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In an open access world, are you giving back or just taking?

Fromproprietarytoopen

The same movement that we are seeing toward open educational resources in higher education also is permeating P-12. Many educators have happily tapped into the incredible learning opportunities that are available to them and their students. Our ability to be powerful learners has never been greater.

Lost in all of the eagerness around consumption, however, is a concurrent felt need to contribute. Many educators are willing to take and use free resources as they find them, but far fewer create and share resources for the benefit of others. This lack of reciprocity undercuts the ethos of sharing that helped create – and now sustains – the vigor of our new online information landscape.

One of the best things that we can do to improve our local and virtual learning communities is to take seriously our ability and obligations to be contributors to our shared global information commons. We should do this ourselves as educators and we should have our students do this too.

How often do you, your staff, and/or your students contribute something online (with a Creative Commons license) to benefit others? What can you do as a leader to foster an environment of sharing and giving back, not just taking and using?

Drop me a note if you’re a principal or superintendent who is ready to think seriously about this. I’d love to chat with you.

Image credit: From proprietary to open

We have every reason to be skeptical of social media

I agree with Levi Bryant’s recent post on the matter of cynicism. We have every reason to be skeptical of social media. There is no doubt that ideolgical and capitalistic motives lie behind the arguments for social media. Hell, in most cases, such motives are front and center. Should we be skeptical of Instagram or Facebook or Coursera? I think so. But should we be skeptical about the premise of networked sociality in itself? Or should we be looking to adapt/invent practices for this environment? Levi writes that as a result of cynicism “We thus strangely find ourselves in the same camp as the climate change denialists, the creationists who use their skepticism as a tool to dismiss evolutionary theory, and those that would treat economic theories as mere theories in the pejorative sense and continue to hold to their neoliberal economics despite the existence of any evidence supporting its claims.  We critique everything and yet leave everything intact.” It’s a bold argument perhaps, as it equates what we imagine as the height of intellectual behavior (critique) as functionally equivalent to some of the more blantant examples of what we would term anti-intellectualism. However, I think the same thing could be said for our treatment of social media.

Alex Reid via http://www.alex-reid.net/2012/12/academic-cynicism-social-media-and-the-fate-of-the-humanities.html

5 videos on connected learning from the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub [VIDEOS]

Here are four very powerful videos from the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub that are guaranteed to make you think hard about learning, teaching, and schooling. You can watch them all in less than half an hour. My quick notes from the videos are included underneath each one…

Engaged (7 minutes; Connie Yowell)

  • we are fundamentally starting with the wrong questions
  • we start with learning outcomes – and content defines everything – rather than “what is the experience we want kids to have?” 
  • our core question is around engagement; if you ask “is a kid engaged?”, you have to pay attention to and start with the kid
  • we have to make room for curiosity, we don’t have enough opportunities for kids to take things apart and wonder about them
  • little opportunities to fail and iterate are also opportunities to play with identity
  • we need opportunities to explore who we are in the world and how the world works, particularly as teenagers
  • we so decontextualize learning for kids, we’ve forgotten we have a passion for learning
  • in school they could care less, but in complex games kids demand that they learn how to do something so they can move on
  • as adults, we have to deeply connect content and students’ activity, otherwise learning has no meaning

Everyone (7 minutes; Mimi Ito)

  • we give responsibility for learning to professionals instead of remembering it’s the fabric that frames all of our interactions with everybody
  • connected learning networks force us to fundamentally rethink what we think is the problem and goal of education
  • it’s about expertise that’s widely distributed; anybody can help somebody else get better at something
  • if you have an educational system that always tell students what to do, you’re not building their capacity to make effective learning choices themselves
  • we used to have capacity bottlenecks for learning, so you had to go to school or a library – now we don’t have that problem but we still act as if we do
  • education isn’t bound to particular institutions anymore, it can happen anywhere
  • how does a kid find a mentor or peer that helps them develop their interest, make their interest relevant, find a sense of purpose, etc.
  • how do we use the capacity of the network to bring people together who want to learn together?
  • everybody can participate in a connected learning model
  • the great side benefit of interest-based, connected learning is that it fosters social connection and well-being: fulfillment, belonging, and purpose

