My proposal for a new social media policy
A while ago, we had a very lively discussion on both Shawn and Myele’s blog about whether one should friend students. Yesterday, I saw Kate Nowak simply facebooked her crew of (former?) students to get feedback on an idea she and and I thought—”that’s awesome.” I want to do that.
Problem is, I’ve been afraid to open up my facebook account and friend students, and even though I think twitter is awesome, and use it all the time, I’ve worried about what will happen if students were to find my account and start to follow me. But why? Other than the fact that it’s stocked with photos of the cutest 9 month old you’re likely to see, it’s as boring as they come. And twitter? What salacious gossip could a student discover about me by reading my twitter stream? That I’m a big physics geek? That isn’t really news to my students.
Here’s what I think they’ll see. They’ll see that I’m still learning, just like they are. They’ll see that I’m trying to connect with people all across the world to learn about physics, and maybe this will push them to try to build connections beyond their school, community or city.
But really, this isn’t about me and my facebook or twitter page at all. It’s about the student. And how in not friending and following my students, I’m passing up an incredible opportunity for learning. I want to learn who my students are as people, and observe how they interact when they aren’t in my classrooms. And I want to help them grown outside my classrooms as people who get social media, and use it to help develop and project their best selves forward. And I’m not all that afraid of what I’ll see. Kids do, say and write dumb things. I did this, you did this, we all do this. And yes, with the internet, there’s a chance that some of those dumb things will stick around forever, and there may be ramifications later in life, but I think, if we as adults can get involved and help kids learn from mistakes when the mistakes are small, there will be much less of a chance of this. I don’t see this as being the net nanny for my student’s social media presence—that’s not what I want to do at all.
I am so much more interested in helping my students to see social media as I see it, as in incredible tool for connecting with people to change the world. Just one example—through twitter, I meet Megan Howard (@mmhoward), an administrator at a nearby K-6 private school, after tweeting her following the screening of Race to Nowhere back in October. Turns out Megan is an alum of the school I teach at, and even though she lives less than a mile from my school, we likely never would have met were it not for twitter. Now, she has become a wonderful friend. And while that’s great for me, what is really important is that she’s also helping me to change the world—it was her tweet and my response that launched the edu180atl project, which is, in my humble opinion, doing a wonderful job of sharing stories of learning around Atlanta, and it’s only just beginning. So I think it’s great that students are using social media to connect with their friends, but that’s just the start—I want them to use it to build bonds with artists, musicians, scientists, athletes and learners from all across the world, and use those bonds to make the world a better place. And more often than not, I think it’s going to take a teacher working with students to make this happen, or at least expose students to the possibility.
So in that spirit, I’ve written the following proposed social media policy for interacting with students:
I will accept all friend requests with the following understanding. I view “friending” me as a reqest to mentor you. This means I will read your page. I will read your page to get to know you better and offer you specific feedback in the hopes that you will use social media to create a digital presence that captures both who you are and who you can be at your very best, and that you will reach out to connect and share with people from across the world in order to change the world.