Our society is making major changes every day, and social media is dictating some of these changes and is influencing how our society operates. As a result, whatever changes we see in society will have a definite impact on what happens in our schools. To run effectively, schools cannot ignore these societal changes. That’s why it is important for our students and staff to develop positive experiences with social media usage in our schools. Schools and school districts that decide to embrace social media are utilizing new technology to inform, educate, and prepare students and staff for the 21st century.
Each school year the following question will have to be answered: What if a student or staff member is using their personal social media account off school property in a negative, inappropriate, or confrontational manner that has an impact on the staff or students? Additionally, does this usage impact the student’s ability to learn at school or impact the educational day? If it does, then the school should have the right to investigate and issue appropriate consequences. This is an important problem that has impacted schools from all over the world. It is vital that our schools address this problem in their student code or face the possibility of students, staff members, or both disrupting the school.
In an effort to be pro-active, schools and school districts have decided to prevent problems from occurring by teaching students the proper way to use social media. Schools are now showing their students how social media can be used to collaborate on school projects, find summer jobs, participate in online chats, discuss books read in class, share and receive positive information on the school’s Facebook page, keep up with what’s happening around the world, do research, share successful educational stories, secure classroom information, etc. Teachers can use Twitter accounts to send homework assignments to students, provide classroom information for students, and have classroom discussions. By embracing social media, schools are empowering their students to communicate more with their classmates, which will develop a stronger community of learners.
School employees should have procedures in place for how they use social media in an effort to monitor the manner in which educators use their personal and school accounts to interact with students. Schools should consider employees using their personal accounts to communicate with students as inappropriate and as grounds for termination. While this might sound harsh, sometimes staff using their personal accounts with students can lead to the appearance of an inappropriate relationship. In particular, staff members should never have student’s pictures posted on their Facebook. These concerns should be addressed at the first staff meeting of the school year, and staff members should sign an agreement that the school’s social media account be used for teaching purposes only and not for reaching out to students.
Overall, schools know there is a lot of abuse involved with the use of social media, but research has shown that schools that take the time to educate their staff and students on the proper usage are developing a community of learning that will be productive in the 21st century.