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A model social media policy

Posted by on Oct 23, 2011 in Blog, News | 0 comments

As an educator in Missouri, I was going to have to live under the thumb of SB54, now known as SB1, which Gov. Jay Nixon just signed into law. The new law eliminates the provisions that were offensive to so many teachers and First Amendment advocates in SB54, but still requires districts to enact some sort of policy by March 1, 2012 regarding employee-student communication.

So, at the urging of John Bowen, I have written a model social media policy for educators in our state. The text of it is below. I wrote this bill based off the following premise: that educators who fail to use social media as a teaching tool are not serving the best interests of their students or themselves.

Social media is so pervasive amongst our students that to ignore teaching students how to use it in forthright ways is tantamount to not properly doing our jobs as educators. Interacting via social media is a form of communication that should be governed just as any other communication an educator has with their students. Discussions in the classroom, after class, in a hallway or on Facebook, should be governed by the same rules, end of discussion.

Here is the policy. I’ve included a link to a Google Doc. If you find things you disagree with, let’s talk. If you have resources I don’t – and let’s face it, some of you do – then please share and add them to the doc. Social media moves so quickly; this Doc must continue to evolve with it.

If you believe this is a policy that would be useful in your school district, please feel free to share it with the powers that be in your district. I only ask two things if you do. First, please let me know you intend to do so (I’d like to keep a record of where this is going). Second, be passionate about the impact social media can have in our classrooms and upon our students. Don’t just offer it up to your principal. Persuade them to your point of view.

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Missouri SB54 a slap at teacher professionalism

Posted by on Aug 21, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Matt Schott

A slap in the face. And an unexpected one at that.

When I first read SB54, that was my reaction. And not a slap to my First Amendment rights, either, though I believe those rights are threatened by the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act and informs much of the anger over this from journalism educators.

No, to me, this was a slap in the face to my professionalism, my credibility, my trustworthiness.

In any profession, these are the qualities people try to build and nurture. With a swipe of his pen, what Gov. Jay Nixon (and to an extent State Sen. Jane Cunningham, who wrote the bill) did was wipe away those three things which I hold dear. Because what he did was cast teachers into the same category of respect generally reserved for criminals.

SB54 essentially said teachers were not fit to maintain a professional relationship with the students whom they have taken great steps to build and nurture relationships, no matter the medium. While I consider myself to be well-versed in the field of journalism, I consider myself (and most good educators) to be better in the field of connecting with students where they are most comfortable. Good educators work to make sure they have positive relationships with their students. More than anything, it is what makes us good educators.

What Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have evidently forgotten is that private conversations happen all the time at school. On  Aug. 16, a Tuesday, I had no fewer than six private conversations with students. All of them were about things relating to education. Some were simple, like asking for the definition of a word. Others about projects that have been assigned.

These two public servants obviously don’t know much about the public they serve. They should watch this. Facebook is the most trafficked site on the Internet and high school students have driven that traffic almost since the site’s inception. As it says on the linked video: “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have ensured Missouri students will “do social media” worse than students in the rest of the nation.

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, by not allowing educators to teach and model what a positive social media presence looks like, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have made it that much harder for Missouri students to succeed in the digital marketplace.

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have taken away an avenue – sometimes the only avenue they feel safe in – for troubled students to communicate with someone they trust: their teacher.

Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham did have some successes with this bill, perhaps in spite of themselves.

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have drawn the attention of the nation to the educational practices in our state and shown the nation that they, at least, don’t believe in the job Missouri teachers are doing. Thanks for your support.

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have succeeded in making a difficult job more difficult. Not being able to communicate with trusted students in a medium they feel comfortable in inhibits the learning and success of all students. Thanks for the extra work, we need more of it.

And finally, by seeking to take educators out of the social media equation in Missouri, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have angered a very vocal and active political force: educators. Make no mistake, teachers in Missouri are upset (to use a school appropriate word) by this law. Teachers in Missouri are conferring about this law. And soon, very soon, I hope teachers in Missouri will be working with wonderful organizations like the Student Press Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, to battle and overturn this ill-informed, poorly written and insulting law. You’re welcome. By giving the educators of Missouri a little bit more work to do, we’ll help you learn through experience and hopefully, as you reflect upon this once SB54 is overturned, you’ll have learned something.

All in a day’s work.

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