By guest blogger Michelle R. Davis
Many teachers are using social networking in their personal lives to connect and communicate with friends and colleagues, but have not incorporated this technology into their interactions with students and parents due to concerns about negative repercussions, according to a survey released by the University of Phoenix.
Teachers are missing out on an important educational tool by failing to use social networking for educational purposes, said Kathy Cook, the director of educational technology for the University of Phoenix College of Education.
The survey asked 1,005 full-time teachers in grades K-12 about their social networking usage. Eighty percent of the teachers surveyed said they use social media for personal or professional use, but only 18 percent said they had integrated social media into their own classrooms. Slightly more than half of teachers said they had no plans to use social media with their students. About a quarter of respondents said they hadn’t yet used social media in their classes, but wanted to do so.
“They see the benefits of using social media to connect with parents and engage students, but they’re concerned about conflicts that can occur,” Cook said. “The main thing they’re concerned about is parents checking up on them, combining their personal life and their professional life.”
Eighty percent of teachers surveyed worried about negative outcomes arising from the use of social networking, and 34 percent of teachers who use social media said they had experienced these types of repercussions. Nearly 70 percent said they believe that parents use social networking to monitor teachers’ work or personal lives.
However, according to the survey, many teachers do believe participation in social media can be educationally beneficial. Forty-seven percent of K-12 teachers and 58 percent of high school teachers said social networking could add to a student’s educational experience.
Cook said that with the proper training, educators can successfully integrate social networking and education to benefit students. She recommends using the right social networking tool for the task at hand. That may mean keeping Facebook, for example, for personal use, but using education-centered Edmodo with students or Twitter with parents.
Cook also recommends establishing a clear and consistent policy on social media use. For example, teachers may decide never to accept friend requests from students or parents on Facebook.
However, there are barriers to using social networking in school. Only 28 percent of teachers said they could access social networking sites via computers in their schools, the survey found.
Some educators are champions of the use of this technique to connect with parents and to engage students. I wrote an earlier blog post that featured a Q&A with New Jersey principal Eric Sheninger, who just published a book on the topic. He argues that school leaders must embrace this form of communication to be successful.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.