelle Waterman, a sixteen-year-old girl who encouraged and aided her two 24-year-old boyfriends to kill her mother. Waterman had a blog at LiveJournal, another popular blog-hosting site. After that case, others cropped up: Joseph Edward Duncan, who kept a Blogspot blog, was a level-three pedophile who killed most of Shasta Groene’s family, including her brother Dylan, after he kidnapped the two of them in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; both Taylor Behl and her accused killer, Ben Fawley, had online presences; most recently, David Ludwig, an eighteen-year-old boy, is accused of murdering the parents of his girlfriend, Kara Beth Borden.

You can call it the uglier side of the blogosphere if you want to. Basically, I just wish my students would at least set their sites to be viewed only by friends, or make them private, which is easy enough to do. They probably don’t realize this, but websites can be cached and will be available for years after they thought they deleted content. While Google only make caches available for a short time, sites like the Internet Archive Wayback Machine make them available for years. Unless they know how to alter their HTML to prevent search engine robots from caching their sites and adding them to search engines, they can’t do much to prevent this from happening* (see suggestion below). I just wish my students would play it safe and look out for themselves. But they’re young, which often means they believe themselves invincible.

* If you have a website and want to do this, simply add the following code somewhere between the <head> and </head> tags: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow,noarchive”>.

I do not guarantee 100 % that this will prevent your page from being crawled by search engine robots, but it has worked for me in the past when I so desired.

Students Will Be Suspended for Blogging

According to an article in Teen People, students at Pope John XIII Regional High School in Sparta, New Jersey will be suspended if it is discovered that they are maintaining “personal pages or blogs.”

Principal Reverend Kieran McHugh explains that he instated the rule in order to protect students from online predators. “I don’t see this as censorship. I believe we are teaching common civility, courtesy, and respect.”

Students were told to take down any existing accounts they may have at popular blogging sites like MySpace.com, LiveJournal, Blogger/Blogspot, and the like.

While I think the principal’s heart is in the right place in terms of his desire to protect the children, I believe it is a flagrant violation of the students’ rights under the First Amendment, especially as the rule is far-reaching enough to include blogging that students do from their own homes. I personally think teens spill too much private information about themselves online and open themselves up to victimization, but if their parents permit them to have websites or blogs, and the students are updating from home, then the school really shouldn’t be involved. A school can always deny access to blogging sites at school using filtering software.

I think the school is on very shaky ground, and I hope students challenge the rule in court.

Trends in Education Blogging

I have noticed two interesting trends in educational blogging. First, most of the teacher bloggers I’ve come across are new teachers with less than three years experience. Second, educator blogs tend to be complain fests in the manner that my old teachers’ lounge was. Before you get upset with me, let me explain that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either trend, necessarily. I just think educational blogging could be more.

It may be a cliché, but in my experience, that doesn’t make it less true: new teachers tend to have the most enthusiasm and the desire to try the newest thing. Therefore, it makes sense that many of our veteran teachers have not started blogging. I don’t mean to generalize, but most of the long-term veteran teachers I’ve worked with are not crazy about integrating technology and use it as little as possible. Many of them balked at Georgia’s requirement to be proficient in technology in order to re-certify. Computer gradebooks and e-mail were high on the complaint list, too. What’s the point of Power Point? I suppose I might feel the same way if I had been teaching very well, thank you very much, for 25 years without Power Point. I would indeed be very suprised to find that many of these types of teachers even know what a blog is, much less are open to the possibilities of blogging for students and teachers.

I have worked in several schools in which discussion in the teachers’ lounge dengerated quickly and often into the realm of complaining about our students’ discipline and the lack of support by administration. This sort of discussion has now become fodder for many teacher blogs on the Internet. In these blogs, teachers tend to take on an air of the soldier in the trenches — the commanding officers are clueless; we’re on our own, and it’s survival of the fittest. Frankly, it is depressing. I know, I know it is the reality in a lot of schools. I have taught in those schools. I know what it is like to drive to work and cry the whole way because I didn’t want to be there. I know what it is like to want to scrap teaching altogether. I understand the need for support from other teachers. That’s why we need to vent. When I read your blogs, I empathize. Last year, I climbed over the fence. I never thought I’d teach in private schools. I had been told by a non-authority who didn’t know much about it that the pay was awful. I took a job in a private school because I couldn’t find one in a public school. My pay and benefits did not decrease. The happiness I feel each day when I’m going to work cannot compete with my experiences in public school. I am excited to be teaching again. I am rejuvenated. I don’t have discipline issues. I have taught for two years at my school and not given a single detention. I am not advocating jumping ship. You all don’t have to make the same decision I did. But frankly, there are opportunities out there. You can teach somewhere that doesn’t make you miserable every day you go to work.

After having written this, I can’t help but feel I’ve just made the lot of you angry with me. So be it. My bit on technology expressed my concern over integration of new teaching methods. I would love to hear about the ideas of veteran teachers. Can you imagine how much younger teachers can learn about methods, ideas that worked, approaches to material? My bit about complaint fests expressed my concern over your happiness. May you find a place to be happy, because we need you. We don’t want to lose you as an educator.

More and More E-Savvy Educators Using Blogs

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.

Teacher Bloggers

I have been missing out. Since I started this blog a little over a week ago, I have been scouting for other teacher bloggers, and I haven’t been disappointed. I think I’ve added about ten teacher blogs to my blogroll. I have noticed that the majority of the teacher blogs I’ve found are run by Blogger (BlogSpot). I was curious about this. Obviously, Blogger is free and looks very professional. It’s user-friendly, and has an easy-to-learn interface. It’s also very popular for blogging in general — in fact a recent study concluded they were the top hosted blog site. On the other hand, I have not found that many teacher blogs hosted on their own domain and run by either Word Press or Movable Type, like this one. I suppose one reason for that could be that teachers are not paid well, and domains are not free (though you can find deals that make them pretty cheap). I don’t think it is a question of technological proficiency, because Blogger is not any easier or more difficult to use than Word Press or MT. If one wants just blogging space, Blogger is probably the best bet. I just found it curious.

You know what I’d like to see? Jim Burke blogging. That would be a hell of a daily read. Jim, I volunteer to install MT for you! Free!