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Schools grapple with social media policies

Some view Facebook as a teaching aid
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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A teacher receives a friend request from a student on the social networking website Facebook. To friend or not to friend? A student posts inappropriate content on their social networking profile. Should they be held accountable at school? Some teachers incorporate texting as a means for students to communicate with one another on projects in class. Is it a positive use of technology or a disruption? Auburn educators say they are grappling with these and more questions about the relationship between social media and the classroom. Placer High principal Peter Efstathiu said while the Placer Union High School District doesn’t have any formal policies on the subject yet, for now he is following a common-sense approach. He said he prefers that teachers not become friends with current students on Facebook, but is more open to some of the ideas teachers have to incorporate things like texting into the classroom. “I’m not a fan at all. I would strongly recommend they don’t do it,” Efstathiu said. “I think there are certain things that are issues that are black and white. What’s not so clear is all the grey.” Efstathiu said some of his teachers like to mix social media and technology in to keep their students engaged in what is going on in class. “I have one teacher who encouraged texting back and forth for students to ask each other questions about a project during class,” Efstathiu said. He said certain things though, like a student bringing their phone out to P.E. or bullying over Facebook have clear punishments at school. Tech teacher embraces social media Some Placer High teachers have incorporated teaching about social media into their curriculum. Dan Wilson, newspaper and yearbook advisor at Placer High, also teaches a Tech Essentials course for freshmen. He cautions students about the content they post to their social media profiles. “Basically it’s your digital reputation,” Wilson said. “Once you post a picture, even if you take it down, it’s still out there somewhere.” Wilson said while he teaches that unit to students, incorporating social media in certain school situations can be positive. The yearbook class created a Facebook page to notify students of important deadlines and as a marketing tool. Seventy-five students became followers of the page in the first two-weeks it was up. “I was totally against Facebook with the exception of about four or five years ago. If I’m going to teach the technology classes I kind of need to know what it’s about. From a technology standpoint, I think Facebook is going to be a tool schools will embrace,” Wilson said. “It can either be an extremely valuable tool or a complete waste of time.” His personal policy is that he won’t add students as a friend on Facebook until after they have graduated, that way he can stay in touch with them as they go off to college. He said some of his colleagues do add students on Facebook to make communication easier. Student learns her digital reputation Allie Funk, a Placer High Freshman, just finished learning about her digital reputation in Wilson’s class. “It all depends on what you want on there,” Funk said. “It’s important because colleges I guess can go back and look at the Internet and see the things you deleted.” She said she wouldn’t mind being friends with a teacher on Facebook because she doesn’t post anything she would want to hide. The ability to check school assignments on Facebook would be convenient, she added. “I think it’d be nice because I could look on there to see if we have homework or not. I don’t like going on the school website,” Funk said. Despite the perceived ease of contact, Efstathiu said he would prefer teachers post assignments on pages through the school website, and more importantly, communicate face-to-face. “The way kids communicate with each other is a lot more disrespectful than it was in the past. Their generation is like the digital natives, while our generation is like the digital immigrants,” Efstathiu said. “I’d like to keep it that way.” Reach Sara Seyydin at sara@goldcountrymedia.com.