Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership



  • Home
  • Overview
  • Benefits of Social Media
  • Services
  • Legal Implications
  • Policies to Enact
  • Recommendations
  • Resources
  • Appendix A: Template
Social Media Handbook for Administrators

Developed by
The Technology Information Center
for Administrative Leadership
A Statewide Educational Technology Services (SETS) project
Funded by the CDE in collaboration with
the Santa Cruz County Office of Education

Table of Contents

3—Social Media Overview and Its Educational Significance

4—Benefits Of Social Media in Educational Leadership

5—Services for Using Social Media in Education

8—Legal Implications in Using Social Media in Education

9—Policies To Enact

10—Recommendations for Strategic Implementation


12—Appendix A: School Social Media Implementation Template


Jason Borgen - Former Program Director, Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership (TICAL), Santa Cruz County Office of Education (@jborgen)

Susan Brooks-Young - S.J. Brooks-Young Consulting, TICAL Cadre Member (@sjbrooksyoung)

Harry Dickens - Former Technology Director, Arkansas Public School Resource Center, TICAL Cadre member (@hdickens)

Dr. Lisa Gonzales - Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator, Santa Clara County OfHice of Education, TICAL Cadre Member (@techietwinmom)

Sandy Somera - Former Educational Technology Coordinator, TICAL Consultant (@sandysomera)

Dr. Devin Vodicka - Superintendent, Vista Unified School District, TICAL Cadre Member(@dvodicka)

Social Media Overview and Its Educational Significance

With the explosion of the use of websites like Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and others, many educators have emerged with questions and concerns. What are these tools? How do they work? Is there a role for them in education? Are they safe? Will our current district policies protect us? At the same time, educators far and wide are using blogs, wikis, online presentation software like Prezi, photo sharing sites like Flickr, and note-taking applications like Evernote to work with students and staff. It's a struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing technology and online resources. And while some educators are using social media sites, many others educators are far from understanding how these online tools can improve productivity, communication and effectiveness.

How popular is social media? As of the date of the publication of this handbook, Facebook currently boasts 2.27 billion users. And while Facebook has penetrated 76.8% of the population in the United States, the growth in other continents has been even more astronomical. Africa increased its Facebook users by 2,988% between 2000 and 2011. Similarly, the Middle East has increased 2,244% between 2000 and 2011. As of 2011, estimates are that there are 500,000,000 regular Facebook users—one of every 13 people on Earth. Using social media also aides in modeling and preparing students for a global and collaborative economy. 18-34 year-olds are the most prolific users, with some 48% of Facebook users in that age group checking in daily, many doing so before getting out of bed. Social Media 2013 InfographicThe ability to connect in a brief, immediate, and easy way with other users drives them to Facebook. Our schools are filled with students whose parents fall into the 18-34 year-old age group. As a society, mobile tools have impacted communication and shifted expectations. The public expects access to fresh information, and these tools have made it possible for the public to interact with and contribute to the flow of information. School leaders have an opportunity to create their own messages and broadcast the information in a timely way to their communities.

And then there's Twitter. Its 140-character microblogs display short messages that can be written and read by users of one of the fastest growing social media tools. Twitter has seen a 2100% increase in average numbers of tweets per day, from 50 million per day in March 2010 to some 140 million per day in February 2013. Use of Twitter on a mobile device is up 1100% during that same time period.

So what does this tell us? Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the others are part of the social fabric of the new generation of students, not to mention their parents who are the eyes, ears and voices shaping the future of our school districts. Parents, students, and employees debate, share, create and collaborate with their friends and greater community.

