4 Nov 2012

How should schools deal with social media?

In this post I use 'social media' and 'social networking' pretty much interchangeably, I understand that this isn't entirely accurate, but I really am not quite sure of the distinction and for the purposes of this post I don't think it really matters.I also state that I'm paranoid, but that's because I
 
In hindsight, I think I may have jumped the gun with my last post, with that gun quite possibly being wielded by the shark, although I could've sworn I jumped that years ago (well, whenever I discovered The Activists Publication). Time will tell if I metaphorically got shot in the arse because of it. I probably need to nip the leaping to conclusions/ slight paranoia thing in the bud*, but I guess I included that disclaimer for a reason.

I realise now that I might not have been clear about what exactly I was for or against. Just so we're clear, I'm not saying that it's all hunky dory for students to actively bully teachers, or to make a pattern of it, but I am saying that it's pretty creepy for schools to trawl through social networking profiles to find this stuff. In either case any teachers who are on the receiving end do have the right to respond how they wish. I also happen to think I don't really deserve to be expelled, and haven't (to my knowledge, someone else will probably be able to give me examples) really posted anything that objectionable about my teachers, it's the trawling our feeds thing which scares me. I understand that Twitter's public, but it's sort of compartmentalised separately to reality for me.

With that out of the way, this all does raises the question of how schools should deal with social media in general. It's pretty clear that we need clear guidelines about what's acceptable (and what isn't), and these guidelines need to be openly available, but at the same time we aren't total idiots. My school has technically engaged a bit with a twitter feed, which makes it a bit odd that it wasn't mentioned at all in the assembly (I don't follow it as LissyNumber, but it's there), and I reckon that as far as this is concerned that's enough. Maybe the principal should get an 'official' account but that's it. Obviously, there may also be issues with tweeting teachers, but I don't actually go round actively looking for their accounts since as far as I'm concerned it's none of my beeswax.

Back on to the guidelines thing (stellar idea organisation, as always, going on here), I have to agree with @Puffles2010's Best Friend's suggestion that the guidelines be formed (at least in part) by the school council, probably working in conjunction with teachers.That said, I have a hunch that any suggestions would end up boiling down to Wheaton's law (i.e. 'don't be a dick'), 'don't post nudes' and probably 'be careful'. Chances are it might also be worth including a note about not constantly saying where you're going, but that might just be my slight paranoia.

Other than that, it's a pity that the school has a censored internet (which is also being switched over and is pretty eratic - at one point it actually briefly blocked a Google search for anything. ) since chances are it would be interesting to get us to search for our own names and see what comes up. I'm not sure where we'd find time to do that though, and maybe a lesson isn't the place to do it.

Another option may be lessons on how public profiles could be used to our own benefit (if employers can spot the bad stuff we post, surely it could be possible to put the good stuff out there too, right?**), but this is rather cynical as it will probably involve encouraging the formation of alter egos which strikes me slightly as deception, as will cynically trying to boost online reputation (I'd prefer to look good by actually being good). Not that it's stopped me from creating an alt very recently though, albeit more because I recognise that being a libertarian socialist might not go down to well. You can't be too careful anymore, I guess. Maybe there could be some sort of 'a students' guide to twitter' or something as well, but I really can't see that being received well (admittedly, I am also considering making it). I think there is a problem that we're growing up with social media, but it's growing up with us too, this means that until it becomes established it can be hard to react to stuff.

Basically though, the whole thing is this huge dilemma. on the one hand, abusing teachers is obviously wrong (occasionally understandable, but wrong), but at the same time can it be argued that it's morally right to trawl through student's feeds. Social networking and the like is pretty much unprecedented, maybe being around for a decade, tops (before there was still internet, but it was far less tied in with your real identity this had both benefits and costs), which is an added complication - I'm a 'digital native' (hate that phrase), and relatively early in my adoption of twitter, but it's only really exploded in usage amongst my peers (for want of a better word - it makes me sound like one of those 30 something social media experts or something) in the past year or so - how do you prepare?

Anyway, I'm rambling so I'd best wrap this thing up.
tl;dr?:
  • I'm probably over-reacting to that assembly
  • Being a dick is still, well, being a dick
  • Abusing teachers is bad, but so's trawling through twitter feeds
  • Schools clearly need some sort of social networking policy (actually, props to @missnfrancised for making this point), and there does need to be some education outside of slightly scary assemblies.
  • But, to use a Facebook turn of phrase, it's complicated. (any ideas?)
  • Also, I'm apparently turning into one of those 'social media expert' types. Admittedly I should have known this the moment I started referring to it as 'social media'. Also, I'm a hypocrite, but you knew that one already.

*Actually, the paranoia has improved a bit. I'm fairly certain at one stage I was terrified that the government would arrest anyone who disagreed even once in dawn raids a-la the Shock Doctrine  (which, as an aside, I really need to do a retrospective on. Hmm...) any day now. I no longer think the government wants to kill me, I just think that they don't care. This is both a relief and slightly soul destroying at the same time.

** I am aware that this may slightly contradict part of the point of my last post. Oops.

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