In Social Media

With that last post, I tweeted the title and got quite a bit of reaction.  One comment, from @kimberlydenz stated:

“I’m pro anti-teacher-student social networking. BUT I’m pro teacher-student interaction.  Big difference.  Keep it educational not social.”

First, let me say Kimberly, “HEAR, HEAR” … I couldn’t agree with you more!  Which, begs an explanation.  Here goes;

ALL OF US (not just teachers) need to come to grips with how social media technologies are changing the way we communicate.  Just because the phrase “social networking” includes the word “social”, doesn’t mean the nature of the communication needs to actually BE social.  Take a look at the thousands of B2B fan pages in Facebook as an example.  The communication there is PURE business. So, going back to our education issue, we need to have our teachers come up to speed on ALL of the nuances and opportunities that social media can provide, in an effort to better connect with their students — our kids.

Let’s go back to the “real world” for a bit as a comparison.  I think we’d all agree that there are certain socially-centered conversations that would be considered inappropriate for a teacher to have with a student while chatting one-on-one in the hallway after a class.  Just consider the word “inappropriate” for a bit and let your mind wander.  Althoug it would be impossible to create a comprehensive list of what is, and isn’t appropriate, we would probably all agree with 99% of what would be inappropriate.  True?

The vast majority of teachers are professionals and would NEVER cross that line.  It would simply be unheard of to do so.  Sadly, there are some teacher’s (we hear about them in the news every year) who don’t have the ethics or moral strength to not cross that line.  Their inappropriate behavior in that one scenario didn’t arise from the fact that they were allowed to interact with the student in the hallway (the venue.) It sprang from the teacher’s inappropriate decision to have the discussion in the first place.  Again, it’s NOT the venue’s fault.

Fast forward to Facebook.  If a teacher CHOOSES to interact inappropriately with a student in a social network like Facebook, it has 100% to do with the teacher’s decision making, NOT the venue!  But, some people might say, “Facebook can be a closed environment where that teacher’s commentary is hidden from the rest of the world and, as such, tacitly allows this type of inappropriate behavior. ”  To that kind of comment, I would say, “NOT SO.”  The chances of a teacher getting caught making inappropriate comments verbally is many fold LESS than online because once the words are uttered, someone else would have to overhear them.  Online, the network has infinite memory and is everything is potentially documented forever.

So, here are the things I propose we all do — aggressively;

  1. Teach our children about online predators and online safety.  Teach them WELL and then trust them … however;
  2. Keep a VERY close eye on their online activity. To the point where their privileges get shut off if they don’t comply with your set standards.
  3. Encourage our kids to interact online with teachers where the  teacher has provided venues and interactive tools as part of the learning process.
  4. Here’s the hard part. Bring our educators FULLY up to speed on all of the opportunities that interactive, new media has to offer.
  5. Finally, teach our educators about the risks of online communication.  Set a standard for them, just like we set a standard for our kids.  It would be through this educational process where we can best mitigate the negative interaction between our kids and those teachers who might make poor decisions.

So, back to you Kimberly.  YES, “Keep it educational, not social!”

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