How to protect your students from inappropriate comments getting left on their student blogs

Student blogging can be a lot of fun, but as a teacher, you need to be thinking about student privacy.

  • Yes, it’s fun to let your students create and administer their own blogs. This can be a great media literacy lesson were your students create a variety of media text (i.e. websites) for different purposes and audiences using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques.
  • Yes, allowing your student blogs to go public and get listed on Google can be a really motivating and rich, authentic writing task. After all, seeing your work on Google for the first time can be a lot of fun.
  • But you need to make sure that your student work doesn’t become a open door for strangers and inappropriate spam bots to say hello.

Personally, I use a self hosted WordPress account to set up our student blogs and class websites. Teachers have a few options to allow students to create content online while protecting them from some of the dangers of the internet.

One option is to create a class blog where the teacher moderates all student content. If the teacher is the admin of the site, then they can control which comments get published or seen by students.

A second option is to create a private student blogging network (like Educircles.org) so that each student is the admin of their own blogs and each blog is protected behind a login page.

  • If you have a self hosted WordPress account, then you can install the free More Privacy Options WordPress plug-in to lock down your entire student blog network. (More privacy options is installed on Educircles.)
  • Another option is to install the WPMU Premium WordPress plug-in Multisite Privacy which provides a little bit more control than the more privacy options above. (You can choose which privacy options are available to your students, and you can easily update the privacy settings of your entire site by clicking “update all blogs”)

A third option is to create a public student blogging network and use a WordPress plug-in to prevent external visitors from leaving comments. Let’s talk about the comments and how to keep prevent your students from getting exposed to inappropriate content from visitors leaving comments.

How to block all external comments from visitors on your WordPress blog

  • One of the great things about student blogging is that visitors can leave comments about your work.
  • One of the downsides about the internet is that visitors and spambots can leave inappropriate comments on your site (think Viagra, casino ads, and beyond…)

One of the big problems with WordPress is that when students are logged in, they can see a list of all the comments on the class website, and not just their own. There are a few solutions, including a WordPress plug-in to filter comments and only show your own comments in the WordPress dashboard.

If your students are the admin of their own WordPress blogs, then they have the power to change the discussion settings of the student blogs. This means they can unclick the checkbox for “users must be registered and logged in to comment” and allow complete strangers to leave comments on the site.

discussion

If you are the super admin of your WordPress student blogging network, you can go into each student site and check that “users must be registered and logged in to comment” box, but there’s nothing stopping your students from changing the setting… Until now.

Here’s the code for a simple WordPress plug-in that lets you lock down your student blogging network and force student blogs to only allow comments from registered users. (No External Comments Allowed WordPress plug-in is installed on Educircles so that teachers can prevent their students from accepting comments from strangers.)

<?php
/*
Plugin Name: Student Blog Publishing - No External Comments Allowed
Plugin URI: http://webcircles.ca/
Description: Prevents student admins from allowing their student blogs to receive external comments. Users must be registered and logged in to comment which means only (student) users on your blogging network can comment. Spambots and complete strangers won't be allowed to leave comments.
Author: Educircles.org
Author URI: http://educircles.org
License: GPL3
*/

/*
 * Source: http://codex.wordpress.org/Option_Reference
 * Source: http://codex.wordpress.org/Plugin_API/Filter_Reference/pre_option_(option_name)
 */

function no_external_comments_allowed() {

	/*comment_registration option
	Users must be registered and logged in to comment
	1 : Yes
	0 : No (default)
	Data type: Integer
	 */

	return 1;
}

add_filter('pre_option_comment_registration', 'no_external_comments_allowed', 0);

?>
  • If you’re tech savvy, simply copy and paste the code into a PHP file.
  • Or, you can download the plug-in below and upload it to your site yourself.

Download the No External Comments Allowed WordPress plug-in

Want the plugin? The download link will become available to you once you “like” this post. (This content is protected using the Pay With A Like WPMU Premium WordPress plugin.)

[pwal id=”5750758″ description=”Protected Content. Share the love to access this link”][download id=”1″][/pwal]

Installation instructions

    1. Upload no-external-comments-allowed.zip to your WordPress plugins directory, usually wp-content/plugins/ and unzip the file. It will create a wp-content/plugins/no-external-comments-allowed/directory.
    2. Network Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress to force all student blogs to allow comments from registered users only.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

This blog post was dictated using Dragon NaturallySpeaking premium and Windows Live Writer. (What is Dragon Naturally Speaking?)

  • There were 697 words in the first draft of this post.
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking made 8 word errors which mean that it transcribed 98.9% of the words correctly.
  • The voice recognition software also made an additional 1 punctuation error meaning the total accuracy rate was 98.7%.

Click here to find out more about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Student / Teacher version.

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