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Posts Tagged ‘k-12’

Michigan’s Education Transparency Bill is a Good Idea – Poorly Executed

August 2, 2012 1 comment

Michigan Legislature Derp

Here in Michigan, a provision was added to the Education Omnibus Budget Bill this year that concerns me as a website administrator for an educational organization.  It’s poorly crafted by legislators who are clearly (but not unsurprisingly) ignorant about technology.

The specific portion of the bill is Sec. 209 in P.A. 201 of 2012.  The full text of the public act is below, but it basically says that all educational institutions in the state (including K-12 and colleges/universities) now have to put a large, dog-ugly logo on the front pages of their websites linking to details about their budgets in the name of transparency. Read more…

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Missouri Senate Repeals Facebook Friending Ban for Teachers

September 16, 2011 2 comments

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. Read more…

Missouri’s Ban on Teachers Friending Students on Facebook is a Golden Gate to Impracticality

July 30, 2011 3 comments

[Update: newly-signed law is now being challenged in court by the Missouri State Teachers Association | via Slashdot]

The Missouri Senate recently approved Senate Bill 54 the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act” a law aimed at preventing schools from moving teachers facing misconduct allegations around from school to school without alerting parents.

Unfortunately, however, it contains some other more draconian provisions and social media takes some shrapnel.  Of concern is that it bans teachers from friending students on any social networking site, limiting them to creating fan pages to which all students in a class may have access.

Like so many ham-handed legislative measures, it curbs speech and interferes with education in the name of saving the children.

One of the many stupid facets of this bill is that the victim for which the bill is named was sexually assaulted by a teacher 20 years ago, long before the advent of social networking. Read more…

Five Tips for Faculty on Interacting With Students via Social Media

February 28, 2011 2 comments

Social Media in the Classroom

Several people have asked me questions (following the social media policy webinar I did with PaperClip Communications last week) about how faculty should interact with students using social media.  It’s a pressing issue first, because there have been several high-profile cases of inappropriate conduct, and second, because social media provides an opportunity to share relevant information to an entire class (or multiple classes) if it’s handled well.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Stay “On Campus: If they’re available on your campus, course management software like Blackboard, Banner or WebCT can do nearly everything Facebook can do and there’s a “check” in place in that the school is able to oversee the interaction. In addition, it allows other students to view, participate in and learn from the interaction.  We at GRCC use Blackboard and we also use a set of tools from Wimba (like Wimba Pronto which is a client that builds in collaboration, video chat, instant messaging, chat, etc. into one tool).  Most of these systems are also able to publish content to Facebook through an application like CourseFeed (so that students can still remain in Facebook – but participate in the class and get notifications and announcements).
  2. Don’t Friend – Be Friended: Faculty(and supervisors)should never initiate friend requests – they need to respect the fact that the power inherent in their position might make students fearful to refuse the request. If a professor wants to invite students to connect with them – it should be done in the form of a general invitation to the entire class(no different than providing their email in the syllabus).
  3. Stay Public: Conduct discussions in the open (ie through wall posts as opposed to personal messages) to help ensure that they stay focused on the course and don’t deviate into personal areas that might be inappropriate.  It’s the same as the principle behind conducting an after-class meeting with a student in a hallway as opposed to a classroom so that event he appearance of impropriety is avoided.
  4. Use the Buddy System:  It would be ideal if faculty would let their department head, dean or another colleague know that they’re using social media to interact with students AND to “friend” them to give themselves a system of checks and balances.  If you’ve got another pair of eyes helping you keep tabs on what you’re doing, they may be able to help you watch out for interactions that may be problematic.
  5. Be Transparent: Behaving as though others can see your conduct is always a good policy.  Anyone trying to maintain a public face that is markedly different from their private behavior is bound for epic failure in an age where online content is easily shared, and students (and consumers) have audio/video recording equipment with them at all times (on their mobile phones).  An “abstinence-only” approach to social media is bound for failure just as much as the “abstinence-only” approach to reproductive health education.  Content about you will go online whether or not you want it to – ultimately it’s best to have a say in the conversation.

In the end, as more of our communication moves to social media – eventually this will become the dominant paradigm for faculty as well as professionals in the private sector.  Better to get a head-start on familiarizing yourself with its nuances now than wait until it’s mandated as part of your contract.  Not only that -but I think you’ll find (as I have) that your teaching experience is richer for the relationships you’re able to maintain with students after the class has ended.  I’ve been amazed and humbled by the pursuit of scholarship that some of my students maintain outside the classroom – and I often learn just as much from them as they hopefully do from me.