How One School District Finally Embraced Social Media (Sort Of)

Social media sites are blocked in Springfield IL schools. For now. Thanks to a progressive new approach to social media, the district is consulting with teachers and administrators to figure out the best way to use social media.

An article on the State Journal-Register has all the details but here’s the 30-second version of what the new guidelines will entail:

- Teachers are discouraged from sharing personal information with students or “friending” them on Facebook.
- School district employees would be required to register district-affiliated sites with the building administrator.
- Registered sites should be “walled-off” from any personal sites, meaning students should not have access to any part of a teacher’s personal site.
- Teachers are not allowed to post personal information about students.
- Teachers are not allowed to advocate against school district policies or curriculum.

What It Means

Basically, you can’t get too close with students, share too much information about yourself, or say anything negative about the school. Not quite the arena of open sharing that social media is based on. It’s at least a good step forward from downright blocking of social media sites. Here’s a bit more about how the district views social media usage in the classroom:

The district also hopes to create a set of guidelines that will allow the use of social media as an educational tool, Sherman said.

Under the proposal, teachers would not be allowed to post confidential information about students — including pictures, test scores or samples of schoolwork. They would have to use district email and other communication tools to discuss personal school matters.

They would also be required to block off access to their personal social media sites from the people who have access to their district-affiliated sites.

“For example, a teacher may have a classroom section on his or her social media site in which homework tips and reminders regarding upcoming assignments or tests are provided,” the policy states. “Any student who accesses this portion of the site must not be able to access unrelated portions of the site.”

Employees wanting to create a school-affiliated site would first have to get permission from their building administrator. Those sites would also have to include a link to the district’s social media guidelines.

The same rules would apply to organizations that are not governed by the school district, but that would like to be recognized by the district.

But in the end, McFarland said, nothing has been decided. The proposed guidelines are simply that — proposals.

“I wouldn’t take any of that as firm or in stone,” he said.

Article image illustration by Roy Wieman via EdWeek