What Parents Should Know About Tumblr

This week’s question comes from a parent in Florida. Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

It’s become impossible to go a day without hearing or seeing something about Tumblr. The guy sitting next to me in Starbucks is surfing the site as I type this. Chances are you have heard your kids talk about the site at one point or another.

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Tumblr is a microblogging/social networking site that allows users to post various forms of multimedia to their page. The site operates on a “dashboard interface” where bloggers have the option to create content, follow other blogs or re-blog entries by others. In May of this year, Tumblr was purchased by Yahoo! for $1.1 Billion. (This isn’t important to the entry, I’m just bitter).

Bonus! This week’s entry includes a vocabulary lesson!

Dashboard – The dashboard is the primary tool for the typical Tumblr user. It is a live feed of recent posts from blogs that they follow. Through the dashboard, users are able to comment, reblog, and like posts from other blogs that appear on their dashboard. The dashboard allows the user to upload text posts, images, video, quotes, or links to their blog with a click of a button displayed at the top of the dashboard. Users are also able to connect their blogs to their Twitter and Facebook accounts, so whenever they make a post, it will also be sent as a tweet and a status update. (This is something a lot of sites are allowing users to do- WordPress, for example, allows me to cross-post entries to Twitter, LinkedIn and even my own Tumblr Blog!)

Queue – Users are able to set up a schedule to delay posts that they make. They can spread their posts over several hours or even days. (This is a feature I LOVE! I am able to write a bunch of entries and schedule them- if you’ve ever wondered how I do it…this is my secret. I queue.)

Tags – For each post a user creates, they are able to help their audience find posts about certain topics by adding tags. If someone were to upload a picture to their blog and wanted their viewers to find pictures, they would add the tag #picture, and their viewers could use that word to search up posts with the tag #picture.

HTML editing – Tumblr allows users to edit their blog’s theme HTML coding to control the appearance of their blog. Users are also able to use a custom domain name for their blog

So, to the question, should parents be concerned about Tumblr? Like a lot of social networking sites out there, it’s totally up to you whether or not you want your child using this media. I, personally, enjoy my Tumblr and often find myself getting incredibly distracted while scrolling through my Dashboard (this is a good and bad thing). Here are some things to keep in mind:

Privacy
Tumblr is not private. That being said, it is. Here’s what I mean. When you create your Tumblr blog, it is completely public and you have no option to change this. The only way to have a private Tumblr blog is to create a secondary blog. This second blog can be set to be password protected so that only people with the password may view it.

From there, privacy is up to the user. Educating your kids about what is and is not appropriate information to post can help keep them safe. Even pictures can reveal too much information. Monitor your child’s blog as you would what they are watching on TV and what videos games they are playing. Let them know what content is appropriate for them to follow as well.

User Interactions
Tumblr allows users to set up an option to have fellow blogger contact them through an “ask” button. There are a few options to how people can contact you. On the settings page for your blog you can select the “ASK” option which allows users to send you short messages. With this option selected only registered users can send a question. There is an additional option which allows for “anonymous” asks. This options allows people to contact you anonymously whether they are a registered users or not. I don’t suggest this option to be suggested for kids because this lends itself to bullying and harassment issues.

The blocking feature is rather limited in that you are able to block a user from contacting you but given the open-sharing environment of the site, you can’t block a user from seeing your content.

Speaking Of Content
Content on Tumblr is completely and 100% unrestricted and unmoderated. Unless something is reported as inappropriate, administrators aren’t combing through what others are posting. This gives users, including kids, unrestricted access to a wide variety of pornographic materials and other explicit content that you may not want them seeing. It is up to you to moderate and let your kids know what is and isn’t inappropriate content to be sharing and viewing.

Who is on Tumblr?
The site allows you to follow just about anyone from friends to celebrities. Though there is no set age restriction, the site does comply with COPPA in that users under 12 are not allowed (though it doesn’t nothing to check the age of its users despite the plethora of inappropriate content).

Josh, You’re On Tumblr?
Yep! When I first decided to start blogging I polled students about what platform they use. Tumblr was number 1 so I started both a personal and professional blog. When I found that my professional blog was being view more by parents and teachers, I decided to move to a more interactive-friendly site. My WordPress posts are still cross-posted to Tumblr for my followers there, but I blog more on this platform.

That doesn’t stop me from following my favorite Tumblr blogs! For a good Boston-related laugh I check out “The MBTA Ruined My Life.” As I’m a massive trivia-buff I’m a big fan of the “Did You Know” blog. And I, of course, follow my friend, fellow Disney buff and fashionista extraordinaire “Leslie Kay’s Disneybound“.

If your kids are on Tumblr, rather than going nuts and telling them they can’t use it. Take the time to check out what they are viewing on the site. Getting involved and being interested in what they are doing is going to go a lot further than lecturing. Maybe create your own blog and share and follow your kids blogs. This will give you piece of mind and keep you on top of what your kids are up to in the online world!

Do you have a questions about an app or social networking site? Please feel free to e-mail your questions to info@joshgunderson.com and I will do my best to find you the answer!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 3

This marks the 3rd and final entry in the Blogging in the Classroom Series! To catch up on the previous entries you can see Part 1 Here and Part 2 Here! As always please feel free to share comments below or by shooting me an e-mail at info@joshgunderson.com. Want to catch up? Check out the archives link! Next week I will continue with Part 3 which includes some great ideas to get your classroom blog rolling!

What it comes to blogging in the classroom I feel like the ideas are endless! I have to be honest that I’m a bit jealous that this platform wasn’t available when I was in high school! Across the curriculum there are a number of ways blogs can be introduced to the classroom. A student can use one blog over the course of the year, or even over the course of their career at an education institution. This creates an amazing portfolio of their work!

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Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what are some ideas to get your kids writing!

Use Regular Writing Prompts
Put up a weekly or biweekly writing prompt for your students to respond to, setting a due date for the responses. Have them comment on one another’s responses to get a conversation going. Depending on your blogging platform, you can moderate comments before they are visible to ensure that nothing inappropriate comes through.

Respond To Class or Homework Readings/Discussions
Run out of class time? Post the topic of discussion onto your blog, letting the students know, and have the discussion continue. Ask students to discuss how a current reading applies to a student’s own life. This would be great for history classes and discussing how past events may mirror current happenings.

Current Events
Post a link to a current news article and ask students to respond with their thoughts and ideas. This is especially great if there is something that is going on that may affect their world!

Book Reviews
Ask students to write a review (positive or negative) of a book they read for pleasure, summer reading or a book your reading in class. If it’s a book they read for pleasure, perhaps offer extra credit for a review?

Free Write
Rather than investing money into notebooks (think of the trees!) have student do their free writing on a blog. This allows you and their fellow students to respond to their thoughts. Again, depending on the blog platform you choose, students can set entries to be viewed only by you.

Photo Blogging
Great for art and photography classes! Encourage students to share their projects only by uploading their photography or scanning in their artwork. Like with writing, this allows students to build an online portfolio for themselves and to share their work with the world!

Review Fieldtrips and Assemblies
As homework following a fieldtrip or assembly, ask students to react and review what they learned or saw. Did they take pictures? Ask them to include those moments in their entry as well. This allows students to work on their writing skills as well as getting feedback on these activities.

These are just a few ideas! A simple web search can find you loads more! Talk with your fellow teachers about how they would use blogging in the classroom and work together to create a blogging community!

Are your students already blogging in the classroom? Share your ideas for blogging in the classroom in the comments section below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 2

Last week I introduced part 1 of Blogging in the Classroom. The response has been amazing. I thank you all so much for the e-mails! This week I continue to Part 2 where I will discuss the pros of blogging in the classroom! As always please feel free to share comments below or by shooting me an e-mail at info@joshgunderson.com. Want to catch up? Check out the archives link! Next week I will continue with Part 3 which includes some great ideas to get your classroom blog rolling!

Have you picked out your blogging platform? Now it’s time to move on to the pros of blogging in the classroom blog!

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Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One thing a teacher friend pointed out to me is how blogging can help with the federal mandate that literacy is to be a cross curricular activity. Try thinking outside the box for how students can use writing in each subject matter. A social studies class can blog about current events, science students can report regular findings on experiments, language arts classes have an entire world of possibilities! Now is a great time to start thinking outside the box!

Even math students can use their writing skills. I took a class in college called “Math for the Liberal Arts” (which translates into Theatre Kids that are Bad at Math but the Subject is Required). Rather than spending day after day doing math worksheets, we focused on one math formula or theorem and wrote a paper about it. It allowed for us to be creative and learn something at the same time (my paper of dimensions involves aliens from a 4th dimension- totally aced it)!

Blogging can also be a great way to give voice to students who may not feel they have one. This is one of the ideas that I presented in my pros and cons list of social networking in the classroom. Kids that are less inclined to speak up in class may end up being the best commentators on a discussion post made by a teacher or fellow student.

