Social Networking Advice for Schools and Teachers
Social Networking websites in school
The Department of Education and Skills Schools Broadband Programme provides six different content filtering levels of Internet access for schools. The majority of schools are on Level 3.
The school’s AUP provides a framework and procedures for the safe, ethical and responsible use of the Internet.
Level 3 offers millions of content filtered sites appropriate for educational use. It gives access to millions of websites including games sites. It blocks ‘YouTube’ and other similiar sites; websites such as Flickr belonging to the ‘personal storage’ category; websites such as blogs belonging to the ‘personal websites’ category; and websites such as Facebook belonging to the ‘Social Networking’ category.
A school may opt to move to Level 6 to avail of Facebook and other social networking sites by completing the Content Filtering Change Form.
While the SBP filters inappropriate and harmful web content and materials, each school will have to consider good practice especially in relation to Internet Safety. The school’s AUP will provide a framework and a set of procedures while the teacher in class can educate students on the safe and responsible use of the Internet for learning and for life.
The mobile social networking generation
Most students, just like their teachers, have become smartphone owners and users. The Internet (and social networking) has gone mobile. Students with wifi access can update their profile, ”Like” your class, or Poke a friend while in school. The content on personal Internet enabled devices like the students’ own smartphones or notebooks can not be filtered by the Schools Broadband Programme as they bypass the network structure of the school.
The Internet has gone mobile.
However, the advantages for learning and teaching brought by the “computers in their pockets” are wide ranging and it would be a lost opportunity to completely avoid using the students’ own personal computers or BYOI (“bring your own Internet” ).
Think of some of the possibilities; map work in Geography, field work in Science, creating audio files of their new Irish vocabulary, video capturing the Maths solution on the IWB, posting their research to the class wiki or listening to your class podcast on the way home to revise for tommorrow’s exam.
Nowadays there’s an App for most things on the smartphone, there is even an App for Leaving Cert exam papers, an App appropriatley enough created by a Leaving Cert student.
Social networking: The limitations of content filtering
Relying on filters and technological solutions is no longer sufficient.
Schools avail of the SBP content filtering to protect the school from content that students might mistakenly or intentionally draw into the school environment and cause harm to others in the process. However relying on filters and technological solutions, with the advent of the mobile Internet, is no longer sufficent.
Students need to be taught to be ethical, safe and responsible Interent users whenever and wherever they are online. The school needs to help students to understand and respect the virtual learning environment as much as the physical learning environment of the school.
Teaching and learning safe and responsible social networking
Embed the safe, ethical and responsible use of the Internet into daily classroom practice.
Education as usual is the answer. Yes the school will have a current and robust set of AUPs and procedures but unless your students are aware of, and understand the Responsible Use Rules of the school they will not be able to apply them.
Every teacher using the Internet for teaching and learning needs to embed the ethical and responsible use of the Internet and ICT into daily classroom practice. Even 3rd class primary pupils should be enabled to:
Respect the rights and feelings of others when working in an electronic environment.
NCCA ICT Framework
What does the ICT Framework say about social networking?
The NCCA ICT Framework calls on teachers to enable students to:
- Discuss and demonstrate appropriate care when using social networking websites.
- Discuss and agree the consequence of inappropriate and irresponsible use of ICT (e.g. accessing or posting inappropriate or harmful material, inappropriate interference with the work of other students).
The Webwise Teacher Resources on social networking Be Safe Be Webwise and ThinkB4UClick provide ready made lesson plans, classroom activities and teacher guidenotes.
The 21st century school … are you ready?
We’ve all embraced technology in our everyday lives, perhaps it’s time to embrace it fully in schools also. Why not use the technology to show students how to be active and responsible web contributors and “web citizens”? Using Facebook and Twitter in order to stay in touch with the school community will help guide them in responsible use behaviors. The school can use social media to connect and communicate with students, parents and the wider community by using organisational accounts or pages and recognising that many social media services have a minimum age requirement of 13.
Setting up Google Alerts on the name of the school or school events (the musical, the match…) will help you stay ahead of the curve, will help you engage your students and provide current and relevent teaching and learning opportunities. Learn more about Google Alerts.
ICT and social media provides wonderful opportunities for schools. Yes there are also some risks and possible perils. The one sure danger for your school would be to ignore it as your students are going to be increasingly connected and online with their own access to the Internet, whether you are ready or not.