Schools and Educators Online: What Should We Be Doing?

I get asked to consult often about teacher internet and social media use. I get asked about directions school and district websites should go in as well as teachers and admins. I was answering some questions via emails today and thought I’d post some of the information I was sharing. So maybe putting this out there will be a good reference for me when asked in the future and maybe a place to help others looking for this information. I also know that some may not agree with my thoughts, that is ok, these are just trends I am seeing.

What are teachers roles online?
If you were a teacher in 2006 being a digital leader you had a website but stayed away from social media. Things have changed. Your school website needs to be a place for parents to find out who you are and your contact information. That’s all. The days of updating websites weekly have been gone for years now. This is where your district’s LMS is the most important thing in your classroom’s digital life. Whether it’s edmodo, Google Classroom, or Canvas, this is where your need to be posting your information. There are multiple reasons:

  1. It’s private. Think about it, you post that your class is going to zoo tomorrow. That’s really bad if little Joe’s parents are in a heated custody battle and the parent who lost custody can’t have contact. But you post it on your public site, that person now knows where that student will be and probably will be more accessible than he would be at school.
  2. You need to be posting your assignments here anyway, right? Why post twice? No one wants to do that, especially a teacher who works as much as you do. If you aren’t posting assignments to an LMS, you’re missing out on students being more organized and having more ways to turn in as well as reminders sent to text, email, or social media.
  3. You can post pictures, work, etc. Please don’t post pictures or work of students publicly without permission of parents. It’s really just better to do this privately. Parents want to see their children¬†learning,¬†but the entire world doesn’t need to unless posted by the parent. I’m a huge believer in world wide audience when students are blogging or using a class social media but everyday events need to be private.

Teachers also should be using social media for learning and connecting with other educators. If you teach older students, encourage them to do the same. Be an example. Create a PLN and sit with the smart kids of the world daily. Use Twitter, Facebook groups, voxer, blogs, or whatever you are comfortable with to learn and reflect. Start a blog, one that you feel like you can be open on and reflect on your successes and failures. Don’t advertise it to all your parents and coworkers if you feel like it will take away your honesty. But have a place to learn comfortably.

What should schools’ and districts’ be doing online?
Websites need to be just for information purposes only. Needs to be where stakeholders can find news, links, forms, etc. It needs to be easy to maneuver with simple menus. What it shouldn’t be is a place for curriculum and sharing. That is the purpose of your district LMS. It should be used for sharing curriculum information as well as places for online professional learning.

Social media on this level should also focus on getting information out to parents. There should be some level of 2 way communication. If people ask questions or make comments, there should be replies. No, don’t get sucked into trolls but communicate. Even my cable company replies when I tweet them. One way communication for website (think online information circa 2005) and two way communication for social media accounts. Principals need to be in charge of their school’s social media. They need to have that ownership. It is their school. They should curate the information coming from it.

How should administrators use social media?
You are the “lead learner” of your school. You need to be modeling how teachers should be using social media for their learning. Participate in Twitter chats, then curate the tweets on the hashtag from it. Blog about things you are learning, this can be public or private for just your teachers. Admins need to be listening to podcasts and reading blogs. Here is a great list of blogs by principals from all over the country. BAM Radio is a great place to get podcast and BackchannelEdu that was made for principals is amazing. Take charge of your learning and share with your teachers.

You also as I stated above need to be in charge of sharing the great things going on in the district. Don’t leave this for others to do, this is your school. Own it.

With all of these, be careful about student privacy. Don’t post things you can’t publicly talk about online or even offline, like if a child has special needs or something they are dealing with. This post from my friend Rafranz has totally change my thinking of what we post about students online. Don’t post things that could be embarrassing to a student. And please be careful about names and following parents’ wishes about posting online.

The Internet is a fantastic place. Educators need to be online reaching out to our students and their families. We also need to be taking advantage of the learning opportunities that are available. Social media has taken down so many walls and if used correctly can really change your world. Go out there. Reach others. And if you ever have questions, I’m here as well as thousands of others.

One thought on “Schools and Educators Online: What Should We Be Doing?

  1. There are a number of things that we have to do within a school. The biggest thing that we have to do is to agree to disagree. We need to listen to each other and then give feedback. This communication in many schools are lacking especially if the administration stays on their “high horses”.

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