Tag Archives: students

Listening circles

“listening circles”

Each such circle pulls in students from different social, racial, and interest groups from around the school to identify and solve problems related to campus climate. Adults sit outside the circle, in a “listen only” mode

via http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/01/10/16environment.h32.html

What could listening circles do for the climate in your school?
What could listening circles do for educational reform and policymaking?

A high school senior’s view of textbooks and worksheet packets [guest post]

[This is a guest post from Tucker, a recently-graduated high school student. He wrote this for his senior year Comp class.]

Hearing the phrase “Get out your textbooks” from a high school teacher makes me want to throw up, and it is something I have heard for the last four years in almost every class from almost every teacher. Textbooks are filled with valuable information but are often boring, outdated, and even physically damaged from past use. In this day and age of “21st Century Learning,” it is insane that we are using 19th and 20th Century teaching strategies.

Most students today do not respond to textbook learning, and yet it is one of the most common ways for teachers to dispense information. Teaching out of a textbook is easy. It does not require teachers to step out of their comfort zone and find new ways to connect with students who are so eager to learn something useful that they can actually apply to their lives. The stereotype of students today is that they are uninterested in anything the school system has to offer. However, that is a complete lie. Students simply become uninterested because each school day seems to them like they have woken up in the movie “Groundhog Day” and go through the exact same motions as the day before. There is not a problem with the students, but with the dreaded textbook that has been around for so long it has become the status quo of teaching tools.

I will agree that the information in textbooks can be valuable to students. The information is not the issue. The issue is that many teachers today will hand out a packet they did not even create, tell the students to look up the information in the textbooks and copy down the answers word for word, and then go back to their desks where they will get on their computers and check their Facebook and Twitter feeds. Sometimes they may even see one of their students tweeting about how bored in class they are, and yet they will go right on down the page hoping to find something that makes them laugh out loud instead of things that make them consider how well they are doing their job. I am afraid that this routine is something the next generation of teachers will find themselves well accustomed to.

I want my classes to be interactive and exciting! I want to be moving around the room, working with other students to solve a real world problem that can eventually tie back into what we are actually learning in the class. Students should want every class to go on longer and be surprised when the bell rings because the period went by so fast. They should not be checking the clock every five minutes hoping for a random fire drill that will speed up the hour, and then waiting at the door for five minutes at the end of the period staring down the second hand as it travels endlessly around the clock. Textbook teaching allows these things to happen, and it is really a tragedy for both students and teachers.

Every day teachers should be standing in the front of the room challenging their students to a higher level of thinking, and in return the teachers will be challenged themselves. Where is the challenge in handing out novel-sized textbook packets to students who will most likely not remember anything they copied down? To truly challenge the students, teachers must actually spend time outside of school researching new tools that help connect with students on a more personal level. The more teachers push themselves to connect and interact with their students in order to boost their ability to critical think and retain knowledge, the better the teacher will become. Over time, there is no limit to how good a teacher can become if they have that mindset and expect the most out of themselves. On the other hand, the more and more they use textbooks, which is the easy way to do things, the worse they will become at teaching and inspiring their students to actually want to learn. That is why textbooks have become the crutch of high school teachers. They are so incredibly easy to lean on, but if they were taken away many teachers would be absolutely lost because they have not challenged themselves to create more of a 21st Century learning environment in their classrooms.

The new job market requires students to have 21st Century learning skills, so it is not a surprise many students struggle when they get out of high school and college because they have been taught in a 19th and 20th Century learning environment. If schools want to create students that are competitive and indispensable in the job market they must ditch the textbooks and challenge their teachers to challenge themselves, and in return inspire students to achieve a love for learning, which can truly take them anywhere they want to go.

Image credit: The eventual destination of the Thursday folder worksheets: The circular file

Teachers are only part of the student learning equation

Here’s a slightly-modified version of a comment I left over at The Des Moines Register regarding teachers’ impacts on student learning outcomes…

Sure, what happens in the classroom matters. But peer-reviewed research shows over and over again that between 2/3 and 4/5 of student achievement is based on non-school factors. Schools only contribute about 20% to 33% to students’ overall learning outcomes.

In addition, teachers are only part of the school equation. They’re the most important part, but non-teacher factors such as administrators, curriculum, other students in the school, available learning resources, and so on also impact student achievement. So teachers are responsible for about half (or so) of the school impact, but the rest lies outside their domain.

When you add all of this up, good teachers clearly are absolutely critical to student academic success. But their overall impact on student learning falls around 10% to 17%. Other in-school and out-of-school factors account for the rest. What this means is that – the occasional tale of heroic, exceptional teachers and schools aside – we should be making state and national policy based on what the research shows generally occurs, not exceptions, anecdotes, personal intuition, or unsubstantiated policy/political claims. And we definitely should not be holding teachers 100% accountable for outcomes for which they’re only 1/6 to 1/10 influential.

We need a much broader (and smarter) conversation about what it means to educate our nation’s children.

Image credit: Bigstock, Teacher and students

Forward tutoring: Educate, volunteer, improve [guest post]

[This is a guest post by Dustin Lewis, a 5th grade teacher at the American International School of Budapest.  Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, he has been teaching internationally for four years, with a previous stop at The Anglo American School in Moscow.  Dustin also works part-time promoting First Tutors, a UK-based tutoring service that specializes in finding the right individual tutors for each student.  In his spare time, Dustin enjoys reading and Asian cuisine.]

