Education and sociology professor Sara Goldrick-Rab has built a large Twitter following in part through frank exchanges about her research on higher education policy and college access for low-income students. She also landed in hot water after tweeting in Summer 2015 that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was a “fascist,” comparing Walker to Adolf Hitler, tweeting at incoming University of Wisconsin-Madison freshmen about the governor’s budget cuts, and aggressively criticizing changes to the state’s higher-education tenure policies.
In July, Goldrick-Rab left for Temple University in Philadelphia. But her experience raises questions about how educators and researchers, both in higher ed and K-12, should conduct themselves on social media.
The potential pitfalls are clear: Recent years have seen no shortage of controversies involving educators who have used social media to post inappropriate, controversial, and in some cases racist content and to disparage students and their families. Teachers are also confronted regularly with ethical challenges around following and interacting with their students on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
But there can also be tremendous benefits, particularly when it comes to using social media to build strong professional communities and innovative and engaging lessons.
Last spring (after the Wisconsin University controversy, but before she had formally moved to Temple), Goldrick-Rab sat down with Education Week at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to reflect on her experiences.
She said social media has dramatically changed her life, mostly for the better.
“I love that every time I open my phone, I can learn something,” Goldrick-Rab said during the interview last spring.
Then she added:
“Maybe it’s a lesson about how to handle myself better.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.