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.
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.
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?