Social media is changing the communication landscape before our eyes. Now with 1:1 programs popping up all over, companies like Edmodo, Moodle, and Schoology are developing safe ways for teachers and students to communicate outside of the regularly scheduled class time. But even these online models base themselves off of Facebook.
Fear the Facebook!
The whole reason for educators to fear Facebook was because "it's unsafe and can't be monitored." Which is partially true, but wasn't convincing enough for me. Free websites like Edmodo, Moodle, and Schoology are great alternatives, because they operate on a more closed basis. However, I don't run my class like that. My class is open, ideas are shared, and if someone goes along the lines of inappropriate, then that's just another opportunity for me to teach.
As the use of social media in education increases, so does the argument for and against. The purpose of this article is to try and take a balanced view of both sides of the coin and also to look at some of the reasons why schools won’t engage using social media. In order to achieve this, Matt Britland and Alan Mackenzie have collaborated, with Matt looking at the curriculum aspects, and Alan looking at any e-safety aspects.
The first step to understanding some of the issues was to create and Tweet out a link to a survey of 10 simple questions, the results of which were all saved to a Google Docs spreadsheet. Then, a further Google Doc was created to collaboratively write the article.
In my experience, students have never been brilliant at checking their school emails, especially the older kids. This makes communicating with them quite difficult when they are not sat in your class.
A great way to improve this is to use Facebook groups. Now, this presents a problem. The main one being schools tend to be terrified of social networks. Possibly because they do not understand them? However, if you have a forward thinking school, you can overcome this by showing them how useful they can be. Once they are aware of this they may let you give Facebook groups/Twitter a go.
Following my response to Sir Michael Wilshaw’s call to ban mobile phones from the classroom, further questions need to be asked about the direction we are taking regarding the way our students communicate and the means they use to do so. Drawing from previous posts and subsequent comments, I’ll set out below why I think schools need to deal with the real reason why smartphones have become ubiquitous in our classrooms: social networking.
The use of social networking is increasing in all areas of society but, although students have been active in social networking for almost a decade now, during this time, schools and teachers have largely ignored their students’ clear desire for peer interaction and communication outside the classroom.
Do you have a policy on how teaching staff should present themselves online? This article includes an ICT code of conduct with rules about online communication for school staff. It also refers to official guidance and a clause in the GTCE code of conduct which covers teachers’ behaviour.
ICT and online communication code of conduct for staff
Hellingly Community Primary School in East Sussex has an ICT code of conduct for staff. It sets out the rules that all staff must comply with when using ICT facilities both within the school and away from the school.
The section covering online communication includes statements such as:
- I will not allow parents or children and young people to add me as a friend, nor will I add them as friends, on social networking sites
- I will not use Facebook or similar online networking sites whilst at work
- I must make clear that any comments (e.g. political views) are my own personal opinion
- I will not create, transmit, display or publish any material that is likely to: harass, cause offence, inconvenience or needless anxiety to any other person or bring the school into disrepute
In line with safeguarding procedures, no comments should be made with reference to the school, its staff, governors, pupils, families, any persons associated with it or events
I will not place any information regarding my activities at school, or the school in general on my social networking sites
Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor and MP for Outwood and Morley, visited Morley Newlands Primary School on 6th January 2012 to see for himself how a paperless online communication system, designed specifically for primary schools is improving links between parents and teachers.
Scholabo was founded in December 2010 by Brent, a parent of two primary school aged children, when he set out to provide an innovative solution for school to parent communication after finding it difficult to keep up to date with events and scheduled arrangements, which were primarily communicated via letters placed in his son’s school bag.
In April this year, the NUT warned teachers about the dangers of befriending pupils on social networking sites such as Facebook. The implications are so great that some schools have banned teachers from using Facebook altogether.
It's certainly true that Facebook can be a perilous place for teachers. Is it okay to accept a “friend request” from a pupil whom you know personally? What happens if you reject that friend request? Can you prevent pupils from viewing your pictures and wall posts? What should you do if a pupil posts a message on your wall? What happens if a pupil sees a comment you've made on someone else's wall?