An interesting article in Education Week titled Friend or Foe? Balancing the Good and Bad of Social-Networking Sites draws attention (again) to the potential pitfalls of promoting the use of social networking in our schools and classrooms. It begins with a story of a group of students in a US school who are disciplined after photos of them shown drinking alcohol are discovered on a Facebook site. Since drinking alcohol is against the school rules, and the fact that Facebook is a public site, the school felt it had no option but to punish them.
The article argues that “educators must have a clear vision and guidelines for doing so, or they will face serious technical and legal pitfalls. And… schools have a role to play in educating students about safely and appropriately using such sites.” The writer lists the following tips for social networking use by educators:
- Establish a policy for dealing with incidents in which students break school rules and their inappropriate behavior is showcased publicly on social-networking sites.
- Outline clear guidelines for administrators that spell out how schools should discipline students based on information garnered from social-networking sites, and let parents and students know about those rules.
- Educate students about online-safety issues and how to use sites such as Facebook and MySpace responsibly
- Have a policy in place for dealing with cyber bullying.
- If teachers are using social-networking sites for educational purposes, they should establish clear guidelines for how they intend to communicate with students via those sites
. Some useful advice here, worth noting and acting upon.