The Teacher’s Guide to Social Media
Education is a two-way street — oftentimes, those who teach could stand to learn a few things as well.
Don’t sweat it. Below, we’ve thrown together some basic guidelines teachers should follow when embracing technology in the classroom.
1. Don’t Post Inappropriate Activities
We’ve published plenty of horror stories about teachers who’ve posted NSFW content on their social profiles and have been summarily punished (see: the Aurora, Colo. teacher who tweeted half-naked photos of herself and joked about using drugs on school property).
Whatever (legal things) you choose to do outside school is your business — just be sure to not give your colleagues (and students) a front-row seat.
2. Don’t Diss Your Students
Tommy Mayhem may have sprayed you with spitballs the first day of class, but that doesn’t mean you should vent about it online. It looks unprofessional to colleagues, and more importantly, it could get back to the student.
As tempting as it may be, keep the venting for your significant other or barber. Tommy’s time will come soon enough.
3. Keep Confidential Information Confidential
Again, pretty obvious. Confidential data, like a student’s grades, full name or contact information, should stay within school records.
4. Utilize Privacy Settings
“Here’s the thing about students nowadays: They’re really good at Facebook,” says Carolyn McChesney, who recently finished her second year teaching middle school with Teach for America at Main Street Academy in College Park, Ga. “They want to know everything about you, and if they can — and they usually can — they’re going to find it and bring it to the classroom.”
That being known, make your accounts as secure as possible, whether by locking your Twitter account or privatizing your Facebook profile — whatever you feel most comfortable with. It’s not to say you need to hide anything, but rather, “it’s just something to be cautious about,” McChesney says.
Don’t view privacy settings as impenetrable walls, though. Most major social networks update you with privacy improvements or changes in conditions, but they’re often sporadic and difficult to keep track of. Similar to the first rule, always assume what you post will be seen by colleagues, students or anyone else in your networks. Think of the extra privacy settings as a deadbolt on an already locked door.
5. Communicate to Students on Their Level
Best way to learn to swim is to jump in the deep end, right?
Edmodo, a social network designed to connect students and teachers online, brings both worlds together on an easy-to-use platform. It’s free to register and offers an interface similar to Facebook, where anyone can post articles, videos or questions to groups.
Adora Svitak, a 15-year-old author who spoke to 3,000 teachers at a conference in Austin, Texas in October about Twitter and Facebook, says Edmodo is an ideal way for teachers to communicate with students on “their” level.
“No one checks their email as often as they probably should, at least not if there are too many barriers in places,” she tells Mashable. “My AP Art History teacher launched [Edmodo] and communicated with us that way, posting due dates, reminders and quirkly links … For districts with restrictive social networking policies, sites like Edmodo can be incredibly useful.”
McChesney used the network during her second year teaching at Main Street Academy. She offered her students extra credit if they signed up, then gave additional points to anyone who posted or answered a question relating to class.
“Students can sign up with their parents, too,” she adds, “so if I post something like ‘Just a reminder: Assignment X is due on Thursday,’ the parents get the notification in their email as well.”
6. ‘Find and Flip’
Teachers can embrace social media through TED Ed, which offers a “flipping the classroom” feature to customize and share video lessons. “Flipping” lets you turn any video, from Khan Academy, YouTube or TED, into a customized lesson. You can share it with students and add context, questions or follow-up suggestions — again, a way to hit the topic head-on and keep your lessons relevant (and interesting) to your students.
Watch the video above to see how it works.
“I really love what [they’ve] done with social media and educational video content,” Svitak says. “Now, a teacher’s ‘flip’ can be viewable to the world through sharing on Facebook and Twitter, making them more easily accessible to students looking for them before their next class.”