Educating the youth in our society falls primarily on school systems and teachers.  In many cases, children don’t receive the specialized and individual attention they need to work through tricky concepts or difficult material.  To combat this, some parents hire private tutors to work with their children.  In this blog post, I will detail a new tutoring concept that will not only help children learn, but will provide them with opportunities to become socially responsible as well.

“Serve while you learn” may be the most fitting tagline to describe the concept of forward tutoring. Forward tutoring is beneficial for both students and the community, as it combines the process of learning with the idea of giving back to those that have helped you.  Students get online help for the subject of their choice while in return, they will participate in community service projects contributing towards the betterment of the community they belong to. The online help offered is, in most cases, as good as classroom coaching except in a personalized one on one setting. The students have access to a number of qualified tutors, in a range of subjects and specialties.  Unlike normal tutoring, however, the payment is not in paper currency, but in the form of community service and volunteer projects.  Forward tutoring combines serving and learning in an innovative way through the use of technology, helping out not just the students, but everyone in the community that this project touches.

Forward Tutoring Removes Financial Barriers to Tutoring: For most children, the school day ends when the bell rings.  Sure, many will go home, do their homework, and study for upcoming exams.  For many children, however, this is simply not enough.  In larger school districts where the teacher to student ratio may not be ideal, most students do not receive the individualized attention required for them to succeed.  In this case, one option for students and parents is to hire an after school tutor.  For many families, however, this just isn’t a realistic possibility due to the expensive nature of the tutoring industry.  Forward tutoring breaks down these financial barriers, and allows any person from any social or economic background access to personalized and specialized tutoring.

Forward Tutoring is Promoting Student Volunteerism: Nothing can match the vigor of youth. Non-profits are always looking for helping hands to work towards various noble causes, but finding professionals from various fields that offer volunteer help is almost impossible to find. Thus, forward tutoring provides the framework for students to take action.  Many times students either want to volunteer, but don’t know of the opportunities, or aren’t aware of the positive social ramifications until they actually help out in the community.  Hence, students go through the dual development by being aware as well as educated. Forward tutoring allows the learners to pay forward the learning in the form of helping non-profits, supporting various kinds of community service.

Online Tutoring is Effective, Efficient, and Rewarding: The best part of forward tutoring is the actual learning that takes place.  Qualified students go through a comprehensive qualification process, where they are given tools and training to support their struggling peers.  These students are learning or have learned the exact same material that many of the learners are struggling with, so it is a perfect match for support.  Countless studies have supported the fact that to peer-to-peer learning is one of the best and most effective ways for a student to learn.  It works even better when the two students are of different ability levels.  Take a look at this study by the National Education Association for more evidence.  The goal of all tutoring is to improve and enhance academic performance in the classroom.  Peer tutoring has proven to be an effective method for facilitating this improvement for the learner and the tutor alike.

Benefits for the Student Tutors: It may seem that forward tutoring is a great way for struggling students to get support and for everyone to get involved in the community effort.  You may ask then, what benefits do the student tutors who give up their free time, without any compensation, receive?  In the short term, the answer is simply volunteer hours and the macro perspective of facilitating a peer’s learning to improve one’s own understanding of the subject matter.  However, if we look at longer term benefits, forward tutoring has teamed with supporting organizations and corporations that will provide internship and scholarship opportunities.

Forward Tutoring is Open for All: This concept is open for all. Since the backdrop is volunteerism, the only drive that is being considered is willingness to come forward and help, while getting educated in return. The forward tutoring project is a novel concept that is imparting a new meaning to internet tutoring and social welfare that is all tied into classroom achievement.  In the end, this project works on the basis of helping others, but consequently many of the students will in fact learn a lot more about themselves.

My Experience:  My experience with forward tutoring has been nothing but positive.  Having children become socially responsible is one of the most important aspects of my job.  Forward tutoring has given me the framework to push children into volunteering who normally would be too shy or unwilling.  Our community has also benefitted greatly.  We have teamed with two large community service projects during the program.  One is a Hungarian version of Walk the Wish and the other is a local dog shelter.  Getting participation in both of these activities is never easy, but forward tutoring makes children extend themselves in ways they never thought possible.  I’ve had several students tell me that they never imagined community service could be so much fun or rewarding.  Children want to do good all they need is a little help and direction.  Let forward tutoring help you and as a result help your entire community.

Forward tutoring is the wave of the future.  It combines technological platforms with the ideals of helping of others and peer to peer education.  Forward tutoring creates a perpetual cycle of learning, volunteering, academic success, and community betterment that will enhance the performance and self-esteem of the children we educate.

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

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

The primary motivation of education policymaking

We are literally living in a world where the primary motivation behind the proposals that determine what schools look like ISNT designing the kinds of learning environments that our kids deserve. Instead, the primary motivation behind the proposals that determine what schools look like is designing the kinds of learning environments that might get a legislator reelected.

Bill Ferriter via http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2012/04/meritpay-tenure-philberger-edpolicy.html.


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