As mentioned in my previous post Al Upton and the MiniLegends Class Blog was given an Order for Closure. Thanks to all my readers who commented on my post and who left comments of support on Al blog. The comments provided lots of food for thought and indicated the need to clarify more so that we can debate the issues in more depth.
Parental consent was obtained prior to Al setting up the program. His permission form clearly explains why he blogs with students and encourages parents to consider the issues to decide level of online identify they feel comfortable for their child.
Here is an extract from his form (you can preview or download a copy of his form here):
For our own class use, it would be excellent if all students are able to upload photos, videos and audio (sound) of themselves to share with each other, folks at home and the classes/educators we collaborate with. Invited educators and classes can add positive comments on our learning.
Please consider carefully the following and tick which boxes you are comfortable with.
It is true that students can feel ‘left out’ if their images and voice are not included yet the rest of the class is. It is very important that this does not sway your choices below. Strategies can be sought to include all students – e.g. only photograph the back of their head.
Since beginning at Glenelg in 2004 all but one student were given full permission and this decision was respected.
I make every effort to teach ‘safe and savvy’ internet use and limit references to your child (eg first name only) on educational sites and will use (where possible) password protected sites. I have researched appropriate sites at some depth and feel confident with my choices.
He also encouraged them to regularly check out the class blog and look with their child on the class computers once a week.
Those parents that did take the time to check his blog would have seen his excellent explanation of permission and consent form. His post highlights: the need to get student permission; include/inform parents, caregivers, line managers, site leaders (and he also likes to inform departmental leaders of progress and intentions because it’s better still seek their interest and involvement); and look to official site, district, Department and government policies and supplied/required forms.
Al provided these South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) Policies, Acts and Regulations:
- ICT: internet access and use
- DECS Strategic Plan for Learning and Business Technologies 2006 – 2010
- DECS Standard Acceptable Use
On separate issues:
- I asked my twitter followers to check out their local Education Department to locate policies or guidelines relating to use of blogs with students. Some were able to locate Acceptable Internet Usage documents (I’ve listed these on my wiki page) but none of these provided any guidance for educators on blogging with students.
- Kevin Hodgson has been nice enough to provide us with a link to the letter he sends to Principals regarding blogging in classroom projects and Bloggers Contract for Students.
Use of Student Images
Several of my readers raised concerns on student images being used:
Gary Barber “As a person extremely heavy involved with the internet industry I would NOT recommend putting pictures of kids, group shots or otehrwise on the web. Picture where they can’t be identified, like back views are okay, but anything else parental permission or not. In fact I wouldn’t put pictures of any child under 16 in a public area. They just become too open to digital abuse.”
Kate Foy “There is no doubt though, that photos of kids online would be ripe for abuse … sadly. This is reality”.
Lynn Crowe “have to say I was surprised at his use of student photos to promote this – does it matter what a student looks like?”
I picked up a copy of the local paper to see my son on the cover…Full name, clearly identified. Did he give permission to have the photograph published? No. Newspapers have a policy that they must print full names of anyone photographed. They’ve been doing it for years.
Our schools meanwhile try desperately to protect students from any chance of identification online.
Ridiculous isn’t it – parents do everything they can to get little johnnys picture in the newspaper but mention the word ‘internet’ and pedophiles will surely track down your children!
When we started the first YoMo website I spent hours looking into regulations for using childrens photos online – what I found was no consistency at all – policies ranged from hysteria to nothing! Last week there was an article on BBC about a school photo published online where they had actually blocked out the faces of everyone!
We take thousands of photos a year of young people and upload hundreds online. On parental consents and booking forms we clearly state that photos may be used online and in publicity with the option for parents to opt their child out of photos and films. Only 3 children have been opted out in 8 years (all because they had been victims of abuse), and two groups have requested that we don’t use photos (similar reasons).
The best guidance I’ve seen for using photos is to make sure full names are not used and also nothing that can link children in them to where they live (like street names).
The reason why Al prefers to use student images not avatars is because he believes the students benefit from seeing their own images.
Use Of Adult Mentors
Lynn Crowe remarked in her comment that maybe mentors need to be other students but a few years older. Part of the reason why Al decided to include adult mentors this year was because he saw first hand how much his miniLegends benefited last year, from interacting with experienced adult bloggers, when they were involved in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.
Online Predators, Cyber Bullying and Cyber Stalking
Many school-aged children spend unsupervised time on home computers. Conscientious parents are alarmed by stories of online predators and cyber bullying but don’t have the skills or knowledge to instruct their children in digital safety. The classroom is the logical place for students to receive safety instruction and participate in guided practice.
Our children and teen-agers must have fluency in communication and collaboration to be successful in the world they inhabit. Rather than encase them in armor, we should arm them with knowledge.
Michele Martin recommended checking out Study Debunks Web Predator Myths which discusses the results of a study published in the February/March issue of the journal American Psychologist and titled, “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities and Implications for Prevention. Definitely worth a read because it highlights many of the concerns are myths and that “there is no doubt that Internet predators are real, and do pose a threat. But the real danger is the public’s deeply flawed understanding of the problem.”
Wesley Fryer has also written a post titled Study encourages a less hyped view of social networking risk based on the same study which is worth reading.
It’s impossible to cover all the comments written on my previous post; please take the time to read them and thanks again everyone for your input.
Al would like us to embrace this as an opportunity to promote the value of blogs, online learning and debate good practice guidelines for blogging with students.
I’ve set up a page on my wiki with links/extracts of bloggers reactions and the twitter network to the Order for Closure. I hope these links with my clarification of additional information will allow us to continue to debate the issues.
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