Privacy vs. Transparency

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Twelve years ago I started a school web site. We were painfully careful not to show the faces of children in photos. We took large group photos from a distance or we showed the backs of their heads–only photos that were unidentifiable. Over the past decade, with so much of our lives online in Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and others, things have changed. We are not fully transparent, but we definitely have changed the standards of what is appropriate regarding privacy issues on school web sites.

Now I am trying to understand how much privacy I should maintain with my blog. Can my new friends help me, please? Will you answer any or all of these student blog and privacy questions?

  • Do you put up photos on your blog that identify your school?
  • Do you identify students by name in photos?
  • Do you use real names or netnyms (pseudonyms for the web) for your blogs?
  • Do you use first names only?
  • Do you link your blog and school web together?

It’s only been in the last two weeks, since the Kick Start Your Blogging challenge began, that I’ve felt like my students and I were developing an audience for our blog. I’m delighted and excited, but I’m also concerned about the privacy issue. I would love to get comments back from you about how you do it. Thanks so much!

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11 thoughts on “Privacy vs. Transparency

  1. Our society seems to have become very comfortable with giving up some of their privacy (photos, videos, etc). I currently have a classroom website and a class blog (via Kidblog). We have parents sign an Acceptable Use Policy giving permission for pictures on the website. Pretty much everyone has given their okay. When I post pictures, if I use names, it is first name only. Our blog pages have their first names only as well (just like yours). Our Website does link to our Kidblog (but not vice versa).

    Just recently we have had the invite to Skype with several different groups. The administration has asked me to get special permission from parents as this is “new territory”.

    I think it is a very valid question. Sometimes I feel like I’m giving up a piece of the students when I post an image and yet – I know their relatives around the world can see what they are doing in class.

    I’d love to see what others do as well.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post!

    1. Thank you so much, Nancy! Your comments are very helpful. I hadn’t considered linking from the website to the blog. That makes sense. I appreciate your thoughtful response.

  2. Let’s see:

    We do use first names only, no last names, for student work.
    We do identify our school at our site.
    We do link to our main school site (I think — need to check if I still have that up)
    We try to avoid photos of individual kids but can put up crowd shots.
    All parents sign media release forms at the start of the year, so we have an idea of any problems or issues.
    Pseudonyms are used if parents request it.

    Here is our class blog


  3. I have been following this discussion with interest.There seems to be a lot of angst in school communities on this issue, however I am yet to hear of a case where student blogging has resulted in adverse outcomes.
    Of course it does make sense to have explicit guidelines for safety and security.
    In our school system the bureaucracy has created, at great expense, the Ultranet, an application that allows control of audiences. However it seems to me that this only limits the benefits of blogging to a global audience.
    There is a post on the ‘Classroom Blog Board’ in which Ewan McIntosh explores this issue.
    I have created a simple video to begin student thinking around issues of ‘Blogging Etiquette and Safety’.

  4. Great post, Denise! I’ve been wondering this myself since our conference last week and it’s been great to read others’ points of view on the topic. I think I should probably send a note home to parents, but then I worry that some kids will be left out of pictures or videos that we might want to create. It’s a slippery slope!

  5. As a homeschooler, I’ve thought about this quite a bit especially when my children asked to have their own personal blogs. While I try to avoid posting photos that reveal too much of the outside of my house, I have shared our geographical location and photos of my children. We use our real first names but do not post our last names. I often wonder about the potential dangers of sharing too much information online.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation, Debbie. I love looking at your blogs–all of them. In fact, I have been inspired by yours to organize my own in a similar way. I had posts of all kinds mixed in. Now I’ve turned my main page into my teacher page, which is how I think you have yours. Then links to my student pages, and an additional Class Blog main page. I love getting so many wonderful ideas from everyone.

  6. I just read a November, 2010, post made by Ronnie Burt on the Edublogs site about privacy. It was helpful…here’s a link.

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