Play (7 minutes; Katie Salen)

  • play creates for people a reason for them to want to engage
  • body and spirit are transformed by play
  • play is a state of being, a very different state of mind, openness to ideas and other people
  • not a closed, rules-bound place – the openness of the play space is extremely important
  • play is one of the most fundamental human experiences
  • play is a practice space, we play to get better at something, it helps us build confidence
  • kids are driven to want to share with you what they’re doing, what they’re making, what they’re learning
  • at school, we cordon off a time for play (recess) and then you’re not doing that anymore
  • when you get older, play becomes embedded in objects (video games), you can activate play when you pick up that object
  • when we’re young, play is the frame for how we experience the world
  • adult life becomes about a set of responsibilities rather than a way of engaging your soul in the world

Creative (5 minutes, Nichole Pinkard)

  • we’re just now getting to the place in America where we realize it needs to be different everywhere, not just in some places
  • we have to completely overhaul how we think learning happens, where it happens, and what people are capable of
  • technology transformations show us the world is going to be different
  • they are going to have to be more nimble and more proficient with technology to communicate and to learn, or they’ll be a new form of illiterate
  • we no longer live in a world where you can only write and read text and you will be successful
  • we have to teach these new literacies and then let kids be creative in how they express themselves with these literacies
  • schools always have been about ‘the right answer’
  • now we care more about how kids find information, think about information, communicate information

The DML Research Hub also has an 8-minute summary video, Essence, which includes some of the best pieces from each video above plus some new stuff.

  • there’s no longer a promised future for all kids
  • how do we create environments that delight learners at all ages?
  • open up the question of who contributes to learning
  • how do we help kids grow up to become curious, engaged citizens?
  • kids say over and over that schools are (merely) a node in their network of learning
  • we have an embarrassment of (information) riches but we still have to figure out how to bring those pieces together
  • learning principles need to start with the idea of connectedness 

Finally, be sure to check out the core values, learning principles, and design principles of connected learning:

  • Core values: equity, social connection, full participation
  • Learning principles: interest-powered, peer-supported, academically oriented
  • Design principles: production-centered, openly networked, shared purpose

See also the infographic below. There’s a lot here to digest. Thoughts?

Connected Learning

Tony Baldasaro just unfollowed 5,000 people on Twitter

Bluebird2

Tony Baldasaro blogged yesterday that he just unsubscribed from every single person on Twitter that he was following. All 5,000 of them. He is starting again from scratch, deciding anew whom to follow. Here’s the comment that I left him:

I concur with Chris Lehmann. Use Twitter the way it feels right to you.

My usage is more like Chris’, I believe. I am following nearly 4,500 and am followed by many more. Here’s the way I think about those two groups:

1. Following – I don’t subscribe to celebrities or other sources that are less informational, but I do subscribe to anyone that might feed me good resources that I’ll care about. I then organize them into lists and/or use hashtags to categorize the incoming information. I don’t mind if there’s a lot of other stuff in my streams besides resources. I’m getting pretty adept at scanning a column in Hootsuite, spotting the stuff I want, and ignoring the rest. I’m not concerned about how many I’m following because I figure that the 2 seconds it took for me to subscribe to someone may pay off a month from now when that person shares something in which I’ll find value. The bigger my net, the more chance I have of catching something useful. I think about Twitter like fishing in a fast-moving river: I don’t worry about all of the fish I missed but I’m always delighted about the ones that I do catch!

2. Followers – I primarily use my Twitter account to share out resources. 90%+ of what I tweet out is a link to something I saw online and thought was interesting or useful: a quote, blog post, web site, new report, video, someone else’s tweet, etc. About 9% of my Twitter use is conversations with other people, and the remaining 1% might be occasional silliness (like the couple of Halloween pics I tweeted last evening). That ratio seems to be working well for me and, I guess, my followers since my numbers keep growing and my stuff keeps getting reshared (which I want because I want to reach people and be helpful).

I looked at the new, short list of people that you’re now following. That’s a great group that’s guaranteed to feed you awesome stuff (I also found a couple of folks I thought that I was following but wasn’t so thank you!). I’m honored to be on that list; please know that I am appreciative. I’ll look forward to our continued interactions in the Twittersphere.

