A school district in southern Mississippi recently enacted a policy prohibiting teachers from communicating with students via social networks like MySpace and Facebook.
The Lamar County School Board said the policy was approved because of concerns that casual contact between teachers and students via these sites would be unprofessional.
I am curious what you think. Is the Mississippi policy on target or misguided? I am asking because I communicate with some of my students via Facebook.
First, some background: A couple of years ago, Towson’s PR Group, comprised of PRSSA and IABC student members, began publicizing meetings on Facebook. I serve as Faculty Adviser for the Group. Being a Facebook novice at the time, I set up a simple, basic page so I could receive the messages. Mine was completely devoid of photos, personal information, etc.
I left the page like that for months. Then one of my students jumped me: “Potter!” she chided, “Why don’t you put some information on your Facebook page? It sucks!”
I confided that I didn’t know how. Truth is, at the time, I didn’t know whether or not it was appropriate for a Baby Boomer professor like me to be on Facebook. Like many other Boomers, I arrived late to the social media party. But I am a quick learner. I am learning by doing, by being personally active in blogging, Facebook, and other forms of social media.
After the chiding from my student, I started playing around with Facebook and quickly was hooked. Over time, more and more people invited me to be Facebook Friends, including current and former students. I am always respectful of people’s privacy, images, and information, especially students. I only use Facebook in ways that are tasteful and respectful.
What we post on Facebook has the potential to be detrimental to personal image and to employment prospects. I never preach or scold anyone about what he or she includes in Facebook. Instead, I try to set an example of how I believe Facebook can be used in a responsible, creative manner.
But the Mississippi policy issue has me thinking. Is it inappropriate for teachers and students to communicate via Facebook or MySpace? From my own experience, I conclude that it is acceptable for me to communicate with students as long as certain conditions are met:
- That communication is honorable, appropriate, respectful, and in good taste.
- That communication has some educational value.
- That communication is age-appropriate.
- That communication does not get too personal so as to make either the sender or receiver feel uncomfortable.
- That communication does not invade a person’s privacy.
- That the communication in Facebook stays in Facebook.
What say you, More With Les learning community?