This week, we have been exploring examples of social media use in classrooms. As a teacher, it is often easy to remain focused on the instructional facets of implementing social media into the classroom activities. However, doing so without considering expectations and etiquette can create a potentially explosive environment for yourself as well as students. Often students have not had guidance or instruction on ways to use social media tools for learning or professional endeavors. As such, they may not have a concept of the etiquette expected for such activity. Teaching students to use social media tools appropriately and effectively has become a responsibility of educators in addition to the content being taught.
This past spring (2015) I taught a Texas History course where students wrote weekly journal entries about the content we were learning. They were asked to create a character who would time travel throughout Texas History, documenting their experiences along the way. A few students (with my permission) had an idea to create Facebook pages for their time traveling characters. I had been wanting to find a way to implement social media in my classes for some time but could not come up with a good idea. Having an idea fall into my lap from the ingenuity of students was a wonderful surprise. I plan on adjusting the assignment this fall to include social media options like Facebook, WordPress\Blogger, or Tumblr. As such, I will need to develop a class social media policy and felt as though this assignment would be a great opportunity to get a head start on the process. Here is a brief explanation of the steps I took to do so:
Step One: Institutional Policies
It seemed like a good idea to begin this process by determining whether or not my institutions have existing policies on social media usage. A brief Google search for all three institutions I work at revealed that there are no guidelines currently in place. They do all have acceptable use policies and a student handbook in place. Consequently, I know that my policies must not violate these policies. It might be a good idea to reference the institutional policy in my own classroom guidelines for student awareness.
Step Two: Review Other’s Social Media Policies
Since my schools did not have specific social media policies, I thought it would be prudent to see what other institutions had adopted. I could not find many examples of individual classroom policies, likely because of the blocking of social media by administration, as mentioned in our course materials. So, I relied on a mixture of institutional policies and advice\help articles for guidance. Below is a listing of the sites I perused for inspiration:
- Pbworks Social Media Guidelines
- Social Media Guidelines, NYC Department of Education
- Guidelines for Using Social Media in the Classroom, McGill University
- How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School, Edutopia
- The Need for Student Social Media Policies, Educause Review
- Creating Social Media Guidelines for Educators, ASCD
Step Three: Develop Policies
Once I had a good idea of what policy various schools had enacted, it was pretty easy to develop my own policies. I broke the document into thematic groups and arranged the policies in a question and answer format. If a particular policy had lots of detail, I arranged the information in bullet point format.
Step Four: Get Feedback from Peers
I am going to get feedback from my PLN in this course, but I may also show it to some of my colleagues as well as a few other professors. This will ensure that I have not forgotten to add anything that might prove detrimental mid-semester. I will make changes before the semester begins based on feedback I’ve received here.
Step Five: Get Feedback from Students
During the first week of class, I plan on showing students these guidelines and asking them to provide feedback via a discussion forum in our course (Canvas). Overall, I want to ensure that they understand the expectations set forth and clarify any areas of confusion they may have. They can also email me with specific questions or concerns as well. Once I’ve read through the feedback from students.
Step Six: Review and Update
This stage is one that will occur each semester that I use these social media policies. They will need to change over time as the technology used evolves and student needs or issues arise. I will continue to do the student feedback process each semester in addition to my own review of the policies each semester.
Without further adieu, here are the social media policies I have created for my class: