It can be a tricky task selecting what to include in your classroom blog, and what to leave out. The following are some guidelines that will hopefully keep you safe, whilst allowing your content to remain interesting and keep students and parents informed.
1. Keep it about the learning
Focus the content and theme of your classroom blog on the learning that is happening. Discuss the tasks and learning intentions you focussed on as the teacher. Report about the different group lessons and the learning that took place.
2. What happens in the classroom, stays in the classroom
This is the “fine line” that is uncrossable if you want to keep yourself safe. It may seem slightly ironic, because to have a classroom blog, you’re automatically NOT keeping it “in the classroom”. But what is meant by this is that the personal experiences that are shared, the individual behavior problems that occurred, assessment results and the like are to stay in the classroom, under all circumstances. If you focuss on the learning that is happening, as per point 1, then this shouldn’t be an issue. You certainly don’t want to be sharing the argument two students had and the consequences they faced, or writing about the latest test results, all written out online.
3. No names
When sharing students work (maybe a piece of writing – see point 5), only use initials to identify students. Then your class will still know whose writing it is and it can be shared with friends and family, without students names being all over the Internet. This is also linked to the No Faces (point 4) rule, where you should never link a photo with a students name. Individual privacy is paramount.
4. No faces
Any photo that includes faces, especially those of children, needs permission from that person (or their parent/guardian in the case of children) before it is placed on the Internet. My suggestion is, rather than get permission from every parent (and have to keep record of those who have and haven’t given permission), just blur everyone in the photo’s face, or where possible, exclude faces from the photos when you take it. Taking photos from behind a student, so that you can only see the back of their head, is a great way of doing this. To blur faces, you can use picnik.com or other free photo editors using a blur brush tool. Once again, individual privacy is paramount.
5. Celebrate Success
Whether on the sports field, or a particularly successful learning experience, celebrate the success. If someone has written an awesome story, get them to write it up and add it to the blog.
6. Update Regularly
The last thing anyone wants to see is the latest content being 2 years old, about some lesson that happened with a class group that is no longer even at the school. Your updates should be at least once every two weeks, if not more. Make it a target to write a post each week. This will enable you to make it a habit, and hopefully, will become part of the classroom routine.
7. Keep it Fresh
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Think of new ways to use the blog in your classroom. Set a treasure hunt around the internet, include lots of media, include work expectations, tell a photo story told by the kids. Don’t just make it about the things that happen in the class, but make it a place where things happen.
8. Avoid Copyright Issues
Don’t use images from the internet. I know it’s easy to do, especially with Google Images, but try and keep any media on your website self-created. It also provides more of an insight into your classroom and school environment if all the media on the classroom blog is from – well… the classroom.
9. Keep Yourself Safe
Avoid posting anything about yourself as the teacher. Keep your personal life to yourself. You have to remember to remain the consummate professional, both in the classroom, and online. If you wouldn’t share it with your kids, then you shouldn’t be sharing it online either.
10. Spread the Word
If there’s no visitors, there’s no point. Get people to the blog. Set tasks for the students on it. Include a hidden code that students, if they find it, they get an award. Get students to show their parents their work that you’ve put on there. Get parents to share it with grandparents, and eventually, you’ll have a community culture in your class, purely and simple from your blog.
Remember, your blog is for students and families, but it is also available to the whole world over the Internet. Keep this in mind when you make any post! Individual privacy is paramount. Keep yourself safe, and most of all – get posting!