Social media as a tool for learners

By Teuila Fuatai

There's no denying social networking is growing. So how do school teachers handle their online presence and what are the dos and don'ts. Daily Post reporters investigate.

Social media sites like Moodle can be fantastic for student learning, a Rotorua principal says.

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh says teachers at the school are looking into the online learning resource, known less commonly as the Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.

The resource allows users to format online courses which people can subscribe to and participate in.

A website on social media use for teachers, pupils and parents was launched this month  by the New Zealand Teachers Council.

Users are provided with guidelines for appropriate use of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and warnings about the dangers of inappropriate online use.

Information includes potential ethical dilemmas which may arise for schools, individual teachers, students and parents through social media.

Mr Walsh, who is also president of the Secondary Principals' Association, says schools need to be wary of risks around sites like Facebook.

"While it has a positive aspect in terms of teachers using Facebook to communicate messages about homework and assignments _ likewise with text messaging _ the concern is those [student/teacher] boundaries can become blurred.''

To combat this, the school has developed its own professional policy regarding online social media etiquette.

"I'll be bringing [the Teachers Council guidelines] to the attention of staff ... and I will also mention it in my newsletter to parents,'' Mr Walsh says.

Council director Dr Peter Lind says teachers need to know how to protect themselves while using social media to enhance interaction and student learning.

They are also expected to be role models for students.

"We know that social media is a fact of life.

"Strong role modelling by teachers will grow learners who understand the implications of their actions online,'' he says.

"Teachers need to be able to positively use ... social media as a tool for engaging with learners, parents and the communities in which they work.''  

Dr Lind hoped the policy would have particular benefits for teenage students.

``We know that a significant number of young secondary students start to disengage from their learning. They come to school as 5-year-olds, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to learn but things happen over the

course of their growing up,'' he says.

"We believe that there is a huge potential for using social media for connecting and keeping kids connected in their education.''

Though they have huge potential as education resources, networking sites like Facebook have also been linked to proliferating incidents of cyberbullying by school children.

Dr Lind warns that young graduates who come through university with good marks might struggle to get teaching jobs if their online profiled contained professionally compromising images or material. "There's high expectations about teachers' conduct. What you put up there [on Facebook] and your friends put up there ... unless you exercise good judgment, it may come back to bite you,'' he said.

NetSafe chief technology officer Sean Lyons, who is a member of the website working party, says the guidelines provide a safe way for teachers to use social media in their jobs.

Keeping Safe Online:

Facebook: Only friend people you know and keep your profile as private as possible.

Change your password for any online networking sites each time you use someone else's computer.

Log off from networking sites every time you use them.

Use secure browsing whenever possible.

Source: NetSafe


- Rotorua Daily Post

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