Guidelines for the Instructional Use of Blogs

Today’s Internet is an interactive environment.  Students extend their lives outside of school to the online environment, connecting, conversing and creating using social networking technologies such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, and social networking sites.  Interactive web technologies present powerful learning opportunities for our students.  Because of the public and interactive nature of these technologies, there are particular issues that educators should consider before engaging.  These guidelines attempt to present the issues and suggest appropriate actions to be taken by educators, to powerfully use the interactive web to improve student learning, while exercising due caution in order to prevent inappropriate conduct or breach of student privacy.

While safety policies and teaching students about online safety are very important, students are more likely to learn these lessons while actively using interactive technologies in an educational setting, with clear instructional goals and new opportunities for engaging students in the learning process and finding real success.

Why are these technologies effective instructional tools?

Interactive web platforms like blogs, wikis and podcasts motivate learners by giving them an authentic voice, a real audience and great opportunities for collaborative learning.  The online environment means that students can collaborate from school and/or from home, depending on how the teacher has set this up.  The immediacy of the conversation and collaboration that these technologies facilitate, and the fact that the audience is real and immediate, be that audience as small as one class or as broad as the whole world, motivates students to care more about how they express their ideas than they might with a more restricted audience (i.e., the teacher alone).  There is evidence that using blogs, wikis and podcasts help students learn and also help them improve their writing.

What is a blog?

A blog is an interactive website where students can post their own writing.  Readers can respond to and comment on the initial written post. Blogs can be set up with one author or many.

Guidelines for Teachers

  • Blogs housed on the WRDSB server are for instructional and not personal use.
  • A WRDSB blog must be administered by a teacher employed by the Board. Under no circumstances may a WRDSB blog be administered by a student.
  • Teachers must check their active instructional blog on a daily basis; promote and model exemplary postings and deal with any inappropriate postings.
  • Teachers must ensure than all students understand the ground rules for using the classroom blog.

Inappropriate Postings

  • Role of the Teacher:  It is the responsibility of the teacher to monitor the blog on a daily basis and deal with any inappropriate postings.
  • Role of the Principal:  The principal may request ITS to have a school blog taken offline until an issue can be investigated and resolved.
  • Role of ITS and Communications:  If ITS or Communications staff see anything inappropriate on a blog, the teacher administrator of the blog and the principal of the school will be contacted.

Student Privacy and Safety and Parental Permission

Because of the interactive nature of the technologies described above, educators must be aware of Board rules and guidelines for protecting privacy

  • Make sure that students participating in the activity have returned their signed WRDSB Standard Release Form – School Use of Student Personal Information (IS-04-L) Part B: Internet use of student photographs and voice recordings (no names are used)

Discuss the instructional purpose of using interactive technologies with the school administration, and options for implementation.

Elementary School Students

  • Totally internal access within the WAN: students may use their real names. Parents should be informed that students are using a blog as part of a regular instructional activity.
  • External access, login controlled: Students should use pseudonyms. Request parent/guardian informed consent.  Permission letters should include information about the instructional purpose of the activity, the guidelines being given to students, and the measures being taken to protect student privacy and safety.
  • External access, visible to the world: Students must use pseudonyms. Request parent/guardian informed consent.  Permission letters should include information about the instructional purpose of the activity, the guidelines being given to students, and the measures being taken to protect student privacy and safety.

Secondary School Students

  • Students should use pseudonyms.

Relationship to the WRDSB Acceptable Use Procedure  (AUP) for Technological Property

Unacceptable conduct according to the AUP Considerations when setting up a classroom blog, wiki or podcast
6.   Invading the privacy of individuals, harassing others or personally attacking others.

10.  Using abusive, offensive, degrading or objectionable language in public or private messages.

Teachers using interactive technologies should:

➤Set ground rules for the tone and content of posts and comments

➤Regularly monitor posts and exercise administrative rights to withdraw unacceptable content, with appropriate follow-up with the student

7.    Sharing or using others’ access codes, account numbers, passwords and other authorizations which have been assigned to them. Teachers using interactive technologies should:

➤Keep a master of all student blog identities

➤Inform students of the reasons not to share login information

➤Monitor posts and histories

8.   Posting anonymous messages. Teachers using interactive technologies should:

➤Have students use their real names, if the blog is only available internally

➤ Have students use pseudonyms if the blog is available outside of the WAN

➤ Be aware that part of the instructional value of this technology is the ownership that students have of their own ideas.  Using pseudonyms can be less powerful, from an instructional point of view.

