Monday, October 20, 2014

Why Can’t We Be Friends? Social Media Boundaries Between Teachers and Students

April 28, 2011 by clong  
Filed under Featured News, Top Stories

Share

By Cindy Long

Around the country, school districts are grappling over guidelines that would govern how – and whether – educators should use social media.

The key is finding a way to take advantage of the learning opportunities social media provides while striking the proper balance between protecting kids and preserving professional boundaries and First Amendment rights.

That’s the struggle in Stonington, Connecticut, where the board of education is considering a new a policy. According to Superintendent Leanne Masterjoseph, “The policy has to err on the side of safety for kids.”

But Gail MacDonald, chair of the Stonington Board of Education, said she did not “want to be in the speech-controlling business at all.”

So what’s the solution? Maybe school boards should ask the educators themselves.

William Jackson, a teacher and technology consultant in Jacksonville, Florida, says that just as there are First Amendment rights of teachers who participate in social networking, there are also privacy rights of students.

“When educators put ourselves on display by writing something and putting it online, we are responsible and accountable for the content and motives,” he wrote recently on his blog, adding that “teachers should not post things that are private and confidential about a student.”

His bottom line: If you feel comfortable saying it to parents and in public then you should be able to say it in a blog or on Facebook.

This is simple, common sense advice for educators who want to talk about students on Facebook – but what about those considering using social media to talk to students?

Brock Dubbels, a longtime educator from Minneapolis, Minnesota who regularly uses technology in the classroom, advises setting clear boundaries when it comes to social media.

“Kids don’t need to see my backyard, or know what I say to my wife over dinner. When I have fun with friends and family, that’s a different me, and it’s important that I make that distinction,” he explains. “Being a professional means that I project the values of my profession and my employer when communicating with students.”

He acknowledges that with the proliferation of social media, it can be difficult to make this distinction, but he insists that it must be made. If he gets friend requests from students, he deletes them.

“I approach the student personally and thank them, but tell them that it is not appropriate for me to be a “friend” when I am their teacher and advocate,” he says.

That’s not to say that social media has no place in the classroom.

“Social networking a powerful tool for communicating and should not be ignored or rejected by the education community,” says Brian Rappe, a teacher in Burnsville, Minnesota. “I think school districts should set up guidelines to protect their employees and the district. Teachers should have separate sites – one for work and one for personal use and the two should never cross paths.”

Gina Moretto Frutig, an educator in Durham, North Carolina, agrees. She maintains a separate Facebook page just for students and their parents.

“I wouldn’t even let other teachers on it,” she says. “I used it to post field trip pictures and pictures of in-class activities. Many parents have access to it on their phones, so it was a convenient way to update everyone.”

Ohio teacher April Stephenson Totten didn’t want any access at all to her student’s Facebook pages, so she uses Edmodo.com.

“It’s an educational social network that can be accessed on phones and ipods,” she says. “So far it works great for me.”

If educators are still unsure how to handle social media in the classroom, and if the district has no guidelines or policy, Dubbels suggests looking at other district policies. But the first step is to carefully weigh the safety and educational benefits of social media.

“If you’re not willing to look at safety and learning, don’t do it,” he says.

Comments

7 Responses to “Why Can’t We Be Friends? Social Media Boundaries Between Teachers and Students”
  1. Bonnie says:

    I’d love to hear more about how this is playing out in school districts around the country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Lisa Mims says:

    I know teachers who have students as friends. What if you forget that a student is reading your posts? I teach 5th grade, and even though I tell my students that I will not be their friends on FB, they still send requests. I delete them, and that’s the end of that.
    As Mr. Dubbels said, there is my professional life, and my personal life. At times, we talk about my personal life in the classroom, but I will not have a student keeping up with my latest posts.I also use EDMODO, not Edmondo, in the classroom. It’s just like FB but with a lot more to offer. I keep in touch with my students during the summer with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.
    I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will
    come back later in life. I want to encourage that you continue your great work,
    have a nice weekend!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Marcia says:

    It’s difficult to find educated people for this
    subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!

    Thanks

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the
    pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its
    a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. website blog says:

    Hello There. I discovered your weblog the usage of msn. That is a very neatly written article.
    I will make sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of
    your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...


Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!