I’d like to be able to say that I am a native, Social Media first-adopter, but I’m not nearly that cool. I jumped into Social Media about 5 years ago purely out of desperation: my oldest daughter left for college and her only known form of human communication was texting. I clearly remember my proud feeling of accomplishment when I figured out how to direct-text her cell-phone from my computer, via Gmail chat.
“OMG” she quickly return-texted my chatbox from campus. “You are STALKING me on GOOGLE?”
Yep. And I quickly added Facebook and Twitter to my mommy-stalker arsenal. Additionally, I was finding amazing, work-related, networking benefits to my new avocation and it wasn’t long before I was using Social Media for good, and not evil.
Coming to Social Media from the back of the pack, as I did, I understand the mix of feelings an overwhelmed educator might experience while gazing at a roomful of students thumbing their cell phones. It is easy to forbid the use of mobile or handheld technology in school, and restrict or block the use of Social Media. It is much more difficult to actually enforce these rules and restrictions, and even harder to traditionally engage and educate kids who have already moved towards insta- (real-time) communication, collaboration and acquisition.
So, if you are ready to push past trepidation to give Social Media a try, and incorporate aspects of texting, blogs, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube into your classroom (out of desperation or because you are truly excited about exploring this Brave, New World!), your first step should be toward formulating safety-based Social Media ground rules. Simply, teachers need to curate clear cyber policies in order to draw virtual lines and proactively protect their students – and themselves.
Nick Provenzano, an English teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School, recently wrote about his own teacher-student guidelines in his Edutopia article, On Twitter: To Follow or Not to Follow. Yes, that is the question… and the answer.
Constructing a framework for Social Media use before issues pop up will give participants a process to follow to prevent or reduce the inevitable trial-and-error bumps. As technically savvy as many students are, most have not been formally trained to be “good, digital citizens” and could use some netiquette guidance. Our kids might know more than we do when it comes to techno-connection, but we can still provide home and classroom leadership with our own brand of first-step savvy: innovative Social Media policies that delineate teacher-student boundaries, teach cyber-manners, address cyber-bullying, and reinforce creative, new paths to learning.
REALLY GOOD READS & RESOURCES
Creating Social Media Policies For Schools And Districts
Student Safety in the Age of Facebook: “If one life is saved, then it’s worth it.” BUT, read this, too: It’s complicated
Photo Credit: jhaymesiviphotography, Flickr