Twitter: Permission vs. Promotion

Many schools have headed down the social media path creating accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  There are competing needs in schools to promote a schools many activities and build bridges and links between home and school.  In the best cases these social media connections provide parents with an inside look into the private classes of the public school system.  This allows parents to ask better questions than “How was school today?” or “What did you learn at school” which as a parent of a kindergartner I have learned that the answers Good and Nothing are already deemed sufficient for a five year old.

As a school administrator who is very tech savvy I have shied away from promoting school events on social media because of my concerns surrounding parental concerns about privacy and the unmanageable nature of asking for permission for every single photo which is posted online.  There are schools that have social media accounts who use social media very effectively and have gained permission en-mass from parents through their yearly  registration form. How did they manage this feat?  The answer is that they slowly introduced the idea to parents by using the same photo’s that appear in school newsletters, often appearing online, then moving to  school events and tournaments, and finally introducing regular photos of students in class working.  The result reportedly is a more clear understanding by parents and the community about what school is actually like for children in 2016.

One school administrator that I spoke with about this matter told me that he started with purpose, and told parents not only what technology they would be using but why, what educational advantage they would garner from using it.  At his particular school he uses WordPress to promote student engagement and provide an audience for students writing.

As an administrator I have been involved in students creating work which is posted online such as videos, photo’s and even one professional commercial. This work has been some of the best that our students have produced because they had a true audience.  Currently I am leading a group who on a weekly basis is sharing a news program on our intranet and I am grappling with the idea that we could increase our audience by posting it online for parents and community members to get school news from students on a weekly basis.  Many projects like this are created and never shared with the public because of the fear of privacy, which I am growing increasingly convinced could be addressed once a year with blanket permissions unshackling teachers and increasing transparency with our community.

It is also possible to lock down social media sights with various permission settings, but after discussing this with several administrators I have discovered that largely people leave their sites open to the public. The reason that they leave things open is based on the idea that they don’t want to create a false sense of security, anything on the internet is truly on the internet and that the audience they want to reach includes any stakeholder in their community.

Many schools publish their school newsletters online and don’t make any special arrangements with parents to do so.  This has been done in the name of the environment, saving trees, and unwittingly these schools are also posting the same photos and events to the internet with equal risk to twitter, in my opinion. I think that schools should and will be engaging communities where they are on social media in the future and the school newsletter will be a thing of the past.