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Thursday
Aug202009

Networking Guidelines, Revised

It is comments like these that give blogging it professional value to me:

This list of advice sure seems heavy on the "Thou Shalt Nots" without much to inspire teachers to get online and create a powerful, educational online presence. In my experience, teachers are already sufficiently terrified by the "bogey man" of life online... they don't need to be made more frightened: instead, they need to learn about how to build their online identity in a way that benefits themselves professionally, benefits their students educationally, and contributes to the overall use of the Internet for teaching and learning. - Laura

and

Well I'm in BIG trouble. I use my Facebook account almost exclusively for educational purposes.

Almost all of my "friends" are students. I share their photos of their artwork, links to videos i want them to view (tutorials, documentaries, animations) and make recomendations about websites and even TV programs they might be interested in.

i joke with the parents when they come to open house that i can show a clip during school and half the class is asleep. I post the same video to Facebook and 5 minutes later I have 10 comments all telling me how cool it is.

A hammer can be used to build a house or break your thumb. It's just a tool. It's all about how you use it.

ian

As a result of thoughtful challenges like these, Jen Hegna and I decided to revise The Guidelines for Educators Using Social Networking Sites shared on the Blue Skunk a couple weeks ago. What do you think?

 

Guidelines for Educators Using Social and Educational Networking Sites
August 20, 2009
(DRAFT, DRAFT, DRAFT)

Social networks are rapidly growing in popularity and use by all ages in society. The most popular social networks are web-based, commercial, and not purposely designed for educational use. They include sites like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and Xanga. For individuals, social networking sites provide tremendous opportunities for staying in touch with friends and family.

Educational networking sites are also growing in use. These sites are used by educators for both professional development and as a teaching tool, and are usually restricted to selected users and not available to the general public. These include networking tools such as Moodle, educational wikis, specially created Nings, or district adoptions of online applications such as Saywire, Live@edu or Google Apps for Education.

As educators, we have a professional image to uphold and how we conduct ourselves online impacts this image. As reported by the media, there have been instances of educators demonstrating professional misconduct while engaging in inappropriate dialogue about their schools and/or students or posting pictures and videos of themselves engaged in inappropriate activity online. Mistakenly, some educators feel that being online shields them from having their personal lives examined. But educators’ online identities are very public and can cause serious repercussions if their behavior is careless.

One of the hallmarks of online networks, both social and educational, is the ability to “friend” others – creating a group of others that share interests and personal news. The district strongly discourages teachers from accepting invitations to friend students within personal social networking sites. When students gain access into a teacher’s network of friends and acquaintances and are able to view personal photos and communications, the student-teacher dynamic is altered. By friending students, teachers provide more information than one should share in an educational setting. It is important to maintain a professional relationship with students to avoid relationships that could cause bias in the classroom.

The district does recognize the value of student/teacher interaction on educational networking sites. Collaboration, resource sharing, and student/teacher and student/student dialog can all be facilitated by the judicious use of educational networking tools. Such interactivity is a critical component of any online class and can greatly enhance face-to-face classes. Yet since this is a new means of communication, some guidelines are in order for educational networking as well.

For the protection of your professional reputation, the district recommends the following practices:

Guidelines for the use of social networking sites by professional staff:

  • Do not accept students as friends on personal social networking sites. Decline any student-initiated friend requests.
  • Do not initiate friendships with students
  • Remember that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.
  • Post only what you want the world to see. Imagine your students, their parents, your administrator, visiting your site. It is not like posting something to your web site or blog and then realizing that a story or photo should be taken down. On a social networking site, basically once you post something it may be available, even after it is removed from the site.
  • Do not discuss students or coworkers or publicly criticize school policies or personnel.
  • Visit your profile’s security and privacy settings. At a minimum, educators should have all privacy settings set to “only friends”. “Friends of friends” and “Networks and Friends” open your content to a large group of unknown people. Your privacy and that of your family may be a risk.

Guidelines for the use of educational networking sites by professional staff:

  • Let your administrator, fellow teachers and parents know about your educational network.
  • When available, use school-supported networking tools.
  • Do not say or do any thing that you would not say or do in as a teacher in the classroom. (Remember that all online communications are stored and can be monitored.)
  • Have a clear statement of purpose and outcomes for the use of the networking tool.
  • Establish a code of conduct for all network participants.
  • Do not post images that include students without parental release forms on file.
  • Pay close attention to the site's security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.