14.  Plagiarism or copyright violation. Teachers using interactive technologies should:

➤ Actively teach and model academic honesty, especially in relationship to online activities

As with all published procedures, it is an expectation that the AUP be followed by all employees and students in the WRDSB.  Any violation of the AUP is subject to appropriate disciplinary action.

Application for an Instructional Blog

The Waterloo Region District School Board has set up a blogging server for the posting of instructional blogs using WordPress MU.

Request Process:

  1. Submit a Help Desk ticket which includes the following information:
    a) teacher’s name (as per ticket)
    b) grade/course/program
    c) title of blog
  2. A copy of Guidelines for Instructional Blogs will be sent to the requester.
  3. After receipt of agreement to the guidelines by ITS, the teacher and the site principal will be notified of the set up of the blog. ITS will issue a login and password for administration of the blog along with other resources.

Setup:

  • The blog address (URL) will be identified according to a standard naming convention for WRDSB blogs – blogs.wrdsb.on.ca/teacher name, program or course name.
  • The blog layout will be based on a collection of standard themes showing the Board logo, teacher’s name and class/program identifier. A series of widgets will be made available to the teacher administrator to allow customization of the blog.
  • Default settings
    • available from school onlyno indexing by web robots (will not be visible to search engines)
    • not pingable (no notifications to linked sites or blogs)
    • postings can be viewed only by registered users of the blog
    • only registered users can post to the blog
    • unknown users will not be approved; no anonymous comments
  • Requests for changes in these default settings should be submitted as Help Desk tickets
  • After a user’s blog has been set up, help will be provided through the WaterWorks conference and not through Help Desk tickets except for customization requests.

Definitions:

  • Registered User: a user known to and approved by the teacher administrator.
  • Moderated Blog: teacher administrator can edit or remove any comments and assign privileges to registered users.
  • Moderated Comments: comments do not go ‘live’ on the blog until the teacher administrator approves them; can be set up so that only first posting by a registered user needs to be approved and then all subsequent postings by that user are automatically approved.
  • Widgets: utilities that allow the user to customize the blog sidebar without a knowledge of HTML.
  • Theme:  a blog design.

Blog Timelines:

  • Requests for new blogs will be accepted the week before school starts and throughout the school year.
  • All blogs will be removed in early July of each school year.
  • If the user does not want the blog erased, a Help Desk ticket should be submitted with one of the following requests before June 15:
    • keep content and users
    • keep content and erase users
    • keep content and users but lock blog during summer (maintenance mode)
    • keep content and erase users but lock blog during summer (maintenance mode)
  • Mobility:  If a teacher moves to a new school, options a), and c) are not available.
  • Teachers will be able to choose from a variety of templates/themes and a suite of WordPress plugins.
  • All instructional blogs involving WRDSB students must be housed on the WRDSB blog server. Housing blogs on a local server will provide a greater degree of safety and security and provide protection for both students and staff.

External Blogs:

  • Externally hosted, teacher-administered blogs involving WRDSB students must be terminated.
  • Requests to have instructional blogs that are currently hosted externally moved to the WRDSB blog server should be submitted through a Help Desk ticket.

Staff Development

Teachers who are not familiar with blogs are encouraged to participate in appropriate staff development activities.  ITS and Learning Services will offer both general and subject specific (e.g. French, ESL) workshops on the use of blogs. Both face-to-face and online courses (using WaterWorks and Adobe Connect) will be available.

A forum for discussions and blogging help will be available in a WaterWorks conference.  It will have:

  • useful Blogging Resources and Links

e.g. 1001 Uses for Blogs in Education

  • links to other documents and sites
  • system memos about blogs
  • best practice discussion

The Board blogging web site (blogs.wrdsb.on.ca) will also mirror:

  • useful Blogging Resources and Links
  • e.g. 1001 Uses for Blogs in Education

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *