One of the first things a teacher needs to plan when starting their classroom blog is ‘How will my students login to leave comments?’ Today’s post will cover some of the strategies for getting students online using WordPress.

Blogs can be created with allowances for anonymous commenting, commenting restricted by email registration, or even password protect posts and entries. Allowing anonymous comments on a blog often opens the door wide open for the random Spam comments and strangers leaving comments where your students are supposed to feel safe. When using Blogger with my classroom, that was my only option since I didn’t want to moderate every comment left by students. Blogger moderation meant that students would not get instant access to their posts and that took away from the discussion value during literature review time. We never had a problem with our anonymous comments being open to the public, but we also maintained a strict rule about signing all comments with their initials so they could respond and be held accountable by name.

No Anonymous Comments
To solve the ‘anonymous login’ problem, I switched to using WordPress.com. Both Blogger and WordPress allow you to add group users to the blog so that only those users can post automatically. Problem is that it is email account driven and we didn’t have separate email accounts for each student. With older populations, that would be possible except for the sheer number of accounts that would have to be generated to cover each student. So, I began using the moderation tool in WordPress because, once an email account is accepted, that account is automatically posted from then on. The truly wonderful thing is that the email accounts do not have to be valid! Have students sign their comment with anonymous-like initials as their name, but everyone uses an assigned fake email account. Fake email accounts mean that there is no actual email the students will use and their personal information isn’t online anywhere. In the example below, I just used student initials with a bogus @email.com domain. You could use any domain such as @mrmartin.com, @class.email, or whatever. Each student should use a different fake email, which will register in your WordPress dashboard, but not on the page viewed by others. Once you approve an email, that email address will be allowed to post without moderation. Other comment attempts will be stopped by the moderation tool and wait to be approved by the teacher.phakemail

The downside to WordPress moderation is in the initial posting. The teacher will have to approve each student. That would only happen once for each student. Another downside is that students who misspell their approved fake email will not see their comment until approved; a point for typing accuracy.

Setting Options in WordPress
To set any options, login to your WordPress account and find your dashboard. If you have more than one account, you will see it under the drop down menu.
dashboard

Go to the Options tab and select Discussion. There are two settings that can really help manage your classroom blog.
commentoptions

Email me whenever:
The email feature is nice especially when the blog is not used on a daily basis. Emailing comments that are held for moderation will alert you to either outsiders trying to comment or the student who mistyped their fake email address and isn’t recognized by your moderation filter.

Before a comment appears:
Some teachers want to approve every comment, which is what the first option shows. I firmly believe that in a collaborative classroom environment, delaying all comments will only slow the process, take away student-perceived ownership, and take away from the high level of student interest in immediate interaction. But there are times that this may be necessary. You will want the students to fill out their name and fake email. But the greatest tool is the automatic approving of previously approved comments. This is where the fake email comes in. Turning on the third option automates your moderating strategy.

When talking with teachers about starting their blogs, many are apprehensive because they either don’t spend much time online or there appears to be too many option and setup steps. Managing student comments is an important piece and if done well, it is one less thing that a teacher will have to deal with on their classroom blog.

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