Social media and education – how to reach the world while maintaining privacy

The Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) hosted an informative professional development session about social media with an amazing lawyer, Nadya Tymochenko, and Superintendent Chris Samis. We learned about some of the legal issues regarding how schools and school boards use social media.

As educators, we need to consider some important points when using various social media platforms in our lessons. Social media is a new phenomenon that can have many benefits for education, but we need to continue to think about ensuring the anonymity of our students.

When do we need for informed consent from parents?

When you reflect upon this question, you can see many areas of concern that may be relevant. There are three main points to consider:

  1. We need to let parents know how their children will be engaged in social media. This could be by sending a letter home or including information in newsletters. You should include how and why you are using social media so parents are fully informed.
  2. Parents need to know that they can withdraw their consent at any time. Educators need to ensure there is an easy process in place for parents to withdraw consent. This should be included in all communication home about the project.
  3. Students need to understand what privacy means. Educators cannot take this piece for granted. What privacy means to us may not be the same as what privacy means to our students. This is also a great opportunity to discuss digital citizenship with our students.

Weaving together a bigger picture

The pieces of information shared on social media add up over time to create a bigger picture. This can be a wonderful thing for seeing how learning progresses. But, we must remember that when separate pieces of information from social media are grafted together, it can provide a lot of information. Whatever we do as educators, anonymity needs to be upheld for our students.

Setting up a plan

If you are going to use social media in your school or class, it is important that you create a plan. This plan should:

  • clearly define what social media platform will be used
  • how social media will be used (what will be shared, how it relates to curriculum)
  • have clear rules for maintaining anonymity of data
  • provide a guideline for consistency in language and usage
  • define processes to deal with difficulties or conflicts
  • outline who will monitor all posts, remove inappropriate posts and follow up with parents as needed
  • include the process for parents to withdraw consent

This plan should extend to social media accounts that deal with education and students both while at school and at home.

I am very appreciative to have had this opportunity to reflect on all of these wonderful points brought up about Social Media and legal issues in our education system. Thank you Nadya Tymochenko and Chris Samis!

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