NYC Lays Down Social Media Rules for Teachers
Social media holds enormous potential as a teaching tool, but also some obvious pitfalls, including the possibility of inappropriate teacher-student interaction (which of course exists independently of social media). On that note, in recent years there have been several dozen incidents involving inappropriate behavior by teachers using social media in New York City alone. Now, to keep the pedagogical relationship and lines of authority clear, New York City’s Department of Education has issued a set of guidelines for teachers who use social media for educational purposes.
First and foremost, public school teachers are not allowed to interact with students through their own personal social profile pages -- however, they may set up separate profile pages specifically for classroom use, provided they get approval from a supervisor. Meanwhile parents will probably also have to sign a consent form to allow their children to interact with their teachers via social media (in fact, in many cases -- for example, for teachers of younger children -- social media may be useful primarily as a tool for communicating with parents).
As far as what goes on via social media, the rules are commonsensical: “If a particular type of behavior is inappropriate in the classroom or a professional workplace, then that behavior is also inappropriate on the professional social media site.” With this in mind, teachers should have “no expectation of privacy” when interacting with students via social media, as administrators will be watching for transgressions.
Beginning in May, the NYC DOE will hold training sessions for teachers about the best way to use social media for teaching -- along with reminders about what constitutes questionable or inappropriate behavior. Part of the training will focus on maintaining the necessary distance and authority required for effective teaching. Teachers are also advised to give students emotional space by avoiding looking at their personal Facebook pages.