Trouble With Student-Teacher Social Media Interactions

Should teachers be using personal social media accounts to communicate with and socialize with students? This is the question being debated following the recent ban of such teacher-student social interactions in the New York City Public School system. The district does allow teachers to set up professional accounts and they must be approved before teachers use them to contact and share information with their students.

The school district did not issue this decree without provocation.  The district investigated 69 cases of inappropriate conduct in 2011, all of which took place on Facebook.  It is clear that Facebook, and social media like it, can blur the line between students and teachers.  A warm relationship is a good thing, but clearly for some, it is a path to destructive behavior. Even one student harmed by such behavior is too many, and that is the statement the District is making via the ban.

However, the ban sends a message that teachers are not to be more than robotic instructors.  It insinuates that they are not to show their human side. Yet it is the warmth of a personal relationship that has great potential for engaging students in learning.  Through such a relationship, students see the teacher as a collaborator and friend to them in their own learning, rather than an opponent in a quest to pass a class.

Social media is growing as a tool for teaching. It is a powerful way to engage students who are already using these mediums. It brings the instruction to where they are already, a place they enjoy and are deeply familiar with. It is being used effectively with students in education and it should not be banned less a relevant, engaging instructional tool is lost. However, as it has always been, a few bad guys ruin a good thing for the majority. Since approved classroom accounts are allowed,  and teachers could use them in a warm and engaging way without easily crossing any lines,  it seems a bit petty to get overwrought about this ban. Allowing teachers to create approved professional accounts will help with clarifying and enforcing the line between what is appropriate and what is not.

New York City Bans Student – Teacher Interactions on Social Media

Social Media Rules for NYC School Staff

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It’s all about Attitude

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
– John Muir

Yet another recent teen suicide got me thinking about self esteem and the difficulty of keeping it in the face of bullying and unfair blows in life.  Why do some people with the most difficult and sometimes horrifying life stories still thrive and smile and live life as if it were a gift each day? I read about some of  the lives of such resiliant people and found they had something in common. They never gave up believing in themselves and they never let anyone else tell them who they were or what they were worth. They all felt that something valuable came out of their experiences even if the experiences themselves were unfair and undeserved. They became inspiring people;  gifts to those who surround them. They are beautiful to others in a way that external beauty can never rival. We can be like them too, if we try.

Easier said than done, yes, but not impossible with effort and the right attitude. You will cry, you will get angry and these feelings should not be repressed because they provide the contrast that allows elation, peace and happiness to exist as well.  It is the attitude you have toward your sadness, pain and difficulty that is key, not the emotions you feel. 

 If you view hard times as depth of life experiences that will enrich your character and wisdom, you may find that you will not descend into the abyss of self pity from which a paralyzing depression will hold you hostage indefinitely. Instead you will plow through those difficult times, holding on to the belief that there is a way out, if only you cling to hope and keep on trying. It’s the never giving up part that gets you through and the emotions that help you heal over time. Don’t try to rush it, but as you feel the emotions, always speak to your inner self positively. Be your own cheerleader. 

Understand that emotions come and go and difficulties come and go. Hold on to the solid core of  knowelege that you will survive and eventually thrive. Cherish yourself and believe in yourself no matter what others think of you and no matter what is going on around you. In so doing you will walk through stormy seas as if they were smooth as glass.

Maybe it’s actually the difficulties in life that serve us best. A beautiful sculpture must undergo being carved, otherwise it is just an ugly block of stone.  Grasp this, and you have life by the tail. Wake up and cherish each day as a chance to perfect yourself a bit more.

A beautiful life indeed.

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IPAD FEVER

Are IPADs going to “stick” as tools in education?  That is the question many schools and colleges are considering as they look at what new technologies to embrace in their classrooms.  The Hill school, a private boarding school in Pennsylvania where I work is one of many schools considering a 1-1 IPAD program to replace the successful existing 1-1 laptop program.  Why are IPADS generating such strong interest in the education world? Are they really worth investing in or are they a “flash in the pan”?

The McAllen, Texas school district has faced this question and made the decision to go IPAD in a big way, district-wide. The goal there is for every child within the district to have an IPAD or IPOD touch.  The district began testing the device with a core group of teachers who piloted the use of the device in their classrooms. One reason that teachers in the McAllen District are behind this mass adoption is textbooks.  Like most schools, McAllen has outdated textbooks. Using the IPAD teachers can put together a textbook that is not only up to date, but also tailor made to the curriculum.  This entails the teacher putting in a great deal of work to gather materials,  so it is clearly not the panacea medicine for text book issues.  However,  Apple is addressing the textbook issue.  They are releasing engaging digital textbooks that are generating much excitement. These textbooks are going to be taking over schools very soon, and the price tag will be much lower than the pricey hard covers go for now.

The research on the use of IPAD in education is scant due to the fact that it is blazing new technology by school standards. However, a recent study with Kindergartners demonstrated that using IPADs raised literacy scores accross the board.

The only con I’ve encountered so far is the fact that the original IPADs did not do well with projectors. They only played well with a few tecnologies such as You Tube.  However Apple has addressed this problem and newer IPADs iterations elimate projection complications and limitations completely.

It is increasingly clear that IPADs  are not leaving the spotlight any time too soon. The early adopters are reporting back positively so far and more are jumping on the bandwagon as I write this post. IPADs offer a revolutionary approach to delivering engaging and tailor made instruction that is light years ahead of the now creaky and aging laptop technology. Factor in the newest textbook publishing, and you have a clear winner.

Sources
Is McAllen ISD Most Forward Thinking District in America? – Jason Cohen
Touching Down: McAllen ISD hands out iPads – Elizabeth Findell
Kindergarten IPAD Program Sees Positive Results – Mike Muir

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