Many teachers are blogging in the classroom. It’s authentic writing that hooks struggling readers and writers, especially boys.
However, there is one huge flaw with using WordPress or Edublogs in the classroom. Students can read unmoderated comments when they are logged into the edublog or class blog before the comments get moderated and published online. They can’t edit the comments, but they can still read them.
What does this mean?
The power of using WordPress or Edublogs in the classroom comes from the teacher’s ability to moderate comments and posts before the students see them. Teachers, as administrator-level accounts, can control what gets published online.
- We can help protect our students online by ensuring they do not accidentally post any personally-identifiable information.
- We can ensure the content is appropriate for an educational blog and our school / classroom website.
- We can respect our parents’ wishes with keeping content offline, but still provide our students with opportunities to blog. (In other words, students can use WordPress software to type in their “good copies” of work, but we simply do not publish the work online for the world to see.
Teachers can also control who can comment on their students’ work.
- We can hide our edublogs from the search engines, or allow them to be indexed on Google.
- We can turn the commenting feature on or off and change the settings so that anyone can leave a comment or only students (who can log into our classroom blogs.)
- We can moderate the comments so that only appropriate comments make it online.
- In certain cases, we can even lock down our blog so that it can only be accessed from our school computers.
We started blogging in the classroom with Ontario Blogs, which unfortunately is no longer available due to lack of funding. Ontario Blogs was powered by WordPress and it was great because, as teachers, we had complete control over which comments our students could read.
(At the time we used it, students couldn’t read comments unless the teacher had moderated them and approved them to appear on the website. I’m not sure if this was still the case because of the way the WordPress software evolved over time.)
WordPress is the software behind WordPress.com and Edublogs.org. Teachers usually set up student accounts as contributors because this allows them to edit posts, but not publish them. (Students can submit work for review, but the teacher or another administrator has to actually publish them with the click of a button.)
In WordPress and Edublogs, contributor level accounts can read unmoderated comments, but not edit them. This is a problem for teachers because someone could leave an inappropriate comment that a student might stumble upon before the teacher could delete it. Even though the comment wasn’t published online, it could still be read by anyone who could log into the blog.
There is a solution, however, it requires a WordPress plugin to be installed. Installing plugins is usually not possible on a free WordPress or Edublogs account. It’s the reason why a self-hosted wordpress blog is better than a free WordPress account.
Adminimize (information in English) is a great WordPress plugin that lets you hide comments from contributors until the teacher moderates them and publishes the comments online. You get a lot of control over what appears in the dashboard, including the option to deactivate access to the comments based on user role.
For example, you can deactivate the comment page for subscribers, contributors, authors, editors, or even administrators.
Another important WordPress plugin for classroom edublogs and school websites is the Role Manager plugin. Role Manager allows you to custom set the capabilities for each role, as well as creating your own custom user levels.
For example, we use WordPress to power our school website. We want all content to be moderated and approved by the principal before anything gets published online. This means setting up teachers as contributors so that they can create and edit posts, but not publish them.
However, we also want our teachers to be able to create and edit pages, but this capability isn’t available because they are only “contributors.” Normally a user can’t create pages unless they are an editor. However, authors and editors can publish posts online and we don’t want that.
The Role Manager plugin allows us to add the “edit pages” capability to “contributors.” That way teachers and school council parents can create both posts and pages – something they normally wouldn’t be able to do as a contributor level account.
Unfortunately, the Role Manager plugin doesn’t allow you the capability of hiding comments, however the Adminimizer plugin does. Bottom line is that both of these plugins are important tools to add flexibility and security to your edublog.