Social media as an educational tool

by Megan Dunham
Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2011, at 2:27 pm

As Brittany Smith reported earlier this week, the state of Missouri has passed a law prohibiting teachers from using Facebook and other social media to privately contact their students. The intent behind the law is the prevention of inappropriate relationships between children and teachers. The law states, "Teachers cannot establish, maintain or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a non work-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student."

As you can well expect, there are people with good arguments on both sides of the issue. But the problem, as usual, is government legislation over personal responsibility. Three years ago, knowing he had experience in social media, the administration of my husband's previous school asked him to share his thoughts on social media as an educational tool. In response, Craig drafted a document that was later adopted as part of the school's social media policy. Here's what he had to say:

  • Never initiate the friend, wall-to-wall, inbox, birthday, or other functions; always be a responder to students, but even then, refrain from excess posting on their pages.
  • Unless you have a pre-determined set of relationship criteria (i.e. males only, females only, etc.), do not discriminate among friend requests; accept all or accept none.
  • Always maintain a degree of formality despite the informal medium; keep titles (Mr., Mrs., Miss) and try to relate with as similar a classroom tone as possible.
  • Realize that conversations you may have in other networks may be privy to those in your network unless you set up different access levels. Use discretion, as you are exposing students to your college/post-college discussions and topics, which may or may not be helpful to your students.
  • Use good punctuation and grammar whenever possible; avoid slang and model excellence as an educator in your communication.
  • Do not post pictures of yourself that are questionable, sensual, or ridiculous; if other friends include you in such pictures on their profiles, ask to remove them or untag yourself from them.
  • Do not delete inbox or wall-to-wall conversations; always keep a record.

For more, read Craig's "On Teachers, Students, and Social Media."

What's your take? Is Facebook a friend or foe in the world of education?