Monday, September 24, 2012

Blog security

This is the second post to parents about the Gr 9 blogs.
Blogs work best when they have readership, however it is reasonable to be cautious about letting students broadcast ideas out in an unsupervised fashion.  Although they are already prolific users of social media, we do not expect our students to inherently understand the appropriate boundaries for these blogs, as they are very different than their typical informal social online presence; these are ‘professional’ sites and should reflect maturity and presence of mind. This is quite different from their ‘informal’ digital presence that they have in Facebook and other social media sites, where they use informal symbolic notation (phonetic spellings like ‘ur’ instead of ‘your’, etc) and post humorous and quick comments.  It is quite reasonable to assume that they have little, or no, experience maintaining a professional online presence, so these blogs provide a wonderful opportunity to help them develop this skill.

 They have all created profiles in ‘Blogger’, a simple and user-friendly blogging platform that is contained in the suite of tools provided to HKIS by our google.apps account (along with gmail, google calendar, google sites and several others). The shared platform means we can standardize instruction on how to use them and how to change and control settings. Ultimately, however, control over the settings is in the hands of the student, so it is important that adults regularly check to see that they are properly set.

Currently, as the students begin their creative process, we have asked them to make their blog settings such that no one can comment, and the URL address of the blog is hidden from search engines. As a result, the only people who can see their blog is someone to whom the URL is given directly. As of now, their blog address is stored in their user profile in myDragonNet, so only people with access to that password-protected site can find their site. Parents are welcome, and encouraged, to ask their sons or daughters for their blog addresses: these are meant to be showcases of their growth and achievement, and you can give them feedback on their posts and the appearance of their blogs.

Over the first year, once the blog has enough content to have a ‘tone’, we will instruct students on how to open their comment settings so others can provide feedback in a ‘moderated’ fashion. This means the author will still retain full control of what is seen; they can reject and not publish any inappropriate or non-constructive comments; hence the content of their blog is still entirely under their control. Likewise, at any point, if a post or title of a post is deemed inappropriate, the student can edit and change past posts, and even hide posts until they have reworked them into a form that they are proud to publish.

Blogging is a tremendously common social platform with people all over the world participating. As with virtually all school blogs, our own have a specific purpose: to document growth of understanding of the SLRs. At all times, important stakeholders will have the ability to see the growing content, while the student learns appropriate digital behavior. The author retains full control of their content, even posted comments, and can edit and ‘rework’ their content over time and as skills improve. Teachers, counselors, administrators and parents can all watch these products unfold during the students’ time at HKIS, and the author is welcome to share their blog with relatives and friends, as they choose. Parents are welcome and encouraged to subscribe to their child’s blog and discuss them together. Once there is a good record of posts that show the development of the student, they may choose to share them with summer employers, colleges or anyone else to whom they want to have see their development as a student at HKIS.

Next post: Setting up a google reader account so you can subscribe to your child’s blog.

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