1. (The Ultimate Guide to Using Twitter In Education) Why is there resistance to using Social Media sites such as Twitter as a form of communication? What are the benefits of using Social Media as a form of communication in education? What are the dangers and/or drawbacks of using Social Media in education?
There are many reasons that teachers, administrators and students resist using social media as a form of communication. Lack of familiarity, resistance to new technology, fear of the unknown are often cited as reasons for this resistance. I have concerns in using social media as a form of communication with students. First, Twitter users will find a fairly consistent stream of spam accounts, and these types of accounts will inevitably find and follow students. These accounts share links with students offering services and products that have no place in an educational setting and that can make them vulnerable to computer viruses.
A second concern is the separation of personal and professional spaces. Social media sites like facebook and twitter were not created with education and the school classroom environment in mind. They have been adapted to fit those needs, but an inevitable overlap of personal and professional space has begun to develop. The responsibility to maintain that distinction will always rest on the teacher as students are still learning about these types of boundaries. While a skilled and vigilant teacher can avoid most, if not all, of these types of issues, one mistake or slip-up can result in negative consequences for the teacher.
That said, there are benefits to using social media to communicate with students. First, students are already using these types of sites so sharing information reaches them instantly and they don't have to change their routine or learn a new program to access information teachers might share on these sites. Second, teachers and students who can capitalize of the learning potential of their social networking groups can quickly and dramatically increase their access to information.
2. (Social Networking Best Practices for Educators) This article talks about two court cases, Snyder v. Millersville University and Spanierman v. Hughes in which two teachers were disciplined for interactions they had with students on MySpace. Do you feel the courts came to the correct conclusions? Is it ever appropriate to interact with students (present and past) on Social Media sites such as MySpace and Facebook?
In the two cases outlined, I do think the courts came to the correct conclusions. In the first case, it becomes clear that it is not appropriate to discuss internal issues related to the work place in a public forum. This is as true when using social media as it is in face-to-face conversations. Teachers need to be as careful about their speech in the hallways, public office spaces, classrooms as well as their conversations in social media forums.
In the second case is also quite clear: posting inappropriate images and engaging in unprofessional conversations with students online is not acceptable.
Overall, I don't think that much of what is covered in these two cases is of much concern for the teacher who transfers their profession practices in a face-to-face learning environment to an online learning environment. As for the rest of the guidelines presented in the document, I do believe that many of them, while well intentioned, are overly-restrictive and leave little room for any online conversations with students or colleagues. I also feel that this document might have the effect of instilling a feeling of fear in teachers who might read it. Too much of the document is about what shouldn't be done and what can't be allowed and not enough is about teaching teachers and students to be responsible in their online communications.