What is social media? In order to define it, we need to start by breaking down the two words. Media is an instrument for communication, and traditional forms of media that most of us have grown up with include watching television and listening to radio. Social media tools have changed the way people communicate because they have made it easy to not only watch and listen but also to join in and participate as content creators. Social media is a social instrument for communication. If we want to expand the definition, social media can be defined as a way of communicating that allows one to be social, to interact and communicate with others. Using easy to learn tools that don't require any special skills or knowledge, anyone can publish to the internet, potentially extending the reach of these communications to many others, globally, by leveraging the connections between people. The interaction can be as simple as responding, commenting on an article, and providing feedback or re-purposing content for some other use. How can schools operate efficiently and effectively in an era of social media and rapid communication of brief snippets of information? By understanding how social media tools can aid you in communicating and reaching your community, educators can begin to shift from a "not in my district" perspective to one of "how can these tools help us get our story out to the community?"

Benefits Of Social Media in Educational Leadership

Technology is impacting international diplomacy. Under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's leadership, the U.S. Department of State has embraced 21st Century Statecraft, which is defined as "The complementing of traditional foreign policy tools with newly innovated and adapted instruments of statecraft that fully leverage the networks, technologies, and demographics of our interconnected world." In Secretary Clinton's own words, "We're working to leverage the power and potential in what I call 21st century statecraft. Part of our approach is to embrace new tools, like using cell phones for mobile banking or to monitor elections. But we're also reaching to the people behind these tools, the innovators and entrepreneurs themselves."

Interestingly, the former Secretary's comments reflect changes that we also see in local politics and leadership for school districts.

social media use 2012-13 If international policy is now shaped by "using social media and the Internet in combination with more traditional tools," what does this imply for leaders at the local level? First and foremost, educational leaders must recognize that the impact of social media is a significant factor in shaping perceptions and beliefs. 2013 research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that 71% of adults are now active on social networking sites. In addition, the research found that even controlling for demographic factors such as age and education, social network users "were more likely to be politically involved than similar Americans."

Once we as school leaders recognize this reality, the first step is to become engaged in the social networks as a contributor. Many districts have been using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Blogger as platforms to share good news and to help us respond in crisis situations. A great way to start is to begin blogging. Information posted to the blog can be fed into a district/school website, shared through the district Facebook page, and linked in a Twitter update. These multiple avenues allow others to re-tweet, share the Facebook update, subscribe to the blog, or embed elements in their own websites. The "viral" effect can be amazing and participatory. Below is a screenshot of data from some uploads to one district's blog which shows that there is a high level of interest from the community in these topics.

If we truly want schools that prepare students for success in this digital age, we as leaders need to model the way.


Services for Using Social Media in Education

Each type of social media service offers a diverse approach to pushing out information. One is not exclusive of the other and to be effective it is recommended that several services be used. A good practice is to insure all accounts are created with school/district/organization issued email accounts and if the accounts are not officially board approved to have a short disclaimer stating something along the lines of: The opinions and positions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect my organization's positions, strategies, or opinions.


Blog Presentation
A blog (a portmanteau of the term web log) is a discussion or information site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first.

There are a number of free and easy to use resources to help you get started as a blogger:

Blogs utilize Real Simple Syndication (RSS) is a protocol which creates web feeds. Embedding RSS feeds into a website generates automated, real-time content updates.

  • Start a blog for your classroom, grade level/department, school, or district.
  • Start a blog on a particular topic such as professional development, school finance, or collective bargaining.
  • Subscribe to a blog using tools such as Flipboard
  • Embed your RSS feed (or one that you like) into a website.
  • Comment or provide feedback to a blog post.
    Note: Writers have the ability to disable comments or specify that comments are moderated before going live to filter inappropriate comments.



Facebook Presentation
Facebook is a social networking service that allows users to connect with others, to join groups, and to follow topics, users or groups of interest.


  • Create a Facebook page for your school or district, school, PTA, tax initiative, sporting team, etc.
    Note: we suggest creating a profile for your district and each of its schools to ensure that someone outside of your organization does not create one for you and then use it beyond your control.



Twitter Presentation
Social networking/microblogging service.

Each post has a limit of 140 characters. Used to share events, resources, and significant highlights from an organization. Also used for discussions and professional development.

