Since the HR teachers will be important mentors, I am working with them this week. Their role will be especially important in the realm of helping the kids make good value choices with how they present themselves publicly, how they cultivate their tone, and how they respond to others, I am helping all sixteen HR teachers create google.reader accounts, subscribe to their kids' blogs, and sometime in the next few days, to check that all the blogs have the following:
-appropriate blog names
-appropriate post titles
-correct privacy and security settings (more on this)
-the student is posting under an appropriate name.
The great news is that google has finally fixed the bundling problem in Reader! It's been around for years, but now it works: with two clicks, the teachers can share the entire class set of blogs with everyone else's reader page.
The security thing came up from a couple of parents. Some are less comfortable with their child's blog being accessible to the general public, so they found the setting to make the blog only readable to those who are invited. This solution has several problems.
First: by closing down visibility, no one can see the blog! Blogger only allows a single account to be a member of 100 blogs, so there is no way all 800 HS kids can have their blogs closed by default and still list me or the HS Admin as members.
Second: It's a solution to a problem that might not be as extensive as the parents' believe. There is no evidence of stalkers ever finding kids via monitored school blogs. Instead, data shows that overwhelmingly, situations that arise are in connection to a relative or someone who already knows the child. or through unsupervised social network sites. However, we want to help educate the parents as we accommodate their concerns, so it's important that the HR teachers are involved in the discussion.
Our solution is to have the kids of any concerned parents change their blog visibility settings so it is hidden from search engines. The steps are very easy: just go to the settings and look next to "privacy". This is analogous to having a house with the door unlocked, but the house is hidden in the woods. The blogs are 'open' (unlocked), but hidden. This way, parents can send the URL to relatives and friends who can read the blog, but search engines will not find it.
Of course, search spiders are clever, and this method is not 100% foolproof (what is?), but for now it provides an excellent level of control and assurance for anyone concerned.
We have, of course, discovered a new bug. When the teachers subscribe to this blog, they also see an old cached post from a different blog one of the ETS techs and I were working on a few weeks back! It's not even part of this blog...but somehow it is linked when to subscribing to this one. If anyone reading this (from among my hordes of followers) subscribes and sees this, let me know: the top post (Doesn't matter) should not be there. I'll let you know what I discover.