This past week I received this comment on my classroom blog. [Additional Note: I have never met this person. It is not one of my students' parents.]
The online world that I usually inhabit is a bit of an echo chamber. The people there are online and think that being online is a good thing. It is sometimes good to be reminded that not everyone shares that opinion. This comment pushed me to rethink why I do what I do and whether it is defensible. My reply is below.
Thank you for your comment. You clearly care enough about children to comment and I respect that.
I take the safety of my students very seriously. We regularly talk about how they can keep themselves safe in many different situations. Being online is just one more place they need to learn to be safe.
Yes, I do post pictures of my students online. If you notice, I post pictures of the students only on MY blog, where there are no names ever attached. The students’ FIRST names are attached to their own blog, but you will never see a photo of the student on their own blog, or their last name. (In fact, I know of blogs in which the teachers do, with the parents’ permission, identify the children by name, but that is not my policy.)
I teach my students carefully about what is appropriate to put online and what is not. They quickly learn how to take photos and make videos that do not show faces so that they can be posted on their blog. When we read comments together, they soon learn to point out if a parent has accidentally included a last name and together we delete that comment before it is posted for the world to see.
It is true that Adam likes Mario. So does every other boy and some of the girls in my classroom. I’m sure this holds true for most six-year-olds.
Although no negative thing has ever happened because of our blog, many wonderful things have happened.
Because of our blog, the parents of my students are able to watch their child’s learning and as the parents leave comments (which are an integral part of our reading instruction) they become part of the learning as well. Grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, older siblings and other friends drop by just to see what is happening, and may leave a comment as well. My students beam with pride as the comments, written just for them, are read aloud.
Because of our blog, my students have an audience. They look at the tiny dots on our Clustr map and know that even if people are not commenting, people are seeing what they are posting. An audience is a powerful motivator for people of any age. Writing for a real audience is so much more powerful than writing something in a notebook that only your teacher will see.
Because of our blog, we sometimes have comments from people we have never met, but who are cheering my students on as they are learning. These comments send us to a map to find out where in the world Texas, or Romania or Ontario is and then leads to other serendipitous learning and perhaps to a face-to-face meeting through a videoconference of some kind.
Because of our blog, we sometimes get videos or items in the mail from people in far away places. These unexpected treasures lead to even more learning, particularly about empathy and understanding of people who live differently than we do.
Because of our blog, my students are leaning about digital literacy. In a safe environment, with me to guide them, they are learning what it is appropriate to put online and what is something that should be kept private. They are beginning to create a positive digital footprint. The Internet is here to stay, and I would prefer that my students learn about online etiquette and safety than to leave this learning to chance.
I’m not sure if you know this, but hundreds (probably thousands) of teachers are now doing the same thing as me—sharing the learning in their classroom online through classroom blogs, Twitter accounts or Facebook pages.
I hope that you can see the positive impact this new way of learning has had on my classroom. Just as with anything new I do in my classroom, I weigh the benefits against any possible risk or difficulties. With the safety features I have built into the blogging process in our classroom and the ongoing discussions I have with the children, there is no contest. Blogging has opened too many doors for us.
What would you add? How do YOU defend what you do?