Facebook & Twitter Revisited

Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on September 13, 2010

The mere mention of Facebook makes some of us administrators cringe.  Talk about Twitter and eyes roll.  But I say to you, think again.

Facebook now has 511 million active users worldwide, 57% of whom are in the United States.  Establish your school or district on Facebook and you have an instant public relations and communication opportunity.

You have options.   You could start with an official community Facebook page for your school, accessible to anyone in the Facebook world.  It’s easy to add photos, links, discussions, notes, events, and more.  And it’s a multi-way communication tool because people can post messages on your “wall.”  One challenge with a community page is that updates don’t show up in the News Feed.  Also, community pages are limited to 5,000 “followers,” but isn’t garnering that much support a problem we’d all like to have?

A Facebook group is an alternative.  What’s the difference?  For one thing, their size is smaller.  Intended to be places for people to get together and share information, groups are limited to 1,000 members.  But a more important distinction is that groups can be closed.  People who want to participate need your prior approval.  With a closed group, you may feel more comfortable posting pictures or videos from events, working online with your PTA or School Site Council—or even Robotics or Dance Team parents.  You might also like the feature that lets you quickly send messages to group members.

Facebook can be a powerful tool for pushing information out to parents and the larger community about your events, programs, themes, and more. For example, if you have recognize character traits each month, such as caring, respect, or resiliency, you can share and reinforce examples on Facebook.  Its also a great way to publicly thank parents and other volunteers who support your events.  After all, don’t we all love to see our name in lights?

Twitter is another social networking tool that may seem silly to some but can be a loyal ally in your communication campaign.  Each day, some 190 million users send out more than 65 million 140-character “tweets.”  Why not you?  Again, this is not about letting your friends in on what you had for breakfast; this is about building community and connecting with those who you want to know about your programs in your school or district.  Some schools even use it for fund raising.  That’s right: Tweet for dollars!

For both tools, here are some tips.  Think “down to earth.”  Be personable.  Add smiley faces on Facebook—and, yes, copious exclamation marks!!!!!  These touches make people want to follow you and tune in.  Don’t just communicate when something goes wrong or when you need people to act.  Share the fun in school and the accomplishments.   “Wow!  400 students joined me at flag salute today who had perfect attendance for the month of September!  Next month we’re shooting for 500!”  Then sit back and see how many people click, “Like it!”

Too busy to mess with both a Facebook page and a Twitter account?  Not a problem.  You can link your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that when you update Facebook, the information is immediately shared on Twitter, and vice versa.  I prefer to post to Facebook because I don’t have to worry about Twitter’s 140 word limit.  My Twitter followers get a truncated tweet, like a headline, that links to the full version on Facebook.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter are not just for the kids.  These easy-to-use Web 2.0 tools can help you build more of a sense of community and share the message you want others to hear about the work you do.  Learn more from these TICAL resources!


Two Cautionary Tales

Posted by Monte Burroughs on May 29, 2010

Man and woman peeking throughTwo recent legal cases present as cautionary tales concerning technology, civil rights, and the school’s role in loco parentis.

Evans v. Bayer involves a former student of Pembroke Pines (FL) Charter High School.  Katherine Evans created a Facebook account to express her dislike for a certain teacher at the high school. “But instead of other students expressing their dislike of the teacher,” writes Hannah Sampson of the Miami Herald, “most defended the teacher and attacked Evans.” Ms. Evans subsequently took down the Facebook page. Principal Peter Bayer later learned about the Facebook page and removed Ms. Evans from advanced placement classes and suspended her for three days.

Ms. Evans sued Principal Bayer for violating her civil rights under the 1st and 14th amendments, stating she had created the Facebook page after school, away from campus, using her computer.  The court agreed.

In  Blake J Robbins v. Lower Merion School District student Blake Robbins and his parents sued the Pennsylvania school district for “secretly viewing [the student] at home via webcams on school-issued laptops.” The district had issued all students at both its high schools laptop computers, each equipped with a built-in video camera.

According to a CBS News story, Harriton High School administrators accused Robbins of selling drugs and taking pills and stated they had images to prove it.  The student said the pictures show him eating candies.

Robbins and his parents allege that district employees, without parental knowledge or consent, remotely activated the camera on the student’s school-issued laptop and captured still images of family members in embarrassing and compromising situations.  The court issued an order prohibiting the district from “remotely activating, or causing to be remotely activated,” webcams on laptop computers issued to its students.  The case continues and you can follow it at Justia.com.

As school administrators, we need to take a lesson from both these cases.  Whether we’re dealing with how students are using technology or how we are using it ourselves, we need to clearly understand the limits of in loco parentis.


What’s in Your Digital Dossier?

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on November 20, 2008


“…access to the technologies is not enough. Young people need to learn digital literacy—the skills to navigate the complicated, hybrid world that their peers are growing up in. This type of inequity must be overcome. The costs of leaving the participation gap unaddressed over time will be higher than we should be willing to bear.” (John Palfrey and Urs Gasser,Born Digital, p.15)

An article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle on Nov. 10 underscores the importance of teaching digital literacy starting at a very early age and then on an ongoing basis. The story isn’t new—just the latest in an ongoing saga of students (even school officials) who do not understand that things posted online are public! In this case, a University of Texas football player was expelled from the team after using his Facebook page to post a racial slur about President-elect Obama.

Kids and some adults today have a new take on privacy. Many don’t realize that, even when posted in ‘private’ areas, anything they put online can be accessed if someone wants to badly enough. And we all have plenty of private data posted. Palfrey and Gasser call this collection of data we reveal about ourselves a digital dossier. They argue that although giving up control of this data makes life easier in the short run, we may later regret having been quite so open with this information. They also are concerned that adults are giving their children too much latitude with giving up control of this information because we choose to look the other way rather than teach them how to manage their digital dossiers. Click here to view a short video clip that explains this concept. (Of course, because the clip is posted on YouTube, your school’s filtering software may block it, in which case you may need to wait and watch the clip at home!)

Here are some questions to ponder: What are your thoughts about digital dossiers? How much information can we safely post online and what should we try to protect? What is our responsibility when it comes to teaching children how to protect themselves?