Friday, August 21, 2009

How to make Wordle safe for classroom use.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from Becky Foellmer, of Lakeview Jr. High in Downers Grove, IL. She suggested:

Since it is very easy to set most networks to block specific sites, blocking the gallery at http://www.wordle.net/gallery is a simple process. That eliminates the concern of students seeing inappropriate content there. Then […] instead of having the latest examples showing on your homepage (which could easily contain inappropriate content), you could simply put up several samples of your choosing that are appropriate. This, I believe, would allow those of us in the field of education to much more comfortably utilize your site within our classrooms.

This seemed to me to strike an excellent balance, in that it’s something I actually have time to get done, and it’s practical for educators, I hope. Therefore, I’m happy to announce that from now on, the Wordle front page will never feature images or links that are inappropriate for classroom use. It's now possible to configure an institution's "site-blocking" software to keep Wordle safe for classroom use.

Simply have your networking administrator block the following base URLs1:

  • http://www.wordle.net/gallery
  • http://www.wordle.net/next
  • http://www.wordle.net/random

and your users will not see anything that's not safe for classrooms. You’ll still be able to save your work, bookmark your individual Wordle creations, print them out, and share the URLs of saved Wordles with each other and with families.

Please let me know whether this works out for you in your school or other institution.

1By "base URL" I mean: "block all URLs that begin with the given text", and not merely those literal URLs.