Anyone has the ability to see public posts. An account give you the ability to follow people, organizations, lists etc. Works also with SMS services through cell phones.

Some key Twitter terminology:

  • Tweet - a single post.
  • Hashtag (always starts with "#") - A keyword or search term on Twitter that allows users to categorize tweets. View the result for #edleaders.
  • "@" before a username (i.e., @porticalorg) - designates the users name/handle, use it for replying or inquiring to specific user(s).
  • RT (Retweets) - reposting a user's tweet, gives them credit. Written RT@user.

  • Allows for communication to stakeholders to share successes and resources as well as to quickly broadcast emergency information.
  • Create a more personable account (i.e., Principal_Michael)
  • Create a more official organization account (i.e, Garfield_High)
  • Create department accounts
  • Use services such as: HootSuite or SocialOomph to automate and schedule tweets.
  • Use services such as to curate content. See example from Superintendent in Oxnard, CA.
  • View a list of some popular education hashtags to utilize and search for educational resources.

  • @StandardSupt - Superintendent, Standard School District (CA)
  • @bhsprincipal - Principal in MA
  • @sac_coe - Sacramento County Office of Education
  • @LASchools - Los Angeles Unified School District
  • @sup_du_jour - Superintendent Oxnard High School District (CA)
  • @NMHS_Principal - Principal New Milford High School (NJ)


YouTube is the most popular video service on the web. As of August 2012, 72 hours of video are uploaded every minute to the site. Over 3 billion hours of video are watched every month by over 800 million viewers. is specifically designed for education. In addition, schools can register for YouTube for Schools - - as a way to restrict access to specific videos that have educational relevance.

In addition to viewing videos, many educators are creating and uploading their own content as a way to connect with students, families, or the community.

  • Peruse
  • Create your own YouTube Channel.
  • Upload videos to your channel.
  • Embed your videos in blogs or websites.
  • Cross post your videos through social media sites.


Google Plus

Google Plus is one of the many applications available from Google. You find people and place them in circles that you create. You can then target your communication to specific circles. Within Google Plus you can start Hangouts. Hangouts allow you to video conference with up to 10 people. The people participating in the hangout can take turns sharing their screen, which makes this a great tool for professional development. For more than 10 participants you can host a Google Hangout on Air. With Hangouts on Air your video conference is recorded and saved to YouTube.



Legal Implications in Using Social Media in Education

It is important when using social media, to understand some of the relevant legal aspects. With social media still in its infancy, new and reformed laws come into play. For example, in 2010, California passed SB 1411 which makes it illegal to impersonate another person in an online environment. The consequences include a fine of up to $1,000, and/or up to a year in jail. Laws such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which adds several significant restrictions when websites collect information from children under 13 clarifies why many social media sites (Facebook, YouTube, etc) do not allow children under the age of 13 to create accounts.

Whether social media use is allowed in the school or not, there will always be carryover from student interactions at home that affect the school day. You can find out what laws are in effect in your state and others by taking a look at the document A Brief Review of State Cyberbullying Laws and Policies put together by the Cyberbullying Research Center. Most of these laws are geared to protect students from their peers and can be ambiguous as it may be difficult to prove that some of the online behavior does in fact affect the school day. There are also many cases where students are harassing and/or mocking teachers and staff. What type of discipline can be imposed on these students? According to two court rulings from 2011, students have the freedom of speech to say what they want about teachers, administrators, and other staff members as long as there are no threats made. In the article "Why Students Have a Right to Mock Teachers Online" Time writer Adam Cohen provides a detailed analysis of students' right to free speech online.

