Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why Have A Social Media Policy Anyway?

I have spent a lot of time lately blogging about Social Media. Whether it was trying to provide resources for getting the school year started off right with Social Media or providing you with tips for Social Media Leadership in schools. I really do believe that we are seeing (and some of us a part of) a revolution in education. For too long we have been teaching 21st Century Students with 19th Century methods.

All of this talk about using blogs, wikis, Twitter, Facebook, Nings, and others in the classroom always leads to a discussion on policy. People ask me about examples of good Social Media Policies. What they don't like to hear is that I don't have one. Ok, well, that is not entirely true. I do have examples of school policies that mention Social Media and Social Networking. Here are a few examples:

East Lothian Council Self-publishing and Social Media Guidelines: Pupils
Arapahoe High School Blogging Policy
Laramie County School District 2 - Safe Blogging Policy

Those are some well-crafted policies as it pertains to blogging and Social Media in general. But, when someone asks me about my best example of a Social Media Policy I have to say that, I believe the best policy is probably one you already have in place.

Why is there such a push by school districts to rush and have a policy in place for teachers and students? Look at what the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) did. Over the summer they redrafted their email policy which said, in a nutshell, that all communications with students had to be done through official CPS email accounts. Basically, the policy outlawed blogs, wikis, Twitter, etc, which was odd because a week earlier CPS was all over the media explaining how they were going to leverage the power of Twitter to keep the community updated. They have retracted a bit and are going to examine the policy to make more Social Media sited available.

My point here is that CPS and other districts around the country are knee-jerking and realizing they don't have a blogging policy, or a Twitter policy, so they create the blanket policies that, while hoping to give the appearance of openness in education and progressiveness, actually limit a teachers ability to use New Media in their classroom.

Most schools (because they have to) have an Acceptable Use Policy that covers general computer and Internet use. If schools and teachers are are doing a good job of teaching their students about responsible Internet use why create a whole new policy that just prevents progress?

How do you teach kids responsible Internet use? There are several free curricula available. Here are a few examples:

Digital Citizenship Curriculum
Digital Literacy
A Digital Literacy Curriculum from Microsoft
Technology Literacy Curriculum

I get asked all the time about my districts' Social Media Policy. You will be disappointed to know that we don't have one. Not because we haven't thought about it. We have spent a lot of time discussing what would work best for our kids and our teachers. We decided that what we have in place works. But it works because we spend a lot of time talking about responsible Internet usage.In my mind why limit a teacher use of Social Media or punish a student for an inappropriate comment on a blog (which should be moderated by a teachers anyway). Take the time to educate!

If you are a school leader, principal or administrator in district that is considering a Social Media policy, I encourage you to look at the computer usage policies you have in place and examine how you are teaching your students Digital Responsibility.

What do you think? Does your school or district have a Social Media Policy? Does it limit what you can do? Is your school or district considering a Social Media Policy? I look forward to the discussion!

Image Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons-View The Original Here


  1. Thanks for linking to our East Lothian policy.

    A point that might be worth adding here is that a social media policy needn't just be about ensuring responsible use.

    One of our objectives was to try to make clear that in East Lothian we recognised the potential benefits of social media in learning, and encouraged their use.

  2. In my research, I discovered a majority of board members do not have any training in technology applications that enhance student learning. There is a need for training in how twitter, blogs and other social media tools are necessary parts of 21century learning.
    I am signing in as Anonymous since I don't have any account.

  3. Several years ago, I was an AP at a school in Essex, MD. We had blocking software that wouldn't let us type in the name of our town because "sex" was in it. I thought the whole idea was ridiculous, and we should be using opportunities that arose as teachable moments rather than going overboard with blocking. I see the same attitude now with social media. Can problems arise? Of course, but concentrating on "on no, what if" clouds the beauty of "oh yes, what if . . ."

    T. Wilkins

    PS love this RT from tweaverville: "RT @eduinnovation: RT @Digin4ed: Filtering and Blocking prepares students about as much as "Just Say No" did. #edchat HA!"

  4. Our district adheres to the philosophy that "Guided appropriate use, backed up by monitoring and disciplinary sanctions for policy violations may allow Web 2.0 to succeed in the K-12 environment" in line with a comment I posted on the SocialMediaGuidelines site ( http://socialmediaguidelines.pbworks.com/ ) earlier this year.

    Being an E-Rate eligible district we are held to compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act to receive Federal funds under that program. Filtering inappropriate content is the usual approach districts take, but ours is starting to become less restrictive on what we filter--relying more upon a teaching and monitoring approach instead of complete denial through filtering. So far the new approach seems to be working out, and our teachers are now being permitted to use Web 2.0 tools to meet the needs of our digital learners in the classroom. The teachers are jazzed and students engaged, so I would recommend it as a step in the right direction for districts looking to adopt a more progressive policy toward the use of social media in the classroom.