This post is based on Matthew Soeth’s presentation at the recent Learning for Living Culture Summit in Auburn, CA. Matt is the co-founder of #iCANHELP, a nationally recognized nonprofit that works with students, educators and parents to create digital leaders and foster digital literacy skills. In addition, he is the co-creator of iCanHelpline, a social media helpline for schools, presently being piloted in CA. Matt spent the last 11 years in the classroom, teaching English, CTE Video Production and Student Leadership.
Most, if not all, of the roadblocks we construct when it comes to social media have to do with bigger beliefs about ourselves and life. Feeling like we don’t have the mental space, the patience, or simply enough time are all excuses we repeat in an effort to validate of our bigger beliefs about technology.
But this is the truth: Social media is here to stay. When you deny that fact, you rob yourself of one of the most powerful tools for being a more effective educator and for building great school culture.
Teachers who regularly use social media report greater benefits to student learning, engagement, and skills than teachers who spend less time using technology to support learning. One southern CA study of science classes began using Twitter and saw a 60% improvement in standardized test scores.
Similarly, schools that embrace social media as part of their culture are home to more positive and meaningful environments and relationships. When you share what is great at your school online, that news takes on even greater significance and positive results through the amplification effect of social media.
Do not assume students possess the maturity to know how to appropriately navigate social media.
- Have conversations about what is and isn’t appropriate
- Establish norms in regard to what is and isn’t kind
- Equip students with the best language and perspective to have and use when bad things happen on social media.
Create a written Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for all students at your school to contractually agree to and sign.
Include things like:
- How and when to ask permission to post photos of others
- How to keep things positive
- How and when to report anything inappropriate
- How to get help if they are being bullied online or harassed online or if they know of an online bullying situation
We live and educate in a digital age. Digital citizenship, digital literacy, and digital leadership are all integral elements to positive school culture and excellent education. Embrace social media carefully and intentionally and it will enhance everything you are trying to teach and build at your school.