Saturday, August 31, 2013

Don't Model Social Media Use

In May, Sean Junkins wrote a blog post that said, very eloquently, we should stop telling students to change the world. He provided multiple examples of teenagers who changed the world negatively. Instead, according to Sean, society should challenge them to harness their sense of purpose to make a positive contribution to the world.
The same could be said for social media. As educators, we need to be models for our students of how to use social media. We've long had non-educator examples of how not to use social media (the former backup OSU quarterback Cardale Jones is one I use frequently). Last night, I was provided with two examples from current Nebraska administrators along those same lines.

As the high school football season descended upon Nebraska Friday, I went to watch my cousin's son play. Via Twitter, I was also keeping up with a game of HUGE importance in my district, the cross town battle between our two high schools. I was using our district's sports Twitter account to retweet scores from people at the game when I came across these two subsequent tweets from an account that very clearly identifies the person as an athletic director at a local high school.

Just to be clear, the bottom one came first. The account had been tweeting when each team scored.

Is that administrator using social media? Absolutely. And by scrolling back through the account and looking at it again today, the account does a great job of sharing their school's scores. But is that account modeling appropriate use of social media? In my opinion, absolutely not. 
I considered mentioning the account in a tweet from my personal account (we don't follow each other, so I couldn't direct message them), but instead sent out a couple generic tweets and added the #nebpreps hashtag, one used by high school athletic departments across the state.

After my tweets, a good friend replied back that it was a superintendent, not athletic director. However, after a few direct messages, we found that we were talking about two different people. Below is the other tweet.

As administrators, you are expected to cheer and support with all of your might for your school. Be biased. I frequently am on our district's sports account. But you need to be - all of us need to be - models of appropriate use of social media. Tweeting at the expense of your opponent, in my opinion, isn't appropriate use of social media. Am I perfect? No. But go back through my Twitter feed and find a time when I put down a kid who was trying their hardest. Those teenagers on the opposing teams have worked all summer for their time under the Friday night lights and you thumbed your nose at them. What would happen if that was one of your student? One of your staff? Judging from what you posted, probably nothing.
We apparently need to stop asking educators to model social media and instead be more directed as to the type of modeling we need to do. I don't feel this type of behavior is wide spread among administrators, but I also don't feel it's OK to just "let it go." I plan on contacting people I know in both districts. I don't know either person whose name is on those Twitter accounts, nor do I expect them to know me. I'm not the Twitter police, but I've put myself out there as a Twitter ambassador for our great state and I don't like when others cast a negative light on all the great things educators are doing here. In the grand scheme of things, this is much more tame than many things that kids say to each other online during a day. I get that. But we educate kids and should hold ourselves to higher expectations then we hold them to. I don't know what the administrators' response will be. I won't be upset if there never is a response. I don't need one directed at me. But it probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if they responded to the opposing teams. What I do know is that we, as educators, need to not just model social media, but model positive use of social media.

On a good note...this EXTREMELY positive use of social media is making the rounds for what a group of Nebraska high school kids did at a football game last night. Kudos to my good friend Jay Dostal for sharing his students' idea.


Jay Dostal, Ed.D. said...

Keep fighting the good fight Josh. You are totally correct. Twitter is such a powerful tool and a great way to model appropriate use of social media for our students. To use it in a fashion that goes against the mission of our profession--to EDUCATE, is not very responsible. I really do hope that you get a response from the administrators in question so they realize that what they are putting out there is casting a negative light on them. They need to learn from this failure.

J Allen said...

Thanks for the comments and thoughts, Jay!

Devin said...

I have been having this discussion with some folks in our district as well. I almost feel like it needs to be part of the training that our admin in district are getting.

I feel like they are being pushed (by people like me) to use tools like Twitter and Facebook, but are not comfortable with, or well versed in, how to best use the tools.

We need to do a better job of not only modeling for them, but providing them with opportunities to learn how to better use the tools.

Nice post, Josh.

J Allen said...

I tend to disagree with you a little bit Devin. I just got a direct message on Twitter from someone along the same lines as your comment. To me, this isn't as much of a Twitter/Facebook/social media issue as it's an "appropriate use." No matter how comfortable (or new, as has been alluded to me in the case of the AD) you are with social media, you shouldn't say this about other kids. Why haven't we as tech facilitators/integrationists not brought this up in training? I didn't think I had to! I thought this was covered in "How to be a Teacher 101." I think you're right in that we need to keep modeling. I'm far from the most politically correct person in the world and I sometimes tend to speak faster than my brain thinks. I've deleted more than one blog post and tweet before hitting send after rethinking it. That's something hard to model because no one sees it. So yes, I will agree with you that it's going to have to be one more thing to add into our social media trainings.
Thanks for your comments and thoughts. I appreciate you taking the time to reflect.

Devin said...

I think we might be talking about two different pieces. I agree with you that we shouldn't have to teach, or even consider, common sense and decency when working with admin. But, I do think they could use some training how to best use social media to create the most powerful messages.

William Chamberlain said...

When tweets like those, both good and bad, go out it tells us a lot about the people that are tweeting. The fact that they don't 'get' how public their tweets are is irrelevant. The problem is a lack of character.

My question is, what will the school board think of these poor choices? Hopefully they think along the same lines we do.

J Allen said...

Devin - great point and thanks for clarifying.

William - Because I don't know these individuals personally, I decided not to include that angle. But that definitely crossed my mind. Hopefully the school board sees it. I know one of our school board members is on Twitter, but not sure about those districts.