I'll keep this short: educators need to be on social media with their students. There's a litany of reasons why, but I think the most compelling is that students need modeled behavior. We've starved them of that and it's literally costing them jobs. We need to stop treating social media like our culture treats sex - a dirty act that you shouldn't do, shouldn't talk about, and should rebuke cultural pressures to do it. Instead, we should fold it into our educational behaviors - just like we do "please" and "thank you."
Sure there are bad apples who abuse the medium, but there are bad apples who abuse the medium of the classroom too. Poor choices by educators on social media are just that: poor choices by educators. We need to train and hold them accountable to proper behavior on social media, not punish the lot and blame the medium.
5 key steps to implementing a social media policy
- Define social media for your institution. Is it all forms of public communication? Is it defined by the channels you use? Here's a good generic one you can pilfer: Social media is any service in a digital space whose purpose is to socialize with two or more people, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pintrest.
- Notice the definition is "whose purpose" is to socialize. We all know people use Facebook to plan events, or Twitter direct messaging to exchange email addresses. However, the purpose of the service is social.
- Create a Digital Ethics policy that includes a Social Media section. Social media is part of a much broader reality: digital space. Just as schools create policies that hold students to certain ethical expectations outside of schools, a new policy should be drawn up that outlines all things Digital Ethics. One should be made for faculty and another should be made for students. Here's a good generic Social Media section of such a policy for the faculty handbook: Sample_SocialMedia_Policy
- TRAIN YOUR FACULTY. This is often the most overseen element. It's not enough to hand off the policy to faculty. Something as simple as a 30 minute inservice will suffice. Give them examples of good and bad behavior; make it clear that they are responsible to for their behavior online in the social media space - as it's not controlled by the institution.
- Train your students. Do the exact same for the students, and hold the students accountable just as you would hold the faculty accountable. Most schools add social media to the clause of academic integrity that holds students up to an ethical standard outside of school time and walls.
- Enforce the policy. Hold faculty, staff, and students accountable. If someone breaks policy, don't nuke policy from orbit, attend to the individual who broke it.
Social media must be included as a form of communication between students and faculty. There are too many invisible walls between academia and the working world. Including social media in the behaviors of the school is a great way to meet our students where they are and to help them grow into ethical citizens.