Guidelines for all networking sites by professional staff:

  • Do not use commentary deemed to be defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libelous. Exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, obscenity, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations.
  • Weigh whether a particular posting puts your effectiveness as a teacher at risk.
  • Due to security risks, be cautious when installing the external applications that work with the social networking site. Examples of these sites are calendar programs and games.
  • Run updated malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on your computer.
  • Be careful not to fall for phishing scams that arrive via email or on your wall, providing a link for you to click, leading to a fake login page.
  • If a staff member learns of information, on the social networking site, that falls under the mandatory reporting guidelines, they must report it as required by law.

Please stay informed and cautious in the use of all new networking technologies.

Resources

Written by Jen Hegna, Information Systems Manager, Byron (MN) Public Schools and Doug Johnson, Director of Media and Technology, Mankato (MN) Public Schools

http://www.geekingtshirts.com/

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Reader Comments (12)

I think one clear takeaway should be not to mix your network of adult friends with your network of students and parents.

And if in any doubt whatsoever, don't friend students.

And quite frankly, if you calculate the value of your career against the possible risks of engaging your students on social networks it is hard to see how the benefits outweigh the risks over the span of a career.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Well written...well said! These guidelines should be added to educational ethics courses!

However, the discussion that will take place among teachers will be..."can I be "friends" with a student if I no longer have them in class, or if they have graduated?"

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMalia Schroeder

I like the distinction in this revision between social and educational networking. I think it clears up a lot of the issues I had with the previous version. I am still on the fence on whether educational networking is the proper term to describe social networking tools used for educational purposes though. Social networking or social media has become an established term to describe how people use web 2.0 tools. Whether it is for personal, professional, or educational purposes it is still social in nature. And, a lot of other non social networking related activities could easily be considered educational networking. I would be more comfortable if these separate activities were called: Personal Social Networking, Professional Social Networking, and Educational Social Networking. However, this is a minor petty issue and it seems the term Educational Networking, since being coined I think by Vicki Davis, is sticking and quickly becoming part of our ed tech nomenclature whether I agree with it or not.

The other thing I like about this version is it leaves open the proper use of social tools for education while calling attention to ethics and conduct issues.

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Anderson

I found it odd that after you mentioned the comment about the teacher friending students that you suggest it as bad practice in your policy.

That one issue to me is highly subjective and while 'better safe than sorry" would appear to be the best route, that comment above and other stories I've read and experienced, have me less certain to make that a hard and fast rule. The benefits can be great.

I'd encourage you to listen to this podcast that provides a balanced view of the issue.
http://ideasandthoughts.org/2008/11/14/when-technology-bites-back/

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDean Shareski

While I understand the goals of a document like this... I just cringe at blanket statements like many of these. I think these overall guidelines are good for folks who are unsure of navigation through the social web. However, I think that because we all use these tools so so so differently from one another, that blanket statements for all situations tend to miss some of the more powerful aspects of the social phenomenon.

I am 40 years old. I did not emerge from school using these tools (obviously). I only added a Facebook profile about three years back when my marine biology students insisted on pulling me into a "Marine Biology Alumni" group that they had created. To see it, I needed to have a profile... so eventually I created one. I came to social media as a deeply rooted educator, and as an adult in my late 30's. I have not known Facebook outside of the realm of education.

Therefore, I must freely admit to having tons of students in my network. My communications there have never really been "friend-ish." I know, I'm probably missing out for some reason, but I rarely use Facebook beyond the profile creation and connection... the ability to find people after they graduate if needed... and to occasionally post updates to my blog, etc.

If the word "friend" was not used on these sites... the older set wouldn't freak out so much. It simply doesn't mean "friend" in the same way that we have come to know it. Things change.

I realize that the term "friend" here also had technical implications with functionality. I get that. It makes good sense to fully understand these features. The bottom line for me: "If you wouldn't say it aloud in class, then don't say it on Facebook." If you want to use Facebook as a purely social entity... with lots of adult-level-appropriate sharing of text, images, etc... then don't add students: period.

It depends on your usage of the tool.

I can't imagine some of the things it has kept me abreast of, especially in regard to the future of my students in college, grad school, postdocs, and the world of work in the field. I cannot any longer imagine not having this valuable form of feedback into the future lives of my clients.

Sean

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSean Nash

In a blog assignment for U of A, I recently wrote about using Ning as a good stepping stone to involving staff in a social network. I used your (old) guidelines. (http://tiny.cc/jZcVg) to add the common sense and alleviate worries from non-S.N.ers. Thanks for the guidelines as everyone in my class seemed to find them quite practical. Really, I found them honest and practical.

