As with educational institutions at all levels, our overly-large school district is trying to figure out how to handle the use of social media channels, by staff members as well as students.
So, as often happens in a large bureaucracy like this one, our administration is writing some regulations and guidelines that will cover all the bases. Every one of them!
In looking through a first draft of a set of guidelines for employees, now being passed around for comment by our public relations department, I’m not sure the people involved have a clear understanding of what social networking is all about.
It starts in the definition section where they offer examples of “social media applications”: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and… Wikipedia? Never seen that last one linked with the others but it’s in the picture below so…
Then comes an interesting section spelling out some reasons why schools might use social media.
Reinforce messages. Targeted communications. Educate stakeholders. Promote good news.
All one-way, us to them, broadcasting of information, which is pretty much how our system uses it’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, mostly as a link to press releases.
However, that’s just not the way social media works. It’s all about an exchange of ideas, encouraging feedback, and even criticism, from the people in your network.
Elsewhere the document also lays out some “best practices” for the use of social networking, which turns out to be a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the strange.
Like suggesting that negative or controversial comments not be deleted in one place while in another declaring that the school system reserves the right to remove any post for any reason in another.
Of course, that second part will be difficult to accomplish since our district doesn’t host any social media tools for us to use (outside of our closed Blackboard system) and I doubt Facebook or Twitter will pull down a nasty comment about the superintendent upon request.
For an example of the strange, the same section recommends a convention for schools to use in naming their social networking accounts: ASPS, Happy Valley ES, Mrs. Smith’s Class.*
That’s pretty clunky! And my first thought was a Twitter name like that would really discourage retweeting or @ references. The name alone would eat up a big chunk of your 140 characters.
Anyway, there’s more and much of it also needs work. It will certainly be interesting to see how this document evolves, especially to see if it really becomes a set of “guidelines” or turns into a regulation.
Stay tuned. After all, they did ask for comment.
* ASPS = AssortedStuff Public Schools :-)
Image: Social Media Landscape by Fred Cavazza, from Flickr and used under a Creative Commons License