Social media is huge. All of us are constantly plugged into more and more social networks every day. On an average day, we will tweet about our blogs, Digg a couple news articles and post YouTube videos to our Facebook pages. Facebook is the No. 2 website in America, according to research house Alexa.com, and its fastest-growing demographic is people over age 35. So why aren’t schools using more social media?
The easy answer is: because interactions between schools and social networking sites have not gone so smoothly in the past. Two court cases in different Pennsylvania school districts where students posted defamatory comments about their principals on social networking sites show how sticky the situation can become. What’s more, the decisions in the two cases (J.S. v Blue Mountain School District and Layshock v Hermitage School District) were at odds with one another, proving that we have a ways to go before we can come up with hard and fast rules about how to use and regulate social media in schools.
But let us imagine that instead of being used by a couple students with smartphones and grudges against the administration, these sites were being used in a professional manner by educators.
On his blog AssortedStuff.com, Instructional Technology Specialist for Fairfax County Schools Tim Stahmer said that the district’s PR department is circulating a document that details how they would utilize new social media.
Stahmer doesn’t seem too thrilled with the proposal, and I can see why. The document said that Fairfax could use social media to, “Reinforce messages Educate stakeholders. Promote good news. All one-way, us to them, broadcasting of information, which is pretty much how our system uses it’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, mostly as a link to press releases.”
A link to press releases? Isn’t that what good old websites and e-mail are for? Schools have a golden opportunity when it comes to social media as a source for feedback from the community. With so many schools in troubleand ideas for education reform bouncing off the wallsthis is the perfect moment for schools to lend a digital ear to what the parents and community members in their district have to say. Sure there might be some angry rants, but if school districts open up the digitals channels, there’s a great chance effective, rational dialogue would be there, too.
Tricia Smith, Spring intern