Teachers in my district have been warned about not using SN responsibly. I thought your list was perfect and not at all related to the “bogey man”.

David Lee King wrote a post about being in control of your blog (http://tiny.cc/Kyzng) And what to do about bad comments. His advice reminded me that “I am in control of the conversation.” Therefore, I must be responsible for my blog including monitoring it closely.

So good for you to change your blog, King would approve.

dawn

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

Hi Tom,
I agree the separation needs to be clear between one's personal and one's professional networking. The other clear take-away is that nothing should be considered private online.

Thanks for the comment,
Doug

Malia,
Yes, ""can I be "friends" with a student if I no longer have them in class, or if they have graduated?" is a good question. My advice would be to substitute "date" for "friend" and if it is appropriate, go for it. If not, think long and hard about it. So much has to do with the appearances of impropriety.

All the best,
Doug

Hi Carl,
I guess we'll just need to disagree about using "social" in regard to these activities. To me "social" has the connotation of recreational even frivolous activities. Since this is already a dubious activity in many administrators' minds, the clearer we can be about the usefulness of networking, the better we will be. But again, just my opinion.

Thanks for weighing in,
Doug

Hi Sean,
Obviously the majority of teachers will use ANY tool well. Guide aren't written for the good guys, but for those who need direction.

Quite frankly. were you the teacher of my daughter, I would be happier if you used a Ning or Moodle or other institutionally sponsored network rather than Facebook. So much of this has to do with perception.

All the best,
Doug

Dawn,
Thanks for the link to King. Very useful and glad to know your class found the guidelines helpful.

All the best,
Doug

Hi Dean,

Ah, the quote was placed there simply to underscore the need for guidelines since teachers are already mixing with students online. As a dad, I would be more than a little concerned about a teacher who seemed to be blurring the line between his/her role as a teacher and as a "friend." Just call me old school, I guess.

I look forward to listening to the podcast. Thanks,
Doug

August 26, 2009 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Teachers in my district have been warned about not using SN responsibly. I thought your list was perfect and not at all related to the “bogey man”. David Lee King wrote a post about being in control of your blog (http://tiny.cc/Kyzng) And what to do about bad comments. His advice reminded me that “I am in control of the conversation.” Therefore, I must be responsible for my blog including monitoring it closely.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaura

I like the distinction in this revision between social and educational networking. I think it clears up a lot of the issues I had with the previous version. I am still on the fence on whether educational networking is the proper term to describe social networking tools used for educational purposes though. Social networking or social media has become an established term to describe how people use web 2.0 tools. Whether it is for personal, professional, or educational purposes it is still social in nature. And, a lot of other non social networking related activities could easily be considered educational networking. I would be more comfortable if these separate activities were called: Personal Social Networking, Professional Social Networking, and Educational Social Networking. However, this is a minor petty issue and it seems the term Educational Networking, since being coined I think by Vicki Davis, is sticking and quickly becoming part of our ed tech nomenclature whether I agree with it or not.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaura

I agree entirely that staff need to know and understand the distinction between professional and personal and not mix the two when it comes to their students.

As an IT Director I manage a Blog that I send staff to for technology updates and information. I would never consider posting a personal article to this blog. That is why I have my personal blog.

In my profession, teachers and students are my customers. I provide a service that they need. (i.e. technical support)

Teachers can look at students as their customers. Students come to teachers to get a product. The product happens to be knowledge and in the end, a diploma. It's not how most educators would agree to look at students and thats not how I recommend teachers view students, but for this instance, this helps one realize what the separation should be.

In the end if you are going to use Facebook or some other social media for professional reasons you should have a separate account solely for work. Don't let your personal life mingle with your professional life. It sounds cold but that is the reality of being professional. Especially when working with students. People are very sensitive about their children and they should be, be aware of that.

Teachers need to be smart. If there is ever a question about something, either talk to your principal or just don't do it.

I like your posting. I think this would be a great training document. I'm not a big fan of adding much, if anything in our AUP for social networking but there are parts I would use. I would, however, use this document to help staff understand good practices.

Districts simply need to let their staff know that they expect their staff to know and understand that there is an expectation of separation of personal and professional. If the district does that, the teachers for the most part will do a good job of keeping their personal lives separate.

Thanks for the hard work and for sharing.

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTechChucker (Matt)

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your insights. I hope most educators share similar views.

Doug

September 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Your blog states so many relevant tips and insights that we need to know regarding social media and blog posting. You have given us ample information on how we can be able to utilize social media for blogging. There's a lot of things that needs to be considered and you tackled enough information that is very useful and timely.

October 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteralexandria

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