With technology being another cross curriculum requirement, blogging in the classroom helps students build skills they will be needing in college and beyond. In addition to building writing skills, blogging also builds typing skills, enhances their knowledge of working with media like photos, videos and, in some cases, HTML.

I also look at blogging as a fun way to enhance the creative process. Students will begin to look at the world in a new light- anything could be fodder for their next entry. It is a fun way to allow students to engage with one another and the world around them. Depending on whether your blog is private or public- it allows outsiders to stumble upon and share their thoughts on a topic. I’ve stumbled upon kids blogging about seeing one of my programs- not only do I read them, I’ll comment!

At the end of the day, blogging can also be a lot of fun! I do most of my writing on Tuesdays and set up a queue to get me through the week. I look forward to my weekly trip (read: hostile takeover of a corner) to Starbucks to take in the world around me (ie. eavesdropping on blind dates) and get my writing done! I think students would feel the same way once their start working to find their voice!

Are your students already blogging in the classroom? Share some of the pros that you have found in the comments below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Blogging, Part 1

A few weeks ago I introduced my new series “Social Networking in the Classroom” and the response has been inspiring! In the introduction to the series, I weighed the pros and cons of integrating social networking in the classroom. In the following weeks I discussed Facebook followed by Twitter. This week’s topic? Blogging!

This week’s topic is being broken into three parts! Why? There’s so much to talk about! This week’s entry will look at some blogging platforms I think are pretty awesome for the classroom environment. Next week I’ll talk about the pros of blogging in the classroom. In the third part I will share ideas for blogging in the classroom. (The other reason is that I wrote the whole entry and saw how long it was so breaking it into multiple parts just made sense to me.)

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You might notice right away that I have avoided specifying one specific blogging platform to use. There’s a very simple reason for this, there are so many! I think it’s best to find what works best for you and your students. I’ve done a quick web search just to get an idea of the best blogging platforms for a classroom.

These are in the order that I thought of/discovered them and I promise I’m not getting anything special for promoting them…unless they want to give me something. Free Edublog? Hint hint WordPress!

WordPress- Since starting this blog back in June, I’ve really grown to love all that WordPress has to offer. The platform is simple to use and pretty straight-forward. It’s free to use though a premium account offers a few more perks but they aren’t important if you’re looking to keep things simple (I’m a simple user and paying $99 a year doesn’t seem worth it to me… I need that money to support my Starbucks habit!) The only drawback I would see with WordPress is that each student would need to create an account in order to become a contributor on the classroom blog. The perk I see with that, is that students are free to continuing their blogging once the class has ended!

Edublogs– Edublogs is exactly what it sounds like- blogs for education! The site is run by the people at WordPress and has all the same features!  The site is safe, secure, and for education only. While a simple blog is free, if you want to be able to embed video and HTML, you must pay for an upgrade. $35 will get you a year of Educator Pro and is great if you want to be able to facilitate blogging in your classroom and create accounts for students.  You can moderate students entries and comments with this feature as well.

Looking to connect the entire school? Edublogs offers that as well. Create a massive blogging community of students and educators. The cost varies by the number of blogs you wish to create. You can contact Edublogs for a quote. Not sure if Edublogs is a right fit for your school? They give you a free 30-day trial to give it a chance!

ClassPress- ClassPress is much like WordPress in its functionality. A one year subscription is the same at $35 with discounts if you subscribe with 5 or more teachers. Once you are a member you are able to create an unlimited number of students accounts. The site also automatically filters content in students entries unlike other which require you to actively look out for inappropriate language. One thing I really like on ClassPress is the drop-box feature which allows students to submit assignments digitally into one place. There’s no worrying about students misspelling your e-mail address. This also allows the teacher to upload files for download by students. Supported formats are Microsoft Word, Excel, PDFs and Powerpoint. Want the kids to have a record of their blogging at the end of the year? You can download PDF journals that can be printed, e-mailed or loaded onto a thumb drive!

Kidblog-While featuring all of the perks of the above platforms, Kidblog goes a step further to ensure the privacy of its users. Student accounts are private by default and the site is fully COPPA compliant, not requiring any personal information from students using the site. Comment privacy settings allow for filtering out unsolicited outside comments. As the audience is fully limited to those in the class, the site allows for the creation of password protected parents and guest accounts. As far as I can tell, the site is free to use but I’m not 100% on that.

Have you used any of these platforms in your classroom? Have any suggestions for other sites that can be used (I know they’re out there!)? I would love to hear more in the comments section below!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.