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School Districts Struggle With Social Media Policy

School Districts Struggle With Social Media Policy

The Virginia Board of Education wants the state’s school boards to implement policies on social media use by teachers. It voted recently to encourage the development of policies for restrictions partly because of the Kevin Ricks case.  Ricks, a former Manassas High School teacher. He was convicted last year of molesting a former student and had used Facebook as a way of contacting her and other students.

Opposition to Restrictions

Those supporting restrictions, however, affect a growing number of teachers who use sites like Facebook and Twitter as teaching tools.

Aubrey Ludwig, who teachers 11th grade English at Langley High School, uses Twitter to teach her students to write with precision. She noted that many of them over-wrote and found that the 140-character Twitter limit was ideal for forcing them to be efficient and clear.

Facebook too has become a popular way to teach literature. A favorite assignment asks students to create profiles for individual characters from classics like The Canterbury Tales.

Online Education

In addition, many teachers are now using Facebook groups to keep students up to date on homework assignments, links to articles relevant to classwork, deadlines and tests.

Risky Business

But Facebook is also a potential minefield riddled with opportunity  for social and professional faux pas.

Last summer Dr. June Talvitie-Siple, a high school math supervisor in Cohasset, Massachusetts, lost her position after making negative comments about the residents of Cohasset, and a first grade teacher in New Jersey was suspended this last week for posting a photo of a student, whose hair style was then mocked by the teacher’s “friends.”

Lack of Awareness

While socializing online grows in popularity, the lines between professional and private lives seem to be blurring, and many teachers don’t seem to be aware that mixing their personal accounts with their jobs and responsibilities to their students should be avoided.

At the heart of the issue is a lack of professionalism, and perhaps a bit of naiveté, about the fact that what is posted on the Internet isn’t ever really private.

What Do You Think?

How can social media be used as a learning tool without compromising privacy and safety of both teachers and students?


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Photo from: Fan Pages, Twitter, Shakespeare by ajleon

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8:23AM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

Teachers should not friend students

12:48AM PDT on Apr 15, 2011

The problem educators have to deal with is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, (FERPA).

8:49PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

Whilst I fully support technological applications in education, there are some disadvantages and drawbacks. As a teacher of long standing (read "old") I have found that students are losing the ability to write. Timed tests/exams where the student is required to produce a legible, handwritten answer are or have disappeared. Spelling, punctuation and grammar (what is the subjunctive mood? )are all checked by the computer. And I don't even know if an assignment is a student's own work. Indeed, one of my erstwhile colleagues, completed her son's assignment on "Death of a Salesman" for him and complained bitterly when he received a B minus!
There are other problems with Facebook, Twitter and instant videoing such as the lack of privacy. Perhaps you have already heard of an 18 year old, first year airforce cadet in Canberra, Australia who had consenual sex with another cadet only to find out later that his mates had watched on Skype and indeed passed around images of it later.

The was also the report of a young bully in a Sydney High School who was goading and provoking a much larger boy only to have the larger boy retaliate by picking him up and throwing him onto the pavement. The whole incident was captured on a phone camera and went public immediately.

No doubt, there are lots of other examples of postings on Facebook and Twitter going feral and coming back to haunt people.

Now, you've seen it on screen, perhaps you can read the book, article, the review, critique,

12:01AM PDT on Apr 6, 2011

@Barbara Cindric: How do you translate "I see NO value in this" into your belief that that it therefore has no value? Wow, that's some jump.

And just because you don't know how to grade something on Facebook, doesn't mean it can't be done: it means you haven't yet reached the required level of understanding. (I don't understand wave-particle duality in electrons - that doesn't mean it doesn't exist: it means I don't have the required level of understanding.)

Perhaps if you asked someone, not as a rhetorical question, but with an interest in finding out, you might receive an explanation, and a new awareness. It's part of life-long learning (aka education).

9:49PM PDT on Apr 5, 2011

There is of course an alternative, which seems to be around at secondary and college levels: LIMITED networking restricted to members of a single class section and conducted through a school-controlled server network which won't forbid downloading something from the Net but will refuse to allow any posts to be uploaded outside the restricted class site. Thus nobody can enter a rough draft and have it "go viral" through malice or stupidity. Also, a teacher can (with help and patience) establish his/her VERY OWN website for class work, setting a password that changes every semester or school year, so that nobody gets in or out.

6:47PM PDT on Apr 5, 2011

I would encourage if not require that ALL teachers be banned from using ANY social medium as a teaching tool. I see NO value in this. The problem is that teachers don't want to spend the time reading hand written (or typed) papers. How in the hell do U give a grade for something written on facebook??? I as a parent would not allow my child to write a paper on facebook or any other website. The internet is dangerous enough for our young people with out teachers encouraging their use.

3:59PM PDT on Apr 5, 2011

Isn't the answer simple. If you want to use it as a teacher have a professional account to do so. Keep your private one to yourself.

I really don't use Facebook, Twitter or anything else. The only public postings I do is on Care 2 and one other site.

3:38PM PDT on Apr 5, 2011

You can't restrict every thing that people use to communicate, socialize with.
teaching what ever good to me. but also teaching what is real is the most important of all.
There will be people that want only their agenda, and all other ideas be thrown out. ( another type of bulling). but to understand the difference is harder to do with all of the dumb stuff that is going on.
It seems that everyone has to be a republican, christen (not the followers of the Christ) very rich and do as their told, to be an American citizen. If you are not those things, you are a slave to the ones that are.
Not for me.........and I hope not for the rest of the American people.
Remember....there are more of us then there is of them.
In a 'good' society...people live with dignity, and with justice for all.

8:08AM PDT on Apr 5, 2011

I am entirely against facebook as they claim ownership of thoughts and posts as a academic I will not use it.

I am not against emails or if there are social media sights who do not make claim of possession of my words. I am not against the use of blogs or posts as a tool.

I do not believe that teachers should be restricted from using social media but do believe that it should not be used in the classroom or imposing them as a homework sight not all kids have internet access.

However I think that those who are poor teachers and should not be teaching, are easier to catch on sights like this and that is a good thing.

7:27AM PDT on Apr 5, 2011

Thanks. To bad they don't teach common sense in schools. But then again, it's probably too late for the teachers.

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