Over the holidays, I had a very interesting conversation with a relative. She shared some thoughts about “why educators should not be using social media to communicate.” These are some of the questions that she raised during our discussion.
- What if messages are misinterpreted?
- What if our tone is misinterpreted?
- What if parents, administrators, or students get angry or upset based on something that we’ve shared?
- What if parents compare their child’s work to another student’s work because of what’s shared?
These questions highlight for me another reason that some educators choose not to blog: the fear of making our thoughts public and the possible repercussions for doing so. But is this fear a good reason to choose not to share or just a good reminder to be careful and think more before choosing what and how we share?
I use social media (particularly Twitter, Instagram, and blogs) to share student thinking and learning with parents, and I guess ultimately, with the world. I try to be careful about how I capture this work.
- I take many headless photographs and videos, and only use student names when agreed to by the students and the parents. I use initials a lot.
- I try to keep the focus on the work and the learning. By not just taking a photograph or video of each child doing each activity, there are fewer opportunities for comparisons.
- I consider my captions carefully. Again, I try to highlight the work and the learning, and also, celebrate student growth.
- I use Storify to not just collect the individual snippets of learning, but provide a context for this learning that helps highlight growth and connections to program expectations.
While much of this documentation makes its way into our daily post on our class blog, I sometimes reflect on this work in other ways on my professional blog. It’s when writing these blog posts that I find myself proofreading more, considering word choice even more carefully, and sometimes, getting an opinion or two before publishing. While it’s largely parents that read our class blog, a more diverse audience reads my professional blog, including parents, administrators, colleagues, and various educators. My professional blog is a way for me to reflect, but also start, and hopefully continue, conversations.
I’m a self-proclaimed “educational troublemaker,” and I’m proud to be one. I appreciate when people comment with their diverse views, so that we can continue the conversations online. Sometimes words do cause strong emotions, and maybe, that’s okay. If we’re professional and open to dialogue, these emotions can be a good thing. Even if people don’t always choose to comment or talk directly to us, our words might get people thinking, and with thinking, often comes change.
I understand why people focus in on the social media horror stories (and cautionary tales) because there are lots of them. It’s these same stories that made me question joining Twitter over seven years ago. Maybe though, instead of focusing on the problems, we need to focus on the positives. (Again, could “perspective” play an important role here?)
- The “thank you’s” from parents and students for capturing the school day online, and knowing how to extend learning at home thanks to what’s shared.
- The parents that years later, still send the occasional tweet with updates on student success.
- My new learning thanks to the conversations I’ve had through Twitter, Instagram, and blog post comments.
- Connections I’ve made thanks to social media that I never would have made without it. Just as one example, over three years ago, I tweeted Stuart Shanker some of my blog post links connected to the Calm, Alert, and Learning Book Club I was involved in. That started a connection that eventually led to my work with The MEHRIT Centre.
I don’t think we should ignore the cautionary tales, but could we reduce future problems, by sharing more examples of how to use social media “for good?” Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blogs are not going away. Is attempting to put a stop to their use, really the answer? I don’t think so, but what about you?