All my best.

Tony’s post reminds us that social networks are like gardens (thank you, David Warlick). They require some nurturing and, yes, some pruning now and then. Sometimes they may even be like prairies, requiring a full burn to nurture new, positive growth. Head on over to Tony’s post and join the conversation: How do you decide whom you follow on Twitter?

Image credit: Bigstock, Blue bird

If we taught our teens to drive the way we teach them about social media

Imagine for a second if we taught our teenagers to drive a car in the same manner we attempt to teach them about social media.

  1. Driving lessons would be taught by adults (teachers or parents) with little or no experience of driving. Sure they may know of certain brands of cars or be aware of some of their capabilities. They may know it is illegal to speed or drive without a seatbelt, but in reality they have spent little time behind the wheel.
  2. Driving lessons would only focus on what not to do. An average driving lesson would entail students being preached to about the dangers of speeding, drinking and driving, or not wearing a seatbelt. There may be a little advise on how to keep you and your car safe – e.g., regular service checks, installing an alarm, and NEVER allowing a stranger to get into your car would all constitute sound advice.
  3. Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car. In fact cars would be banned in the majority of driving schools. So students would be able to take notes, draw pictures, or even present a PowerPoint on how to drive, but they would only be able to put these lessons into practice once they were out of sight of an adult.

Dan Haesler via http://danhaesler.com/2012/10/02/driving-down-social-media-way

An interesting solution to the ‘friending students on Facebook’ dilemma?

I may not be the norm on this but I will accept friend request from students right away. I just do it with certain rules in place. 1. If they send me a private message then I unfriend them. I usually provide a warning the first time it happens. I’ve never had to unfriend a student because of this. 2. If they are still a student and they post something inappropriate or illegal, I report it and unfriend them. I have had to do this multiple times. Now most students who post things like this don’t “friend request” me.

Brett Clark via http://www.educationrethink.com/2012/09/should-you-friend-student.html?showComment=1347973075754#c9207408757295453379

This leads me down another line of thought: What are educators’ obligations (if any) to inform parents that they’ve ‘friended’ their children on a social media site?

1,133 educational leaders to kickstart your Twitter feed

Twitterbirdblueonwhite

Got an administrator in your school or district who’s interested in Twitter but doesn’t know whom to follow? Interested in connecting online with more administrators yourself? Get started with these 1,133 educational leaders on Twitter! [UPDATE: Now up to over 2,000 leaders!]

I’ll keep adding to this collection. Special thanks to Patrick Larkin, George Couros, Lyn Hilt, Chris Lehmann, Dan Frazier, and others for helping me expand my existing list. If you’re maintaining a Twitter list of P-12 educational administrators that I should know about, or would like to chat about creative ways to use these lists, get in touch!

[Continuing what I hope will be a months-long wave of resources for school leaders and the programs that prepare them…]

The myth of online non-participation

Image credit: Gary Hayes

Hat tip: Miguel Guhlin

I think I’m going to be on NPR’s All Things Considered today

I think I’m going to be on NPR’s All Things Considered today as part of its All Tech Considered segment. I was interviewed last week about the New York City Schools’ new social media policy for employees. Regular readers know that I’ve written about this in the past. If I am featured on the show, I’ll add the link here afterward. If you hear me, let me know what you think!

UPDATE: Here is the NPR All  Things Considered story and the New York Times SchoolBook story.

My thoughts on a proposed social media policy for school employees (Part 2)

freedomisfragile

[In Part 1 of this conversation, I asked for others' input and received numerous online comments plus some additional emails. In this post I offer my own thoughts. Warning: Long post ahead.]

Dear Iowa superintendent and school board members,

As founding director of the nation’s only university center focused on P-12 technology leadership issues, I am writing to offer my admittedly-unsolicited thoughts regarding your recently-proposed social media policy for employees. I have had the opportunity to work with educators in your system on multiple occasions. I once spoke to the board about student laptop programs. You have a long history of excellence and are a much-admired district by others in the state. You are known for being pedagogically progressive and, when you rescinded your cell phone ban for students, we held you up as a model for other districts in our statewide technology leadership training sessions for Iowa principals and superintendents. You’re a fantastic school system and we all respect you greatly.

