When to Wall off the Garden

My National Writing Project colleague, Eric, has been thinking and reflecting upon when and how to protect students when they are writing on-line, which is something I do all the time, particularly with the launch of our big (six schools, 15 teachers, more than 200 students, and four Weblogs) project called Making Connections.

I liked what Eric wrote and so I don’t think he will mind if I share it here:

High Level of Safety

  • Completely “walled garden” where all student interaction is monitored, occurs on a school-affiliated website, and is not open to the public.
  • Any podcasts, videos, or images are also hosted only on this site and require approval before uploading.
  • A single class blog, forum, and wiki, all linked to a student account and inaccessible by any public visitors.
  • Students are not encouraged to read blogs, keep an aggregator, or access/use sites like Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, Google Docs, and the like.

Medium Level of Safety

  • All interaction is monitored, occurs on a school-affiliated website or service designed for educational purposes (elggspaces, learnerblogs, ClassBlogmeiter, etc.), and some sections are open to public viewing, but not interaction (no way for visitors to leave comments, etc.)
  • Students create and upload podcasts, videos, and images to the school site, but prior approval is not required and can be viewed by the public.
  • Class blog and individual student blogs, forums, and wikis are all linked to a student account and are accessible by public visitors, but no interaction is permitted.
  • Students read blogs selected by the teacher and learn to find and cite resources through Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, and the like.

Low Level of Safety

  • All interaction is monitored, but may occur mainly or exclusively on open-source services (though likely those designed for educational purposes). All sections are public and open to interaction.
  • Students create and upload podcasts, videos, and images to open-source services and link or embed them in their own blogs, wiki, or forum.
  • Class blog and individual student blogs, forums, and wikis that students modify and determine access levels on a post-by-post/page-by-page basis.
  • Students read blogs selected by the teacher, as well as those related to their interests and research. Students also access and use services such as Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, Google Docs, and the like.

I find it helpful to first consider what are the aims of the project and then what level of security do you need. Our Making Connections project is completely sealed off from the public, primarily because of the large number of students but also because teachers felt they had a better chance of getting administrative support that way.

Still, part of what we are doing with our project is teaching Internet safety and even with the “virtual garden” walled off, we stress that students should not give out personal information and remind them that these protocols are something they should also be following in their lives outside of school (You should have seen the faces on some of my students when I talked about tracing IM messages, email and how every computer has a distinct IP address).

Peace (with information),
Kevin

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3 Comments
  1. Pingback: HVWP Tech Team ‘06 » Blog Archive » Here’s an approach in issues of web safety

  2. I hope it’s okay, Kevin. I just borrowed this post and brought it to my tech team blog. I offered it to the team for their feedback and I think it will make for an interesting discussion at our next team meeting.
    Thanks,
    Bonnie

  3. Kevin…remember me? We met in Atlanta. I’m having the same issues lately with my class blog…if you recall…my class blog WAS wide open…everyone welcome…this past Friday…3 of my students came to me while I was reading a novel to the class to inform me that they’d come across 2 “rogue” entries with content not appropriate for them. This led me to having to take the rogue entries down…then I decided that I needed to take more proactive measures…so I found a site that BIG BROTHER hasn’t blocked yet that has password protection…so we’re on a new blog now. The fact that my students came to me unsolisited (sp?) and knew the “rogue” entries did not belong proves to me that they understand the balance we all try to find when providing students with a space to write such as this…I hope all is well and thanks for posting this…I posted a comment similar to this on my new class blog yesterday and will be discussing it further with my students this week as we open our new blog…

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