Facebook, Edutopia Team Up On ‘How To Create Social Media Guidelines For Your School’

By David Cohen 

The use of Facebook among teachers and students has made the news quite often of late, usually not in a good way, but Facebook is looking to help change that by teaming up with Edutopia, an initiative created by The George Lucas Educational Foundation, on “How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School.”

The guide, available via the Facebook in Education page, offers a step-by-step process for schools to create formal social media policies. Here is a quick look:

  1. Examine your school culture: When setting out on this journey, it is important to understand the prevailing beliefs about social media in your community. How are social media products currently being used by students? By teachers? By administrators and parents? How can they be leveraged for better communication? What are the fears around social media in school? Are there any “bright spots” where social media is already being used successfully?
  2. Organize a team: This team should include educators who use social media in the classroom and those who do not. A district that I worked with recently chose to have a teacher and administrative representative from each grade level in the district, along with their heads of instruction and technology, school attorney, and two student representatives. You have to find a combination that works. This team should be open and transparent in all their conversations and decision making, and be clear about their shared goal. Establish a website or Web page for the posting of notes, resources, and minutes from the meetings.
  3. Research phase: Your team should begin by evaluating the current policies that are already in place in your school or district. Many districts already have policies in place that cover the acceptable-use basics — so they only need to add guidelines to help crystallize learning opportunities. Because the social media landscape changes quickly, this is often the best approach. Next, the team will want to examine the social media policies and/or guidelines from other institutions. You will want to involve your school attorney in the draft process to make sure that you are within your current local and state policies.
  4. Draft your document and incorporate feedback: Now your team will take all the information you’ve gathered and create a document. This can be the most challenging part of the process, and you can expect many drafts and revisions. One district that I worked with posted their drafts to a school wiki, where anyone on the team could contribute. There were also opportunities for other teachers, administrators, and students to make comments or bring up other items for consideration. Schedule meetings to talk to school staff, administrators, parents, and community members face-to-face.
  5. Make sure the school attorney and school board see the draft: Your school attorney will ensure that you are not violating any current policies, laws, or ordinances. Your school board might want to review your document, and if you are changing policy, they will want to discuss and take a vote.
  6. Introduction to the school community: Now that all stakeholders have signed off on your policy or guidelines, it’s time to roll it out to your greater community. Every member of your team should be tasked with talking to specific groups and/or schools. Take the time to educate your students, faculty, staff, parents, and community about what the document means to them. If you have been open and transparent from the beginning, this will be an easy step.
  7. Review periodically: Your new policy or guidelines should be a living document and should be revisited often. Social media products change. Your culture will change. Policies will change. Your team needs to look at your document at least annually to determine whether it is working and whether any adjustments need to be made.

Readers: Do you have any suggestions for additions to this guide?