I state this context up front to explain why many of us were so disappointed to see your proposed employee social media policy. I put this policy before my 28,000+ educational technology-savvy readers to solicit their reactions. While some of them thought parts of the policy were okay, many concerns were expressed as well. My overarching issues are listed immediately below. My point-by-point concerns and those of my readers are listed at the end of this message.

  • The policy reads as if you don’t trust your educators. Instead of it feeling proactive, progressive, affirming, and empowering (as we expected), it feels reactive, regressive, and disabling. As it currently reads, this policy feels very distrusting and – sometimes – demeaning instead of resting on a foundation of trust and recognition that nearly all of your educators will use social media tools appropriately. If you trust your educators every day to act as professionals with your community’s children within school, you should trust them to act as professionals outside of school as well.
  • For those occasional instances of inappropriate use, I don’t believe that you need a separate ‘social media policy.’ You already (should) have policies regarding inappropriate teacher communication and behavior with both students and other staff, plus there are state laws that reinforce and extend these expectations. All you have to do as a district – like for student cheating, bullying, and sexual harassment – is enforce your current policies instead of creating tool-specific policies. Your policies should target underlying substantive behaviors, not the mediums in which those behaviors occur.
  • You’re alienating your most technology-savvy educators. I already have heard from multiple technology-fluent educators, both in and out of your district, that they do not want to work in a school system that has a restrictive policy such as this one. Given the confining and directive language in the policy, it is understandable why they feel that way. Most school districts suffer from shortages of technology-knowledgeable faculty. I am guessing that you can’t afford to disenfranchise the ones that you have. There’s a big difference between a highly-constraining policy such as this one and policies that gently remind staff (Example 1; Example 2; Example 3) that social media are powerful communication tools that also should be used appropriately just like telephones, email, text messages, and handwritten forms of communication. The current policy basically says no, no, no (and get permission) instead of yes, yes, yes (and be smart and careful).
  • The policy is unwieldy and partially illegal. If you enact this policy as currently written, I believe that you will find parts of it to be unwieldy and unenforceable – and thus unworkable over time. As a school law instructor, I’m pretty certain that parts of it are illegal as well. Policy that is unenforceable is not good policy.

Please take the comments here and below in the spirit in which they’re given. Neither I nor the various commentators believe that you are intentionally trying to handcuff your educators’ ability to communicate and connect with students and families. As individuals and institutions, we are ALL learners in these new, complex information spaces. We are ALL struggling with how best to formulate rules, policies, and laws that best accommodate both our new affordances and our new responsibilities. As we work together to try to figure out this new, often challenging, information space, the dialogue is usually what’s most important.

I hope that my and others’ comments and annotations are useful to your thinking about this proposed policy. I would be happy to speak with you in person about this if so desired.

With good will and support,

Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Educational Leadership
Founding Director, CASTLE
University of Kentucky

—–

Distrust

[My comments are in red; others' comments are in blue.]

SCHOOL DISTRICT EMPLOYEE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

How can we teach children about what is the proper and appropriate use of technology in the 21st century if we are totally cut off from interacting with and modeling that behavior for our students?

I hate this policy, and I could never work at a school that thinks this way about managing its teachers. I can’t budge on this. My teaching flows through my ability to connect with students around content. This is the wrong way to handle it. . . . I find it sickening. I find it damaging to the teacher-student relationship. And I find the dichotomy it presents to a teacher’s life false, and inauthentic. . . . These policies aim directly at preventing a teacher from unifying their classroom persona with their everyday soul. The boundaries are to be clear, and never the twain shall meet, unless through the director of communication. (what could be more inauthentic?)

I want my students to know me, and I want to know them, because our work is not simply the transmission of knowledge and technique; It’s their development – it’s their education, as a crucial component of their one life. I aim to know that life and partner in building it. Should I not want this? Is this bad teaching somehow?

What is their objective? Keeping kids safe and info about them private? Keeping district “safe” from lawsuits? Hard to find that in here. They should start from their objectives. And start over.

I think the policy sees social media as something to be avoided rather than just another tool that can be used for either good or bad.

