Posted by: Kathy Cassidy | October 27, 2011

Students Posting Online: How Do You Do That?

I get that question a lot.  When people see my students’ blogs, the online artifacts they produce, their videos, and the digital footprint the children are beginning to create, the question I am most often asked is “how do you get permission from the parents to do that?”

The parents of our students have spent their whole lives protecting their children. Even before the child was born, they loved and sheltered that little being. They nurtured the child through the preschool years and then trustingly put the child into the school’s care. While this was happening, the media bombarded them with messages about how unsafe the internet is for children. When we broach the subject of posting their child’s work online, is it any wonder they have questions?  Frankly, I would be more concerned if they didn’t.

This is What We Do

Blogging is not an option for the six year olds in my classroom. It is what we do. My students’ blogs are their online learning portfolios. From the first week of school to the last, my students write (even before their writing is “readable”) and produce digital artifacts that showcase what they have been learning.  That portfolio is available any time of the day or night for parents to view or comment on. It is also available for grandma and grandpa in Calgary or for their older sibling who is away at university.  The fact that people who have never met my students read their blogs and sometimes leave comments is a bonus.

I am fortunate that my school division recognizes that posting online is valuable. On the first day of school, a form explaining possible online uses of student images/work is sent home for parents to sign. (Click on school services and then on Student Media/Privacy Form.)

In the second week of school, I always hold a parent information night.  On that night, along with talking about how to help their child learn to read, and pleading for them to not send birthday party invitations to school (it leads to tears from those not invited), I show our classroom blog to the parents.  I show them my blog, with the pictures and videos of students from last year. I show them a student blog from last year including the way that student’s learning was documented through writing, images and video. We look at the way that student’s writing ability improved through the year and listen to podcasts of the child’s reading fluency. I show them the way our blogs record the number of page reads and a sample of comments the students received. I usually show them our Clustr map, with dots from all over the world showing where people live who have visited our classroom virtually.

Keeping Them Safe

Most important of all, I talk about how I safeguard their child. There are two policies that I have that are the keystones of the way I protect my students online.

  1. I post images of students, and I post the first names of students but I never match the two. I know of many teachers who do identify their students, but that is not my personal policy.
  2. Nothing gets posted unless I see it first. No student articles. No comments. Nothing.

The first class that I blogged with are now in grade eight. In all that time, I have never had a parent who, after seeing what we do on our blogs, has refused to have their child participate. The first year that I posted pictures of the children on my blog, I had one parent who asked for her child’s picture to not be posted online. By Christmas she had changed her mind.

If a parent DID have concerns, I would offer options.

  1. Not including that child in any pictures that would be posted online.
  2. Having their child blog under an alias.

Making it Happen

I realize that many teachers do not yet have a blog to show parents. In that case, I have encouraged teachers to show the parents a blog they would like to emulate. There are lots of great blogs, and this is a case in which a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Parents want to know that we are not putting their child at risk. Their questions come from their overwhelming desire to ensure their child’s safety.  I want my students to have an audience and to make connections with people they would otherwise never connect with. I think we can do both.

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Responses

  1. Hi Kathy,

    Just wanted to thank you for this great post! I am a young pre-service teacher who is looking into different ways to integrate technology into the classroom. I think that there is a lot of fear surrounding having elementary students using the web but as your post shows it can be done in way that is safe and that encourages learning!

    Mary

  2. Thank you, a great post and the journey also provides an ongoing opportunity to teach the students and parents about digital citizenship. I do think that if teachers expect their students to blog and put their presence online, they should be modeling it too, just like you do.

    • Great point. It can be scary to put your thoughts and work out there. I often quake as I post something, but like you, I think it is important.

  3. Hi Kathy,

    Congratulations on a well written post. I regularly speak to other teachers about classroom blogging and that is one of the first questions I get asked to “how do you get parent permission”.

    Like you, I have found that education from day one is crucial. We actually meet our new students on the last day of the previous school year so that session is all about blogging, and we send home a letter to parents asking them to explore our blogs over the summer holidays.

