Hard policy questions about student blogging

A question for you: Should all student blogging be moderated?

I am really conflicted about this. I believe strongly in the benefits of student blogging. I think that if blogging is done in a closed (non-public) environment, it isn’t really blogging and doesn’t have the benefits of writing for an authentic audience.

In general, I think that teaching students to be responsible is a far better approach than trying to block or filter everything that might be dangerous. We should more time talking about 21st century skills and how to act prudently in the world that is out there.

On the other hand, I understand concerns about student online safety. There are many more subtle issues than just a concern that students might write something inappropriate.

Also when making a district-level decision about blogging policy, the feelings of the administration, board, and community need to be considered. Or do they? Is this a cop-out? This has been keeping me up nights.

I hope the edublogging community will write about these issues and post links to their thoughts. here. These are not easy issues, and I am looking for some thoughtful discussion on them.

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8 Responses to “Hard policy questions about student blogging”

  1. Kevin Honeycutt Says:

    Karen,
    I thank you for starting this conversation. I jumped in here: http://web.me.com/khoneycuttessdack/Kevin/The_%22Rest_Area%22_Blog/Entries/2008/10/7_Reflections_on_Karen_Fasimpaur%E2%80%99s_Mobile_Musings_topic.html

  2. Steve Says:

    We don’t teach kids how to swim by dropping them off a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean.

    Moderating Posts is far from blocking and filtering everything. I’d view it as training wheels. Perhaps they can be taken off when it is demonstrated the able to blog safely and responsibly.

    If it is a district level policy, then the administration and board have appropriate authority, as would the tech committee. Our chain of command would involve a tech committee proposal (with the superintendent on board as well as a member of the board) to be approved by the board. Why is this a cop out?

    Not mentioned were parents. I think they need to have a say. They should sign off on whatever you do. Perhaps they should have some options in this matter.

    I know you have read my blog regarding this issue, but others may want to check them out: http://openedweb.com/blog and select the policy category link.

  3. glieux Says:

    We piloted Gaggle.net last school year with 3 teachers. They had no problems and recommended we purchase Gaggle accounts for all students. We followed their recommendation and were surprised at the number of problems we have had with unacceptable vocabulary and cyber bullying attempts. The filters on Gaggle saved us.

    I don’t think I would ever recommend allowing students to blog as part of an assignment or in any other type of affiliation with the school without some type of filter or a requirement for approving prior to publishing on the web.

    I know this is limiting the freedom of everyone because of a few reckless students, but because of these few, everyone could lose a valuable learning tool.

    Our experiences have taught us that learning appropriate Internet etiquette has everything to do with the teacher’s leadership. We were very selective in choosing the teachers for the pilot program and not the students. That was the difference maker: strong, effective, and experienced teachers.

    Bottom line: Publishing uncensored student products to the web is unwise. Effective teachers with leadership skills should be the main players in determining a school’s or district’s policy regarding publishing any student work on the web.

  4. Teach42 Says:

    Left my two cents here
    http://www.teach42.com/2008/10/08/should-blogging-be-moderated/

  5. sjbrooks-young Says:

    Hi Karen,

    My thoughts, along with a second question, are posted here: http://www.sjbrooks-young.com/blog/

  6. Karen F Says:

    Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments. For those who posted a response on your blog, I’ll be continuing some dialogue there.

  7. Mike Parent Says:

    One thing to keep in mind here is the legal reality that Boards of Education, Principals, and Superintendents face with this issue. Like it or not, administrators are directly responsible for the the activity of all staff and students – especially when teachers and students are interacting via blogs, wikis, or email.

    As a connected principal I encourage wikis, blogs, and student/staff interaction. I understand, clearly, the benefits and the need. But my reality is much different than those on the outer fringes of the school. If the school hosts the blog or wiki, then all contents thereof are the responsibility of the principal and district admins. We are not liable for the contents of personal blogs, wikis, or social network pages – unless said interfaces use the name of the school, thus appearing as district approval. That is the reality, like it or not.

    Thus, for teacher blogs and classroom wikis (90% of whose use is with minors) to be out there, is challenging. I, like you, agree – and mandate – that comment moderation is essential and necessary. I treat moderated comments like notes from student to teacher – if it’s inappropriate or smacks of dangerous ideations, then we deal with it the same as if it was found on the floor after class.

    While my feed reader is full of great writers and ideas, the issue of legal responsibility has yet to broached. I scour the web for legal precedents and clarity – but have found very little that exonerates admins from the contents of teacher wikis and blogs.

    Yes, I would love to see out students “out there” with the real world. But for now, in-house, protected from public viewing blogs are necessary until we receive clarity. Remember, too, that most students have no clue as to the real benefits of blogging and using wikis. If Facebook is any indicator of how they use the web, then we have a lot of teaching to do. What better way then to begin them with an environment such as a class blog or wiki? Once they become mature in their use and view of the technology, then I am all for letting them get out there with their ideas and concepts.

    Small analogy: I can’t simply give a child the keys to a car without teaching them how to drive.

    Think back to when you learned how to operate a vehicle… did you hot the interstate first, or use a side-street?

  8. Steve Says:

    More thoughts:

    http://openedweb.com/blog/2008/10/09/moderation-and-student-blogging/

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