Tag Archives: social media

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 You are known for being pedagogically progressive and, when you rescinded your cell phone ban for students, we held you up as a model for other districts in our statewide technology leadership training sessions for Iowa principals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

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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

Are educators courageous enough to be social media renegades?

the entire scene just reeks of regression. That’s why the future of education will take a brand of forward-thinking educator (teachers / principals etc.) with enough deft and savvy to advocate for technology use in the classroom and enough courage (for lack of a more appropriate word) to wrinkle [districts'] social media guidelines and them into the recycle bin.

Digitally and physically.

Jose Vilson via http://future.teacherleaders.org/2012/05/social-media-renegades

We need to start thinking more creatively about texting (and other technologies) [VIDEO]

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s Nancy Lublin’s 5-minute TED talk on texting that saves lives. It reminds me that we need to start thinking more creatively about texting, Facebook, and other technologies for which so many adults are uncertain…

Happy viewing!

The promise of the digital

The promise of the digital is not in the way it allows us to ask new questions because of digital tools or because of new methodologies made possible by those tools. The promise is in the way the digital reshapes the representation, sharing, and discussion of knowledge.

Mark Sample via http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-1/conversations/building-and-sharing-when-youre-supposed-to-be-teaching-by-mark-sample/.

Michael Jones shares about sharing [video]

A wonderful short talk by Michael Jones about the power of sharing, Creative Commons, and which license to use. Happy viewing!

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