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Published in Print: June 15, 2011, as How Far Can Schools Go in Regulating Teachers' Social-Media Use?

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How Far Can Schools Go in Regulating Teachers' Social-Media Use?

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Many teachers and professors nationwide are finding themselves in hot water for expressing their views through blogs and social media, raising questions about what is and is not appropriate use of such Web 2.0 tools for educators.

Some educators who blog or use social media as part of their teaching argue that when done right it can provide tremendous benefits. They say students will need to be proficient and should learn to use such tools responsibly.

“When you look at the essential skills—problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, creativity—we’re really preparing these students in essence for jobs that aren’t even created yet,” says Eric Sheninger, the principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey, who is considered an expert on social networking and technology in schools. “We need to do a better job of preparing them to think critically and authentically.”

Some districts are doing that with guidelines for using social media, including discouraging teachers from linking to—or, in social-media parlance, “friending”—students on Facebook.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, advises its members to think about whether they would gladly show anything they post online to their mothers, their students, their superintendents, and the editor of The New York Times.

The union also urges members to avoid posting anything on profile pages about “colleagues, administrators, or students, as well as using inappropriate or profane messages or graphics, or anything that would reflect negatively on your workplace.”

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has offered its members training on the issue.

Vol. 04, Issue 03, Page 14

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