Classroom Blog – Open or Closed?

Should a classroom blog be password protected? Why should a blog be “open”? These are questions that I have been wrestling with this year. In August I began my own journey into the world of integrated technology by starting the Coetail course. This blog is a result of taking the Coetail classes and most of the posts have been related to readings and projects we are doing in the class. This post is my own journey to answer the question: Why should a blog be “open”?

This year I also started a classroom blog, that is password protected. I have also subscribed to various professional and classroom blogs. I have very much enjoyed reading Mrs. Watson’s 2/3 Class from Canada. My students and I have commented on her blog as well as her students’ blogs. We are working on finding a time to skype and set up a collaborative writing project. Another blog that we have looked at is Mrs. Yollis’ Class blog from California. We have also commented on Mrs. W and P-1-2 @Hartson Primary in Australia. Since they have just begun a new school year we haven’t had much interaction yet. As we have looked at these blogs, seen what the students are learning and commented, we have also had some other authentic learning opportunities. When we looked at Mrs. Watson’s blog the student asked, “Why is the time wrong? And the date?” They had noticed a widget she has that gives the current time and date and it wasn’t the time or date on our clock. We had a discussion about where Canada is and the rotation of the earth and sun. We also had a discussion about hemispheres when I read the response that Mrs. W had sent about just returning from summer holiday. They are in a closer time zone but we are having winter and they are having summer.

This weekend thanks to Mrs. Watson I discovered Kathleen Morris and her wonderful blogs. In a blog she posted about blogs, Linda Yollis made the comment “Passwords are barriers. The more accessible my blog is, the more likely I am to have parent involvement.” One of the reasons I want to have the blog is so parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles can see and respond to what we are doing in the classroom. It gives parents and students a platform to discuss what the students have done. The more steps parents have to go through the less likely they are to follow through. Linda also has a great post on a wikispace about blogs. There she writes that blogs are like having an Open House all year round. She articulates better than I can why I think blogs should be open.

  • Students have an authentic audience for their writing and that has an impact on the quality of their posts.
  • Students revisit and reflect upon the lessons when they read the posts on the blog. The learning doesn’t stop when the chapter or unit ends, commenting keeps the learning alive.
  • Students learn how to navigate around the Internet and how to present digital information in a variety of ways.
  • Students have opportunities to participate and contribute to an online community. Teaching this skill to students in elementary school helps prepare students for more individualize online collaboration in the middle and high school years.(We can teach netiquette before students abuse it.)
  • Students practice a letter-writing form, when they comment. Letter-writing form is a third grade standard.(In our school it is also a 2nd grade standard)
  • Students learn about geography by tracking our visitors and sharing comments with our blogging friends. Skyping with blogging buddies brings geography to life!
Kathleen has her own list of what comes from open blogs.
  • opening their eyes to a world outside of their own neighbourhoods,
  • learning terms such as hemispheres, time zones, continents etc in a very authentic way,
  • developing a tolerance of others through understanding how different people live,
  • learning about our Term One “Food” theme in such a rich and genuine way,
  • improving their writing skills every day with so much authentic practice,
  • using technology in a purposeful way,
  • so excited to make new friends!
Having passwords keeps the blogs limited to the same people who always see the students’ work, the teacher and a maybe few parents, most of whom don’t bother to comment if they are looking at the blog. Students are excited about using technology in “real” situations. Knowing there is an “authentic” audience who will respond raises the stakes and increases the learning.
Kathleen made a video about the benefits of blogging. It’s 15 minutes, but well worth the time.

Are there problems and dangers with an “open” blog? Probably some of the same problems and dangers that can occur anywhere. The teacher is still in control and even with an “open” blog the comments are still moderated by the teacher. Students are only identified by first names and photos of students do not have the students’ names attached, only who took the photo.

2 thoughts on “Classroom Blog – Open or Closed?

  1. Jean – I really enjoyed reading your post. I’ve always felt that blogs should be open, otherwise you’re in essence just setting up an intranet site. At my old school we used intranet rather than blogs and at my current one (YIS) we use blogs rather than intranet. In my mind there is no doubt that an open blog rather than a closed intranet is more educationally sound.

    Of course there are always dangers out there, and I guess you have to be much more aware of them when your students are the age of yours. As the author and controller of your webpage you always retain ultimate control on what does and doesn’t get put on there.

    And just think – If it’s open, next year’s Coetailers could be referring to your blog in the same sentence as Mrs Watson’s, Yollis’, W’s and P’s!

  2. Thanks Adam,
    We will be surveying parents to see if there are concerns. If we can satisfy the parents hopefully they will be open next year. I keep working on the blog and I’m still learning. I really appreciate the encouragement.

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