Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where Social Media and Public Schools Meet

The New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) has drawn an interesting line in the sand with social media. The department released a set of social media guidelines this week that lay out a line faculty, staff, and students can't cross.

There are two fundamental guidelines:
  1. Teachers can have their personal Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or other social media pages, but they can't interact on those sites with students. They call this use "Personal Social Media."
  2. Teachers can interact with students using social media but must do so through the Department's own sites. They term this "Professional Social Media."
The guidelines also require that DOE employees behave professionally regardless of whether they're using personal or professional social media.

On face value, I like the core message about remaining professional regardless of what social media you're using. Yes, teachers should do whatever they can to keep their professional life separate from their personal life, if only because their students need their own space too.

But the guidelines fall short in addressing student-to-teacher interaction. What if a student follows his teacher's Twitter feed? Can the teacher be disciplined?

I also fear the effects of making faculty go through their institution's social media managers whenever they want to use the media for their classes. Kinda goes against the whole premise of social media. And education, for that matter.

I think schools need to grab social media by the horns, not shirk from it, which is what the NYC DOE's guidelines are trying to do. They're trying to walk a fence between embracing social media and ignoring it, and when you're walkin' a fence, you're bound to fall off.