You may have read the blog I posted last week regarding social networking in schools and where to draw the line between student-teacher communication on social networks. Well, this article from ABC 4.com is a great follow-up to that blog as it discusses how a school district in Utah is taking a firm stance on this very issue.
Salt Lake City’s Granite School District is making it clear with their new policy that students and teachers are forbidden to connect with each other on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. This concern is one that, as you know by now, many schools districts are facing and still on the fence about.
Ben Horsley, the district spokesman said, “There was no specific incident that spurred the new guidelines. But with the popularity of social networking sites in schools, Granite wants to eliminate any gray areas when it comes to teacher-student interaction.”
Horsley continued by making an interesting point, “The reality is if someone is going to interact inappropriately with a student, there’s certainly lots of technology out there that can help them get around those rules and guidelines in a very nonpublic way.” I think this is a very valid point. Most social networks, if not all of them, allow for private conversations to take place between adults and children—what’s to stop an untrustworthy teacher from engaging in one with a student, or a student feeling like they are ‘friends’ with their teacher and interact online as if they were?
Despite the concerns that can arise from this topic, there’s no doubt that great educators want to be where their students are, social media sites. Social media sites can be a very useful educational tool if used right. I happen to think that there’s a middle ground that can benefit both students and educators; a middle ground that has the potential of bringing out the best in teacher-student communication while at the same time staying within the social norms of real-world interaction.
Ben Horsley’s concern about, “getting around those rules and guidelines in a very nonpublic way” is, I’m sure, one of the many concerns that most educators and parents have when it comes to this issue. This is a very real concern due to the fact that a school’s rules to “not use Facebook during school hours or on school grounds” only go as far as that—school grounds.
The real problem is when the social interaction is off school grounds. As I’ve pointed out before, Facebook doesn’t provide any real solution to keeping adults and children from having private conversations, or any type of private interaction for that matter. Horsley mentions “technology that can help them get around those rules and guidelines” but with the lack of safeguards on social networks, that “technology” is hardly the issue.
I, and many parents and educators I know, see this as a serious issue and want to provide a logical solution. That’ why I’ve implemented the ability for teachers and youth group leaders to go into Yoursphere and create a sphere for their class, school or group. This way they can social network with their students in a safety-first online community—a community with safeguards that were built around kids, that model the real world.
To address the issue of nonpublic communication, all communication between teacher and student is made public and visible to every member of that sphere. Teachers aren’t allowed to make a profile or look at the profiles of their students, nor are they allowed to have private conversations with their students—as I’ve already mentioned, all interaction is made public.
Of course, being an advocate for social networking, my opinion on this subject is reflected by my bias, but I do know firsthand that denial of social media only drives those that want it to do whatever they see fit to get it. That’s why I would rather make a safer alternative available to educators than to see them missing out on the educational potential that social networking is capable of, or going as far as trying to work their way around the system in order to network with their students.
What about you, do you think your children’s school district should create a policy that simply bans a teacher and student from interacting on social networking sites?