I just heard from the superintendent of yet another school district that’s struggling with whether to allow its teachers to connect with students using Facebook. Here’s my reply to her:
Speaking as someone who has a law degree, attorneys (like IT staff) are inherently conservative. The bottom line is that Facebook is just another mechanism to communicate, like the phone and written mail (in fact, Facebook is arguably more public than either of those other two). Do you have policies prohibiting teachers from using those to connect with students and parents?
I’ve written about this before (and here’s a post from Doug Johnson arguing against format bigotry). Other districts – that operate in the same legal and regulatory environments that you do – are figuring out how to make use of social media tools while still maintaining appropriate relationships between students and staff and also doing their best to keep students ‘safe.’ Why can’t your district be one of them?
Finally, if you don’t trust your own staff, you’ve got much bigger problems than whether they use Facebook pages to connect with students…
Hope this helps. Please keep me posted!
The Facebook-as-bogeyman phenomenon has waned considerably over the past few years as more and more ‘grown-ups’ use it. What used to be unfamiliar and scary is now ubiquitous and comfortable. The hysteria that accompanied social networking when it first came out was downright embarrassing in hindsight. You’d think we would have learned by now that just because a technology is new doesn’t mean that it’s evil. But, human nature being what it is, perhaps that’s too much to hope.
How long will it take schools and policymakers to come to grips with the new world of social media? At their current pace, a l-o-n-g time (unfortunately)…
Image credit: Firewall