Policy for Teachers looking to use Social Media as a Professional Tool

Role/Professional Development : I have been asked to be a mentor for teachers looking to embrace the use of technology. For many of them, that choice may include using social media in the educational environment for the first time. I hope these guidelines help them understand how to do so without added liability to themselves or the school district. The administration (and many of the teachers) have are concerned over the dangers of involving social media with the district. They really want something that can clearly protect the staff and district. It is not the most fun list, but I think it covers the areas that I know district is most concerned about.

1. Review the district Acceptable Use Policy, school of code of conduct, and contract. Remember that teachers are employees of the district and as professionals must follow the rules and guidelines that administrators and elected board members have established. If there is a policy that seems to be hindering the educational process, there are proper channels by which teachers can advocate for change. Start by contacting a member of the Technology Committee, speaking with an administrator or attending a school board meeting.

2. Make sure to have a separate personal and professional account. If a teacher plans to use social media for personal interests, they shouldn’t use their work email or link back to any work related websites, etc. I would suggest making all personal accounts private.

3. Teachers should not be posting images of the students or fellow staff members without permission. For students less than 18 years old, that means a parent or guardian needs to have signed the district release form for the current school year. For staff and students 18 and older, they personally need to have signed the release form for the current school year.

4. If a teacher plans to establish a social media account for educational purposes, they should let the administration know. Inform the administration of the type of social media, the account name, and the educational purpose it will serve . This way, if there is an incident or an issue, the administration won’t be caught off guard by it. They will be more likely to support staff use if they are kept informed and are given an opportunity to pre-approve.

5. Treat it like a classroom. Teachers should not say anything that they would not say in the classroom to students. All the same standards and codes of conduct apply (that goes for the staff and students).

6. Keep a report of any inappropriate or odd activity involving the account, group or community. If a student posts to a school chat or group in a way that would be considered inappropriate for the classroom, then it should be addressed as it would in the classroom. If it an offense that would normally warrant an administrative meeting, community service or suspension then it should be reported to administration immediately.

7. All students that use the social media to engage with classmates and staff must be using their real name. Do not engage in anyone that is under an anonymous name. It allows them to potentially put the teacher or classmates in an uncomfortable or vulnerable position without any risk of consequence. People are also more likely to cross personal and social boundaries when they believe they are protected by anonymity.

8.Consider making the social network group or community private. If the only participants will be members of a specific class or grade, it might be a good idea to make it private. If making it private, invite a school administrator. Transparency and administrative involvement is essential.

9. Do not “follow” or “friend” students. Respect the privacy and personal lives of the students. If a teacher “follows” or “friends” a student, that teacher may see some questionable posts and be left with a tough moral dilemma of whether to contact parents or administration.

10. Before reposting/reblogging/retweeting/pinning something, make sure to look it over thoroughly. Just because the headline looks relevant, does not mean the article or site linked is appropriate. Just as a teacher would not show a movie the class that they or another teacher has not watched, a teacher should not disseminate any internet content that the teacher has not thoroughly reviewed.

References:

Anderson, S. (2012). How to create social media guidelines for your school. Retrieved from:
http://www.edutopia.org/how-to-create-social-media-guidelines-school

NYC Department of Education. (2013). NYC Department of Education Social Media Guidelines. Retrieved July 19, 2014, from
http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/BCF47CED-604B-4FDD-B752-DC2D81504478/0/DOESocialMediaGuidelines20120430.pdf

San Diego Unified School District. (n.d.). Staff Social Media Guidelines. Retrieved July 20, 2014, from
http://www.sandi.net/cms/lib/CA01001235/Centricity/Domain/402/social-media-guidelines.pdf

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