This would concern me if I was a staff member. One of the reasons listed for this policy is “A lot of the policy is drafted to protect our staff.” I am not sure that is a good reason for the policy. I will not proclaim to understand the dynamics of the [district] when I compare it to my district. Our systematic approach to a more open non-restrictive environment is that we would expect appropriate modeling and proper use of social media. Things will go wrong, but keeping those issues as “teachable moments” and not immediately going to the discipline / consequence model. Times are changing, are we hoping we can regulate social media through policy? I am not sure that is possible. I also think it would be fair to understand the rationale of the policy before passing judgment. The [school district] does a lot of great things, and perhaps in a district of this size, it is the only way to begin to wrap their arms around it. Unfortunately, I believe that it may stifle both teachers and students.

Being strict with technology policies makes it harder and scarier for teachers to use technology in *good* ways.

I would love for this to be a best practices guide. Unfortunately, it is a policy proposal.

Schools simply want to avoid liability and it’s easier to switch off social media than deal with it. When dealing with large districts, it’s easier because every topic that comes is potentially a polarizing one. . . . Furthermore, while a teachers’ perspective of social media may involve a reciprocal dialogue, or conversation that leads to learning, . . . . poor choices by [some] educators and students incline district administrators in a different direction – towards top-down control, closed systems, and eliminating risk that is rampant in social encounters.

Will this need to be edited in the near future to cover the next “tech tool” in schools? Is this student-focused? Teacher-focused? Leader-focused?

What do these policies mean also for teachers who live where they teach and have school age children? The last of mine graduated last year, but if I’m reading this correctly, I could not be FB friends with my own child? In my house, that was a pre-requisite for getting a FB account.

What I think is really missing is any encouragement of community-building in social media. I don’t know if that type of thing would go elsewhere, but it’s pretty much entirely restrictive (you can’t do this or that) rather than co-creative.

This proposed “policy” is awful. I could not work in this type of environment.

This is a classic flaw. Trying to create an exhaustive list of the the things you should or should not do is doomed to failure, because you can never account for all the contingencies. Much better to instead have a set of general principals to guide people in decision making and then trust that professionals will do the best they can. If you can’t trust the people working for you to do that, then why are they working with you? They are trusted enough to work with kids but not to make decisions about social media? Doesn’t make sense.

Do they have an e-mail policy or a phone policy? Is there a policy forbidding you to share or say certain things when you are texting someone?

“Let’s get rid of the distractions, leave “social” at home.” . . . This is foolish. There is no leaving social. It pervades the human consciousness. Denying that is asking your students to leave their selves at the door. I find THAT more unacceptable than anything in this policy.

We are told to always provide rules and guidelines to students framed in a positive manner. For example: Instead of “Don’t run!”, post “Please walk.” I saw none of this style of respectful tone in this draft.

1. Expectations for the use of personal social media

District staff should:

  1. Refrain from accepting current school district students as “friends” on personal social networking sites.

    Do you also have policies prohibiting employees from being “friends” with current students in other realms such as neighborhoods, church, scout groups, volunteer organizations, and the like? Do you also have policies prohibiting employees from using telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms to be friendly with students? Is it your expectation that – just as you appear to expect for online interactions – that employees should refrain from formally and/or informally interacting with students offline? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)?

    This would be similar to requiring teachers and staff to never greet any student while out in the community
  2. Refrain from providing personal contact information to students.

    Is it your expectation that employees only will use district-provided communication channels to interact with students? Do you also have policies prohibiting employees from ever giving to students their phone number, home address, and the like? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate and/or make contact)?

  3. Be aware that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.

    This is confusing because the first two items read like directives (i.e., it sounds like you will penalize those educators who do those things). This third item reads more like a reminder. Is it your intention to penalize educators whose ‘friends’ download and/or share their information with others? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to have their information downloaded and/or shared with others (i.e., that’s why it’s called “social” media)?

    These don’t sound like policy points at all.

  4. Remember that once something is posted to a social networking site, it may remain available online even if you think it is removed, and it may be far-reaching.

    This also reads more like a reminder than a directive. Is it your intention to penalize educators who don’t remember this? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to have information remain available online and be far-reaching?

