How Badly Do Teachers Need Twitter and Facebook?

The very worst teachers usually spoil it for the rest of us. A prime example is social media. Social media is designed to aid communication and make interacting much easier. However, it can also be exploited and abused. Never a day passes where there isn’t a story about a teacher that acted innapropriately by saying or doing something on a social media site. These teachers have single handedly prevented other teachers from using these sites to help support their students.

My colleagues and I recieved an email from my boss a few moths ago, warning us not to have any communication with or about our students on Facebook. This is not an issue for me because I don’t have a Facebook page (I have a Twitter account but my students are unaware that I do). But the trend is clear. Schools don’t want their teachers in a position that could cause negative attention to their establishment.

My position on this is unclear. I am slighly leaning towards backing the school, as I am not fully aware of the benefits of Facebook for teachers and students. Whilst I can clearly see the disadvantages of such interactions, I don’t really understand how such a ban would effect the quality of teaching.

Clearly, there are teachers that swear by it:

Faced with scandals and complaints involving teachers who misuse social media, school districts across the country are imposing strict new guidelines that ban private conversations between teachers and their students on cellphones and online platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

The policies come as educators deal with a wide range of new problems. Some teachers have set poor examples by posting lurid comments or photographs involving sex or alcohol on social media sites. Some have had inappropriate contact with students that blur the teacher-student boundary. In extreme cases, teachers and coaches have been jailed on sexual abuse and assault charges after having relationships with students that, law enforcement officials say, began with electronic communication.

But the stricter guidelines are meeting resistance from some teachers because of the increasing importance of technology as a teaching tool and of using social media to engage with students. In Missouri, the state teachers union, citing free speech, persuaded a judge that a new law imposing a statewide ban on electronic communication between teachers and students was unconstitutional. Lawmakers revamped the bill this fall, dropping the ban but directing school boards to develop their own social media policies by March 1.

School administrators acknowledge that the vast majority of teachers use social media appropriately. But they also say they are increasingly finding compelling reasons to limit teacher-student contact. School boards in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia have updated or are revising their social media policies this fall.

To those that have used social media with their students – is it really worth the risk?

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