Monday, November 23, 2015

The best student blog privacy settings

I recently helped a teacher set up blogging with her students. I needed to check out the posts and comments from the students so I could offer feedback and help her improve the process. However, all the blogs written by the students were set as private and I could not see a single one. When I asked her to change them to public for me, she answered that the admins were concerned about it being open to all. The blog was made public long enough for me to check it out and then locked up again.

I disagree with this for several reasons.


One of the reasons blogging is so engaging to students is that it gives them a wider audience for their writing. Picture the typical writing assignment in class. The teacher gives the topic to the students and tells them how many paragraphs or sentences it has to have. Students complete the assignment and turn it in to the teacher, who is the only one to read it. If they are lucky the teacher will hang them on a bulletin board in the classroom where other students may or may not be able to read it. If they are really lucky, it might be a bulletin board in the hallway where students from around the school may or may not be able to read it.

How motivating is that? Not at all.

Now picture blogging, where this can be their potential audience:

With open blogs, students can make connections other classrooms around the state and country. They can read posts by other students, who can also read theirs. They can comment back and forth and share experiences. Closed blogs don't allow them to make those connections.

By sharing their writing in public blog posts, students take pride in what they write. When they realize others are reading it (through comments or hit counters) they want to write more and write better.

By locking down the privacy settings of blogs, teachers are essentially shutting students out of their audience. Now the audience is once again the classroom and it might as well be a paper/pencil assignment.

Teach Digital Citizenship

At some point students need to be taught how to create and manage their digital footprint. Over and over we tell them to be careful online, that you can't take anything back, or that what you post can't be truly erased.

Blogging is a safe way to let them put those digital citizenship skills into practice. They learn proper netiquette skills, what an online presence means, how to communicate with others, and how to define their online presence, rather than letting someone else define it for them. You know, those 21st Century skills.

Kathleen Morris shared similar thoughts in her blog post, Why I think Blogs Should be Public. My favorite part of what she said is:
It my opinion, it is more harmful to “protect” students through a closed blog than it is to open their eyes to the real world of online technologies through open blogs.

To me, having a closed blog feels like “pretending to use technology” and the full benefits of blogging cannot experienced.
By protecting them too much, we also deprive them of the essential opportunities to actually develop their digital citizenship.


I get the concern about safety online. We do need to teach students to be careful what they say, don't use their full name or other personally identifying information. We shouldn't post pictures online with full names underneath. We should monitor who is commenting on student blogs and who they are making connections with. These are the same skills adults need to be practicing.

Most blog platforms have these safety features built in. For example, Kidblog lets teachers define the display name for students, as show in this blog.

Kidblog also gives the teacher the option to only display student avatars and completely ignore the name.

Moderating posts is one way teachers can monitor what is happening on class and student blgos. This high school teacher uses Blogger. She added students to the class blog as contributors. That gave her the option to approve the posts before they appear.


Kidblog has similar functionality, giving teachers the opportunity to see and approve both posts and comments before they appear. This lets teachers check posts for personally identifying information.

Don't lock blogs!

Blogging can be one of the most rewarding experiences teachers and students can have. You can read about the experiences a few teachers had here. The learning and experiences students can have through global connections in blogging are worth the effort. Those same experiences cannot be achieved in a locked down blog.

To answer the question posed in the post title, the best student blog privacy setting are the ones that unlock the blog so it is public, but still protect their identity.

What do you think about the issue of private vs public blog posts?


  1. I never really thought about how our "bulletin board" actually doesn't engage kids really. They see a glimpse of it in the hallway, normally not really reading it - unless they are doddling, but never really look at it, study it, or have interactions with it. If we as teachers lock out the public in blogs, we are doing the same thing as bulletin boards. Nice metaphor Mark! I made a mistake in putting last names in Kidblog - never even occurred to me not to - but I corrected this so that when it went out to the public there were not any personal stuff in their blogs. I also like that as a school, we could blog on each other's site - wouldn't the kids like other classrooms to comment on their ideas. Could we do that in our school? Idea: have the kids do the paper post lesson, but then put them on the blog and have the other kids in the school comment on them? What do you think? Laurel @ Bruner

    1. Yes! I love that idea! I shared my student blogs on Twitter and a few teachers read their blogs and left comments. When the kids saw that they were soooo excited! I definitely want to connect our classes together so they can read and comment with each other.