Social Media Policies and Schools


At the start of the 21st century when social media first started to become a common thing, I was asked to help write a social media policy for a university. This was new ground. Very few schools had policies and few schools were actually using social media themselves.

The question of having a policy in place came from three different directions. There was a desire to have a policy for what students could do. There was also a desire to formalize what faculty and staff could do in their capacity as employees. Communications departments at the school wanted to formalize how they would handle “official” social media accounts and content.

About a year after I worked on the university policies, I was asked to help a K-12 school district to create a social media policy. Some things were similar, including the three groups to be addressed, but K-12 has unique concerns and restrictions.

The K-12 district was actually more concerned at first with the district’s use and not teachers or students who I thought needed the information the most. Their focus was not surprising since social media policies, like most school policies, are meant to mitigate the risk and liability of institutions rather than guide and support sound pedagogy and learning.

The format was a three-ring faculty handbook. Three-ring because they knew that policies would change and pages would be added and subtracted. Social media changes fast. It was the place where faculty already had their policies on assessment, parent communication, etc.

A few things that come up in discussion and were included:
Parent permission and opt-out forms. and information sheets for teachers, students, and parents on what platforms are being used, where, when, and how.
Baseline guidelines for protecting and respecting student privacy., such as not sharing student faces or using student names as identifiers. This was true for most cases, but there had been policies earlier for media, such as using a student’s image and name in the local paper for an award.
Restrict location sharing
Minimize information shared in teacher social media profiles
For teachers, social media should have clearly articulated goals for student learning. For the school, district and administration, those goals will differ and so should the policies.

I doubt that the policies I worked on in 2000-2003 still exist in the form we wrote them. I would hope in the past 20 years that al of them have been expanded and revised.

A Year of Being Unretired

In January 2016, I wrote about my retirement and about a conference presentation I was prepping on “The Disconnected” segment of the population. Those people are not disconnected in a detached or unengaged sense, but are disconnected from traditional modes and sources of information and learning. I had also discovered a short-lived podcast called Unretirement

In the past year, I have become a bit more disconnected, and I have moved more into unretirement. I read Chris Farrell’s book Unretirement and listened to all the podcast episodes about people rethinking and reimagining their retirement years and perhaps the entire second half of life when it comes to work.

I have become more involved in volunteer “work”  this past year. I started last year doing that with the Montclair Film group and their film festival and especially their education efforts with young people. I continue to work with the endangered species program in my state.

This past week, I was approached by a college to work part time the next six months.

In my definition of retirement or unretirement you work because you want to work and because you think that work benefits both yourself and others. It has purpose. Getting paid is not a real concern. My volunteer work doesn’t pay me anything, and I often spend money to volunteer (materials, travel, parking).

My wife isn’t a big fan of me getting too busy or even earning too much money. She likes the freedom of no commitments in planning trips and vacations. She is the house accountant and warns me that at a point earning money in addition to pensions, social security and investments will negatively affect our state and federal taxes. “You’re working for the government,” she tells me.

This college project involves designing courses that use OER, Open Educational Resources, which are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching.  Using these materials can reduce student costs for textbooks and materials and allow faculty to really design their curriculum rather than follow what a textbook offers.

I have worked with OER before and I support its use.  The college is an urban community college and I know OER is of financial benefit to those students. If that wasn’t the situation, I would pass on the opportunity without hesitation. That is one of the best parts of unretirement.

I suppose that if unretirement means working again we could call it by the older term “semi-retirement.” But it is different. Making your full-time job a part-time job is semi-retired. Leaving your job to do whatever you want is unretirement. Plan for it.