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
- 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.
- 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.
- Not including that child in any pictures that would be posted online.
- 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.