Here’s one of those spontaneous (ish) posts that I want to get down quickly, for the record as much as anything. Yesterday I asked whole class to start blogging. But of course, that was anything but spontaneous…
Last year I tried out blogging, but probably started off a bit too big; I had 4 classes (= 60 pupils) blogging, with a class blog per class that I tried to maintain. I allowed them to create their own blogs, and gave them topics to blog about. After Christmas, I gave the pupils a survey and less than half were interested in carrying on, so the project came to an end. I didn’t get much encouragement from my colleagues, who generally seemed to see potential legal problems with students potentially blogging about private matters, posting pictures of friends without their permission etc.
This time round, I’m doing things differently. Having given a single class an assignment to gage the level of interest in blogging, I found that a majority were interested. Rather than asking pupils to create a new blog themselves, I signed up as a pro user with Edublogs, which gave me the ability to create a blog for each pupil, with myself as co-administrator. I intend to use this as a safety net, to have the ability to remove inappropriate content from a pupil’s blog if necessary. I certainly won’t be using it to edit content when it comes to linguistic errors, & hope not to have to use it at all. My theory is that most of the pupils I come into contact with have trouble with regulating their use of a computer when they think no one is looking, but as soon as you have a test and sit behind them, MSN and Facebook etc. are nowhere to be seen. I’ve also told the class that repeated posting of inappropriate material will mean a loss of administrator status – edublogs allows different levels of access to a student blog, so it’s possible to assign the status of contributor, which means that everything posted has to be approved by the teacher / administrator.
Of course, there’s always a hitch. I’d told the pupils that no one would be expected to publish a blog that was available to everyone, and several were keen to have blog that only they and I could read. No problem, I said last week…. Turns out that whilst the class blog has ‘pro status’, and can therefore be assigned different levels of privacy, the student blogs don’t have this option. Bother. So plan b was to ask the pupils in question to create a blogger blog, with them and myself as co-authors, and permissions set so that only blog authors can view the blog. Phew.
Even then there were still problems. One pupil wrote an excellent post, only to lose access to his blog because it was marked as spam. A quick e-mail to the edublogs support team (another ‘pro perk’) sorted this out, but it was hard to see why the post had been marked as spam in the first place. According to edublogs:
In order to keep Edublogs as a safe place for education, we have a really strict automated spam system, and it can make a few mistakes (for example, from mistyped words or similar).
Fair enough I guess, though it’s not going to endear the pupil in question to the service.
Anyway, after a fairly intense afternoon, the majority of the class have a blog with the appropriate levels of privacy, and have written their first post. The pupils who wish their blogs to be public have agreed to a link to their blogs from the class blog, & I’m sure they’d appreciate feedback and comments. As would I – especially re the co-administrator issue. Am I taking away too much of their freedom, or babying them? Is it better for them to be able to blog about whatever they want, irrespective of whether I approve? I feel that as this blog is going to be a part of their school work, and in some cases a very public part, I ought to be able to guide them and prevent them from posting harmful content, but am I going about this in the right way? Hmm….