Cyberbullying Hurts band-aid We are in a new era of communication, collaboration, and networking. Laws are always lag a little behind the new tools and innovations. As state and national policymakers gain more understanding about the implications of social media use in education and its effects on teaching, learning, and socializing, we will slowly see more laws and guidelines being enacted by local and federal governments. Taking a proactive approach will be the most successful. Educating your stakeholders in appropriate and ethical use and celebrating the successes can be the key to minimizing any legal ramifications. The government is just now starting to see the significance of social media's role in education—legislation will follow soon. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which mandates schools that receive federal funding to block inappropriate web content recently added a provision that mandates schools to educate their students on digital citizenship and appropriate online behavior. This important educational component has also been added to many states' legislation to be included in a district's technology plan (i.e. AB307 in California). Check to see if it is mandated by your state. Understanding various education-related laws and regulations that can affect teaching and learning in your district can assist your stakeholders in beginning to adopt policies, regulations, and guidelines.

Policies To Enact

Several newsworthy attempts to regulate use of social media are illustrative of efforts that should not be undertaken with respect to policy:

In July 2011 the California School Boards Association (CSBA) released sample Board Policy and Administrative Regulation language for district-sponsored social media. According to CSBA, district-sponsored/official sites should include a purpose statement, a disclaimer, and a notice that the site will be monitored. Many California districts have since adopted the recommended policy and regulation and/or used this document to develop their own. See some examples of Social Media Policies by a variety of schools/ districts:

In many districts, the approval of the new policy was accompanied by guidance to staff highlighting key recommendations and essential components of the policy. View Carlsbad's example of guidelines. Subsequent to the release of the CSBA policy, a consortium of agencies that included CSBA, TICAL, CUE, and ACSA collaborated to formulate a new approach to technology policies through a project entitled "ON[the]LINE." According to the group, the goal is "to help boards adopt policies that focus on desirable student and staff conduct (such as academic honesty, safe and positive school climate, non-disruption of the educational program, and appropriate staff-student interactions) rather than on specific, rapidly changing technologies that students and staff may use to engage in misconduct." According to the consortium website, plans are underway to review the recommended social media policy to better align with the principles of the new initiative.

Smaller districts are also using free or low-cost web-based tools to assist in the development of social media and other digital policies. One tool recommended by a superintendent is Policy Tool. Explore their free social media policy creation tool, Policy Tool.

The United States Department of Education has posted a "Privacy Impact Assessment for Social Media Sites" (May 2011) that includes a description of the legal authority to use social networking resources. In particular, it references the Open Government Plan that "encourages public participation using web-based collaboration tools and will use such tools to engage the public. Accordingly, the Department uses social media websites or applications for external relations (such as communications, outreach, and public dialogue), to provide information about or from the Department, to encourage citizen participation, engagement, and collaboration, to provide a new channel for ED to broadcast core messages targeted at the ED community and to provide customer service."

As a result, the US Department of Education maintains an active presence on several social media outlets. Disclaimers such as those recommended by CSBA are also posted on the USDE website.

Recommendations for Strategic Implementation

Image of wagon full of social media logosSocial media can be a great communication and management tool for educators, but measures must be taken to protect students. Below are six key recommendations to insure successful implementation.

  • Start small
  • Develop early adopters
  • Create a user group that gets together on a regular basis to develop criteria and best practices.
  • Use a cycle of inquiry approach: Plan/Do/Check/Act
  • Develop and update a planning document/blog on where are you now?
  • Develop/utilize (see Appendix A/template) a checklist/document to get started that includes:
    • Procedure
    • Pilot
    • Scaling
    • Person(s) responsible
    • Timelines

Once your user group and/or team has been identified, one of the first tasks is to define the vision for marketing your program and develop a list of criteria that each post and service adheres to. Below is a list of items that should be kept in mind when identifying this criteria.

Posting Criteria:
Image of social media logos on stamps

  • Each post relates to the vision of the school/organization
  • Post does not name any students by full name
  • Post is neutral, not showing any political implications
  • Post has only positive connotations
  • Post provides links and/or follow-up resources
  • Posts are checked for spelling/grammar errors

Edutopia has also created a resource Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School to help you get started.


Image of heart made of social media logos

Appendix A: School Social Media Implementation Template

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