    These don’t sound like policy points at all.

  5. Set and maintain social networking privacy settings at the most restrictive level.

    You can penalize employees for inappropriate off-campus speech or conduct that impairs their ability to be effective educators at school but you don’t have the legal right to dictate what privacy settings your employees utilize in their off-campus speech (whether that speech be traditional or electronic). Educators have certain public and private speech rights that must be legally respected. You’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching.

    The most restrictive level on Facebook is “only me,” so that would prevent any use of Facebook.

    Just plain vague. Does it imply I can never post anything publicly? Can I post a missing cat poster with my name and phone number on it? On a street light post? On a public website? On my neighborhood blog?
  6. Not use a social networking site to discuss students or employees.

    This is so very broad. If a teacher says on Twitter “I had a disagreement with a colleague today” or says on Facebook “My students were particularly tough today,” is that teacher in danger of being disciplined? Are you applying similar restrictions for non-electronic speech, including, for example, live conversations over the back fence or at the grocery store or on the sideline of the soccer field? Is it your expectation that educators be silent about their work lives outside of school? Educators have certain public and private speech rights that must be legally respected. I believe you’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching. What if the teacher is saying positive things about other students or employees? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to discuss students or employees online?

    Here is a classic case of trying to rein in free speech
  7. Not post images that include students.

    Under any and all circumstances? Are there any exceptions to this? If so, what are they? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to post images that include students?

2. Expectations for the use of educational networking sites

District staff must:

  1. Notify your supervisor about the use of any educational network and discuss with your supervisor the need for notification to parents and other staff.

    This sends messages of distrust to employees and will be perceived by some as demeaning. Is it your expectation that educators also notify supervisors about the use of non-electronic learning tools and communication channels and discuss with supervisors the need to use them? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other learning tools and/or ways to communicate)?

  2. Use district-supported networking tools when available.

    How proactive will the district be in terms of providing social networking tools? I am skeptical that the district will somehow – unlike every other organization – be able to provide the breadth, depth, and robustness of social networking tools that exists out ‘in the wild.’

  3. Be aware that all online communications are stores and can be monitored.

    Again, is this a reminder or a directive? Since you say employees must be aware, will there be penalties for those who are not?

  4. Have a clear statement of purpose and outcomes for the use of the networking tool.

    Is this saying that an educator who wishes to use social networking tools must have an explicit statement of purpose and outcomes that must then be given to someone as justification? Does the district have similar expectations for all other educators’ choices regarding instructional materials and/or communication mediums? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other learning tools and/or ways to communicate)?

    I have desired outcomes, of course, but they are quite vague and allow for student growth in unexpected areas. I can never predict where the course of a conversation will take us (unless I stop potentially-fruitful tangents) and, likewise, I can never predict what fruitful discussion I will have on Facebook with my students! My objectives are broad and honorable. I need a policy that allows for that.

    We need to have a clear sense of purpose about what we’re doing with social media (free and open as that purpose may be) but that doesn’t imply we need to be restrictive. . . . Some people also teach very badly. That doesn’t mean we should hand everyone a script, or take the chalk out of the classrooms. . . . These guidelines aren’t “clearly defined expectations.” They’re a set of handcuffs.

  5. Establish a code of conduct for all network participants.

    Is it your expectation that your educators only will use ‘walled garden’ social networking tools that disallow participation by outside individuals and/or organizations? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators and students to interact with outside individuals and/or organizations? Will the district be providing substantive and procedural assistance regarding these ‘codes of conduct?’ How should educators require participating outsiders to abide by these required ‘codes of conduct?’

  6. Not post images that include a student who does not have permission from a parent to have his/her image displayed.

    Under any and all circumstances? Are there any exceptions to this? If so, what are they? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators to post images that include students? Do you have similar expectations for traditional media (e.g., newspapers, television)?

  7. Pay close attention to the site’s security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.

    Is it your expectation that your educators only will use ‘walled garden’ social networking tools that disallow participation by outside individuals and/or organizations? Does the policy recognize that often it is advantageous for educators and students to interact with outside individuals and/or organizations, including those that are not pre-approved?

