DAILY INSIGHT: Embrace social media reponsibly

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

I recently conducted a webinar on social networking with an attorney colleague. We planned to discuss the issues surrounding the use of social media and the issues of use, discipline, etc., from both legal and practitioner perspectives. Participation in the webinar pressed home a couple of ideas for me:

1. Administrators are not embracing social media as a learning tool or even as a school communications tool. Many more people were telling us that their schools were blocking all Web 2.0-type sites or at least most of them and making it difficult—if not impossible—to use the tools. A couple of people were having to update their school or library Facebook pages from home as they couldn’t access them from school. We need to do a better job of teaching administrators how to use these Web 2.0 tools for their own communications and professional development, in order to sell them on the need to embrace these tools. As an example, help your superintendent set up a twitter account and follow some of the following superintendent type twitter feeds:

a. @AASAHQ - The American Assoc. of School Administrators is the national superintendents’ organization.
b. @ASCD – the Assoc of Curriculum and Staff Development
c. @IllinoisASA – Good superintendent info from the state level

Some personal superintendent feeds

d. @CBSDSupt – Rod Green, Central Bucks SD, PA
e. @D62supt – Jane Westerhold, Illinois’s Superintendent of the Year

f. @mcpssuper – Joshua Starr, Montgomery MD Schools

Some district feeds as samples of what to share with your community:
g. @barrington220 – Barrington 220 in Illinois
h. @CCSDK12 – Cherry Creek Schools in Colorado
i. @IrvingISD – Irving, Texas ISD
j. @NBCUSD200 – North Boone in Illinois, my own district – (just have everyone follow this to boost my numbers!)

2. We need to explain to policy makers (AKA superintendents and senior administrators) that there isn’t a need to create a bunch of new policies to address Web 2.0 and other social media. Most districts already have the issues addressed in their existing policies. It isn’t social media that is the issue, but what people do with it.Harassment, abuse, etc., are already proscribed in most districts. A good article on the issue is in the December 2012 School Administrator. However, I would include the aspects of social networking in your AUP, which should be updated every year anyway to ensure it is encompassing of new technologies.

Again, we need to move toward the concept of teaching students to be ethical users and not simply block things from their use. If you need some bedtime reading guaranteed to put you to sleep, check out the North Boone AUP. We didn’t develop separate policies, but we did integrate social media and Web 2.0 concepts in several other policies including:

Ethics and new rules for educational ethics
Access to Electronic Networks
Harassment of Students
Bullying and Harassment
Restrictions on Publications

All are on the North Boone website as well.

So, go forth and evangelize to your administrators, teachers and others that students are going to use social media whether or not they have access during school. However, only in schools do we have the ability to train them to be ethical and appropriate users of social media.

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.