I blogged previously about how the Missouri Senate had banned teachers contacting students through unapproved channels (like corresponding with them via personal email accounts not supervised by schools, or friending them on Facebook).
The law was problematic for a variety of reasons, but one thing that concerned me was the liklihood of a teacher violating it unintentionally given the ubiquity of electronically-mediated communication in everyday life.
For example; most smartphones allow users to send email from multiple email accounts with one selected as the default – I’ve frequently sent emails from an address I didn’t intend to as I hastily responded to a pressing question or request. That simple, innocuous act could put a Teacher’s employment in jeopardy. Similarly, a teacher “liking” a page for something like the Harry Potter books could also put them at risk of violating the law in the event any of their students were also fans of the same page.
Kudos to the Missouri Senate for doing the right thing (though it looked as though the overly-broad law was going to be taken to the woodshed by the judiciary anyway):
Missouri Senate lets teachers be Facebook friends with students
By Emil Protalinski | September 15, 2011, 9:43am PDT | ZDNet
“The Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) has managed to secure another win in its battle in fighting a new law regarding social networking with students. A repeal of the recently passed law has unanimously passed the Missouri State Senate. […] Beetem found that based upon the evidence, teachers in Missouri use social media as one of their primary forms of communication. He also ordered that under this ruling, teachers cannot be disciplined or suffer adverse consequences for using non-work related social media.” (More)
We should be encouraging teachers to engage students with social media, not setting up barriers. The benefits vastly outweigh the costs; people overall are writing more than ever before as a result of the ease of social media – and with direction from educators this can turn into a powerful tool to improve the literacy of the population.