Eyes: an idea for a class blog

Mystery eyes: someone in our class

Here's an idea that might be fun if you have a class blog: every week, we publish a photo of the eyes of someone in the class, and we then attempt to guess who our "mystery eyes" belong to.

By a "class blog", I mean one on which your learners author and publish the content and, besides class projects [example], and what you might publish as being of interest to your students [example], having a different pair responsible for the blog each week will get the students interested and involved. You could have such things as a "YouTube video of the week" or "Album of the week", which the students would be responsible for picking — and "Mystery eyes of the week" would also be fun.

You want the students to take the photos and edit them and want to ensure that other students do comment on the blog, something they could be doing before class, during class, or at home…

An important issue is privacy, so do make sure you have appropriate school/parental permission before you start publishing photos, especially if you are doing this with young learners!

See also: How to make your learners authors

MySpace or Our Space?

The Electric Shoes: Great band, great example of what you can do with MySpace

In the US in particular, My Space is hugely popular, though there have been doubts raised in US High Schools about security problems (do you want it to be that easy for all those crazy people out there in cyberspace to contact your young learners?).

Here's a great example (not ELT-related) of what you can do with MySpace.

MySpace is very easy to use, and I can see why your teenagers might love it…

Our space, not my space
Personally, however, I've got two things against it, one the security issue (check how many of the MySpace FAQs refer to security: there must be a problem with it!).

The other is that I hate the name "my space".

One of the technologies I do like a lot for language learning is blogging, particularly if what you've got is a collaborative, team blog, to which all your learners contribute.

Then you're talking our space, not my space…

Protecting your (young) learners' privacy

If you're teaching young learners, it's absolutely vital that you protect their privacy, don't give away their emails etc.

No, you don't want your blog listed!

If you have set up your blog at Blogger, the first thing to alter is the default "Yes" marked (1), above: make it "NO!". Having no links (listing) pointing to you will make your blog much harder to find, which makes this a vital step.

If you're using something other than Blogger, you'll want to take similar steps.

Determine who can comment… Under "Settings" > "Comments"

You want to change who can comment. The default "only registered users" (2, above) in fact includes anyone with a Blogger account — which includes an awful lot of people desperate to sell you sex toys and Viagra (etc). Your alternatives are "anyone" (no, thanks!) or "only members of this blog" — neither of which are ideal.

Assuming that you have made all your learners members (under "Settings" > "Permissions", see below), you want that third option.

Alternatively, if you did say "no" to "listing" your blog (see above), choose "anyone".

Mail posts to yourself

Under "Settings" > "Email", you can enter an email address (3, above), like your own, which means that any posts on the blog get mailed to you. That's worth doing if your learners are going to post to the same "team" blog; you thus get alerted by mail to new posts (and to any undesirable posts).

Who can read your blog…?

By default "Anyone" can read your blog. Change that to "only blog authors" (4, above) and only you and your students can do so (assuming that you have made them "authors" that is).

If you were the sole author, writing for your students, selecting "only people I choose" would limit your audience to the class (and would require log in, as you can see above.)

Protect your profile, too
From the top right hand side of your screen, you can access your "dashboard", which allows you to manage your blog (or blogs, if you have more than one), and to edit your profile.

The default settings for your profile are shown below:

You don't want young learners to share their profile with the world (5, above), so click that off; you don't want their names published (6), leave that as it is; and — vitally — you don't want to reveal their email accounts (7), so leave that too.

And finally…
With young learners, you should also obtain the school's permission to blog, and (written, signed) permission from the parents.

Is your Yahoo (etc) account safe?

Someone asked me the questions yesterday: (a) is it possible to obtain someone's Yahoo (or Hotmail, etc) password — and thus read their mail — and (b) how do you do it?

The answers: (a), yes, 12-year-olds at my son's school can do it, and then impersonate others on Messenger; and (b) I don't know — I said — but go to Google-is-Evil and you can be sure you can find out.

The key to successful search is often knowing the operative keywords. If you want to know the answer to (b), your operative keywords are "hack" and/or "crack"… I got over 2 million results, and I'll leave it at that.

Fortunately, apart from the Evil, there's lots of good stuff on the Web. If you have a Yahoo account, Yahoo have a good security section, and specific suggestions on how to create a safe password.

A safe password is long, contains numbers and symbols and is not your birthday, among other things…

If you're using Hotmail (or whatever), check their recommendations out too.

If you're using MySpace, just don't…!

More on online security