    I educate the parents in a variety of ways, such as
    - step-by-step handouts on how to navigate the blog
    - videos on the blog (eg. how to comment)
    - parent information sessions and a Family Blogging Afternoon
    - fortnightly e-newsletter throughout the year which includes blogging tips etc.

    I’ve been blogging with my students for four years and I’ve never had a parent not give permission for their child to blog once it is explained to them. Like you, we have clear guidelines which are spelled out to parents and students.

    Keep up your great work!

    Kathleen
    Australia

    http://2kmand2kj.global2.vic.edu.au/

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathleen. You have some great ideas to help the parents feel comfortable with the blog. The idea of asking the parents to explore the blog over the summer particularly resonated with me. Parents always want to know more about the classroom their child will be going into, and that would give them an excellent glimpse into the workings of the new classroom.

  4. Hi Kathy
    Thank you for blog. I have been wondering how I am going to go about discussing this with parents next year. We have been blogging for the last 6 months and I have had only one parent refuse permission to post her sons photo, although I have used his work. I am still finding my feet in terms of my thoughts on privacy and how to protect my kids, while also still forging ahead with blogging. Its good to know what others do and how they go about keeping their kids safe.
    I love that there is a “view” into a classroom that parents, other teachers have with blogging, that hasn’t been there before. It is such a great record of the learning that is happening in the classroom.
    Again Thanks!
    Kate Todd

    • I’m glad my musings are helpful to you. Good luck with blogging!

  5. Hi Kathy,

    I enjoyed reading this post. It points out quite well both concerns and solutions for those worried about security for children on line.

    I visit many blogs of schools, classes and children in a number of countries and add comments to support the children. Almost all I visit have a “comment pending approval” notice when posting a comment to a blog. Most use general photos without identifying children and most children are only identified by their first name while others use initials or aliases. I don’t remember visiting any school sponsored child blog where I could directly identify a child. That’s as it should be. :)

    When security is in place and parents are aware of it they can then concentrate on the benefits of blogging. Your post will help some teachers achieve blogging with parental support.

    Ross Mannell (teacher)
    NSW, Australia

  6. Hi,

    I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I really found your blog very helpful. It is concerning having young children on the interent. Your post really showed me how to execute a program that would allow me to do that. I really enjoy reading what you have to say. Thanks.

    • Hi Taylor,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you see benefits to children being online. Good luck with your studies!

  7. I am a resource teacher who is helping colleagues of mine explore blogging in classrooms with students of various ages. I am really glad to see someone like you Kathy, who is working through the fear and embracing technology. Kids are going to go online and either we will be at their sides, or they will do it with their peers when they are older. It is safer if we go online with them. The world is changing and education needs to keep up. Thanks for being an inspiration Kathy.

    Sarah – Teacher in Delta BC

    • You are so right. My students are all online in the evening. We can’t ignore that.

  8. Thank you for such a clear illustration of how you communicate and engage with parents. If I lived in your area I would want my grandson to to be in your classroom.

  9. Blogging is so great, I’m glad you posted this! Blogging is so great for students to connect with others and get their ideas out there. I am currently in school to earn my teaching certification and I know that I want to blog with my students but worry about their safety. This post gave me great ideas on how to keep them safe while still letting them express their ideas on the web. Thank you for all the great ideas and information from your class!

  10. I would love for my son to be in a classroom like this when he gets into school. Yes, I want to protect him but with everything that was explained I would fully trust it. I hope the school district I hire into will let teachers do blogs also.

  11. Thank you for showing how elementary students can become bloggers in a safe manner. I am a teacher-in-training in Seattle. When I get my first class I hope to give my students this same opportunity.
    Larry

  12. Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I too teach first grade, and want to have my students begin blogging. I have been sending home weekly videos (photopeach), and the parents love them. I want my next step to be blogs from the students. At this point, I will need to bring our administration on board (this is not something that has been done in PK-2) and then speak with the parents. Would it be possible for me to show your examples of children blogging, since I have not done it yet?

    • Of course that would be OK. I know of teachers who have done exactly that, and their parents/administration agreed after seeing an example of what the teacher wanted to do. Good luck! I hope to see your students in the blogosphere soon.


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