Monday, February 15, 2016

Ukiah Unified has a social media policy. Let’s look at it.

In the last school board meeting there was a set of guidelines and policies that were established regarding how I conduct my social media practices and Internet use.  This is a good thing because the amount of teachers that are on social media is large and the stuff that often goes on those social media websites is sometimes illegal and inappropriate.  I’m not talking illegal in the “hey there’s a picture of a teacher snorting blow off a glass table” type of way.  I’m talking about the naive idea that teachers can and do take pictures of students and post them online, even in a perfectly innocent fashion.  That’s a no-no.

“…absent parent permission for the particular purpose, District employees may not send, share, or post pictures, text messages, e-mails or other material that personally-identifies District students in electronic or any other form of personal technology.”


Being the digital heathen that I am and the privacy advocate that I preach I can proudly say that I’ve never taken a picture of a student, even the entire class with their back turned, and posted it online.  Nope.  I was warned about that a long time ago by the nice folks at Ed Camps.  Parent permission or no-go.

I have a digital presence.  This blog is now over ten years old and most students know I write it.  Most students also find the blog boring and are disappointed when I don’t act shocked in class.  I have a Twitter account that is followed by students.  I follow none back.  I have students that are friends on Facebook.  None of this is unusual and those that profess that it is are paranoid freaks that think the government is controlling their soul via chemicals in drinking water.  I have a teacher-student relationship with Seniors in high school in person, and that doesn’t change simply because we are on social media.  The Internet is public, therefore my interaction with students is limited.  However my feeds are chock full of good information so I have no problem with student follows. 

Let’s see how the new rules impact me.

District employees are encouraged to limit their personal technology use during duty hours. Use of personal technology for non-District business should be limited to off-duty time and designated breaks.

This is where I think I’m using the technology for school use, even if the occasion is on my personal account.  I usually scroll through Twitter on breaks and a quick hit during the news to check for any breaking information or primary sources.  I only follow between 55 and 60 people at one time and most deal with news, politics, or economics.  Justin Wolfers links employment data?  I’m there.  Conrad Hackett makes a population distribution map?  Bring it up.  Reuters has breaking news?  Let’s pull it up!  And that’s what’s great about Twitter; I can take roll on the laptop and check Twitter in under a minute and I’m caught up.  The pay-off can be massive.  Years ago Al Jazeera English had the protest in Tahrir Square on Twitter first and we spent a long time in class watching history.  Facebook?  Meh.  I’ll check it on my prep for good videos but mostly it’s only good for Instant Messaging students that need help. 

Employees are encouraged to maintain a clear distinction between their personal social media use and any District-related social media sites. To avoid jeopardizing their professional effectiveness, employees are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the privacy policies, settings, and protections on any social networking websites to which they choose to subscribe and be aware that information posted online, despite privacy protections, is easily and often reported to administrators or exposed to District students.

Someone is going to get nailed on this one because there are just way too many naive teachers online.  Eventually someone will screw up and reveal their private life and be embarassed.  Thing is; this generation actually gets it.  They’ll laugh and move on, unless it’s something really egregious that might cause a legal or moral issue.  This isn’t ten years ago.  This generation lives within the Web.  And students are no better.  I’ve seen plenty online that tells me that kids need to be reminded that nothing online is private.  Nothing.

Before employees create or join an online social network, they should ask themselves whether they would be comfortable if a 'friend' decided to send the information to their students, the students’ parents, or their supervisor.

This is true.  It’s narrow-minded and potentially restricts the rights of teachers to free speech but true.  Since I live on the north coast of California I’m afforded more latitude in regards to speech.  I will use profanity because it is an excellent way to clarify a point.  I don’t spew it like Denis Leary so it hasn’t got me into trouble.  I’ll go after public figures, the media, and politicians in this blog and they way I see it I have the right to do so.  That includes my own school board that contains elected officials that listen to pathetic arguments from lazy parents about school start times, or something.  Hey, they read the blog and the only complaint I’ve recieved from a school board member is a disagree in policy.  Of course, I’ve also recieved compliments too. 

Educators must give serious thought to the implications of joining an online social network. District employees should not have online interactions with students on social networking sites outside of those forums dedicated to academic use 

“Educators must give serious thought to the implications of joining an online social network?”  Like, it’s public and don’t be an idiot?  Like, hey remember that they are your students and not your friends?  I have limited interaction with my students online and most of it is on Twitter.  But if a student Tweets me with “hey Brown, you need a new point guard so put me in the next game” I’m going to respond with the same smart-assery that I’d give in the classroom.  Something like “I heard The Smurfs need a starting center and your 5’3” frame would be better suited for that team.”  It’s harmless.

We do need to be careful though.  Take this Saturday night interaction I had while watching the Metallica concert streaming on YouTube.


Justine is a reporter for the local newspaper, the Ukiah Daily Journal.  It’s 9:20 on a Saturday night and I can’t tell if she actually thinks it would be required for students to listen to a Metallica concert.  To a normal person that would be called a joke.  Who knows what’s going on here but a sarcastic and whitty response could have been potentially dangerious.  So instead I went the Social Science standards route.  Just a note; we do watch the Metallica concert in Russia when the Soviet Union fell.  We watch a clip of it anyway.

Social media teachers usually split into three groups. 

-Teachers that don’t use social media at all.  My wife fits in this group and it is quite small at schools.

-Teachers that are not digital natives but are on social media.  These people may not be used to the digital culture or pitfalls of getting engaged with the online community.

-Teachers that are digital natives, are fully engulfed in the digital world, and have an understanding of the culture of the Internet.

Believe it or not it’s the third group that needs the most guidence.  These are the young teachers that have grown up with a public face and don’t always remember that it follows them forever.  They forget that students are not friends so Snapchat feeds can actually be dangerous.  They forget that students have opinions too and the Internet will expose a lot that they might not like about a teacher.  They really need to be reminded that the Net is forever present.

And myself?  Well I’ll still be online as ever, yet still aware that everything I do here is public.

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