3. Expectations for all networking sites

Much of section 3 is about security risks on personal devices – no one’s business but mine.

I find the entire third section a bit problematic, as some of the language blurs the boundary between personal social media use and district social media use. Is it the intent of the policy to regulate personal social media use? I think that can be kind of a slippery slope

District employees should:

  1. Not submit or post confidential or protected information about the district, its students, alumni or employees. You should assume that most information about a student is protected from disclosure by both federal law (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and state law (Iowa Code Section 22.7(1)). Disclosures of confidential or protected information may result in liability for invasion of privacy or defamation.

    This sounds okay to me, although I’m guessing it’s redundant given other extant laws and policies.

  2. Report, as required by law, any information found on a social networking site that falls under the mandatory reporting guidelines.

    This sounds okay to me, although I’m guessing it’s redundant given other extant laws and policies.

  3. Not use commentary or post pictures or video deemed to be defamatory, obscene, profane, or which promotes, fosters or perpetuates illegal discrimination of any kind. Exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions and derogatory remarks or characterizations.

    Do you also have similar policies for employees when they use telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)? If educators use profanity or exaggerate or engage in guesswork or technically violate what often is draconian copyright law, are they in danger of being penalized? Educators have certain public and private speech rights that must be legally respected. I believe you’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching.

  4. Not identify yourself as a representative of or spokesperson for the district, unless you have been approved to do so by the superintendent or the communications coordinator. This includes using school logos, mascots, photographs or other such graphic representations or images associated with the district.

    Do you also have similar policies for employees when they use telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)? Is it your expectation that educators be silent about their work lives outside of school?

  5. Not create an alias, false or anonymous identity on any social media.

    You can penalize employees for inappropriate off-campus speech or conduct that impairs their ability to be effective educators at school but you don’t have the legal right to dictate whether or not your employees utilize aliases in their off-campus speech (whether that speech be traditional or electronic). This is particularly true since you also expect educators to not identify themselves publicly (it appears as if they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t). Educators have certain public and private speech rights that must be legally respected. You’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching.

  6. Consider whether a particular posting puts your professional reputation and effectiveness as a district employee at risk.

    Do you also have similar policies for employees when they use telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)?

  7. Be cautious of security risks when using applications that work with the social networking site. (Examples of these sites are calendar programs and games).

    Again, is this a reminder or a directive? Since you say employees must be cautious, will there be penalties for those who are not?

  8. Run updated malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on your personal devices (a computer or other device not issued by the school district).

    You can penalize employees for inappropriate off-campus speech or conduct that impairs their ability to be effective educators at school but you don’t have the legal right to dictate whether or not your employees protect themselves against malware on their personal computing devices. Educators have certain public and private behavior rights that must be legally respected. You’re setting yourselves up for a charge of overreaching.

  9. Be alert to the possibility of phishing scams that arrive by email or on your social networking site.

    Again, is this a reminder or a directive? Since you say employees must be alert to the possibility of phishing, will there be penalties for those who are not?

  10. Anyone who wishes to establish a social media account for specific school district offices, initiatives, schools or programs must first contact the communications coordinator. Social media may be used for school-related purposes only with the approval of the communications coordinator. If you have questions, would like to start a social media initiative on behalf of a district entity, or have content you would like posted to the district’s Facebook page, please contact the district communications coordinator.

    Is it your expectation that employees only will use district-provided communication channels to interact with students? This sends messages of distrust to employees and will be perceived by some as demeaning. Do you also have similar policies for employees when they use telephones, text messages, email, instant messaging, handwritten notes, and other communication mechanisms? Is it your expectation that employees only will use district-provided communication channels to interact with others? Must all educator communication – traditional or electronic – be filtered through the communications coordinator? If not, why single out social media (which, after all, are just other ways to communicate)? How proactive will the district be in terms of providing social media tools? I am skeptical that the district will somehow – unlike every other organization – be able to provide the breadth, depth, and robustness of social media tools that exists out ‘in the wild.’ As social media usage by your educators proliferates (despite this policy), the communications coordinator is going to be an awfully busy gatekeeper.

Image credits: Freedom is fragile, We trust you with the children but not the Internet

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