Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 12/12.2.2
LEARNING TARGETS 
- Understand the definitions of rights, responsibilities, and social media
- Recall examples of popular forms of social media
- List guidelines to follow when using social media
- Recognize the controversy with social media
A LITTLE INSIGHT 
The ideas associated with the rights and responsibilities of teachers are very broad. It could be argued that the definitive guidelines as to what constitutes teachersâ rights and responsibilities are extremely versatile, sometimes controversial, and constantly evolving to keep up with the pace of society and new technology. One of the more recent facets of technology being enjoyed leisurely by a large percentage of the population, including teachers, is social media. From social networking sites, to personal blogs and web sites, to video messaging, and texting, our lives have become an open book in a digital library. In the world of education, what does this mean for educators? In their spare time, can or should they participate in social media sites? Exactly what is appropriate when teachers participate? These questions require answers. This article will elaborate on social media, and its widespread usage, while outlining simple rules that educators can adhere to when utilizing social media sites.
WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? 
The first step in examining teachersâ rights and responsibilities within the parameters of social media is to understand the meanings of certain key concepts. Consider the following definitions of the words ârightâ and âresponsibilityâ, and the concept of âsocial mediaâ.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definition of the word ârightâ when used as a noun is: âsomething to which one has a just claim: as a: the power or privilege to which one is justly entitledâ. When used as an adverb the definition of ârightâ is: âsomething that one may properly claim as dueâ (Merriam-Webster, 2009). Rights can be defined by legal boundaries, implied based on ethical precedence, and formed from feelings of entitlement.
In contrast, Merriam-Webster.com, defines the word âresponsibilityâ as: 1: the quality or state of being responsible: as a: moral, legal, or mental accountability 2: something for which one is responsibleâ (Merriam-Webster, 2009). Responsibility is the complete opposite of entitlement because it shifts the focus to an exterior cause and requires that there is âaccountabilityâ.
Wikipedia defines the concept of social media as: âprimarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audioâ (Wikipedia, 2009). The phrase âonline social networkingâ has become synonymous with social media.
Among some of the more recognized social media sites are Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, Plaxo, and LinkedIn. Each site features easy-to-use graphical interfacing software that allows users to build personal profiles that showcase their relationship statuses, schooling history, work history, social tendencies, and digital photographs to name just a few. These various options allow transparency to exist at its best for honest subscribers who aim to utilize the sites for their intended purposes. On the other hand, the usage of social media raises several important questions like âjust how much transparency is neededâ, âdoes there exist an age when social media should no longer be usedâ, or âis there a profession that negates a personâs ârightâ to participate in social mediaâ?
JUST HOW POPULAR IS SOCIAL MEDIA? 
The global Internet research firm, comScore, which monitors and gauges Internet traffic, released the following numbers reflecting the growth and popularity of some of the more frequented social media web sites. According to these numbers, the popularity of social media is an increasing trend that is bound to intercept younger generations of teachers.
Source: Social networking explodes worldwide as sites increase their focus on cultural relevance Facebook and Hi5 more than double global visitor bases during past year (August 12, 2008) http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2396
A CLOSER LOOK 
As veteran teachers retire and new graduates take theirs places, school systems can be sure that their new hires will have had experience with social media. And a lot of these same new hires will insist upon retaining their memberships to certain sites.
In an article entitled âI Gave Up Myspace for Lent: New Teachers and Social Media Sitesâ, William Kist explained how he now interviews his pre-service teachers as to their participation in social media sites (Kist, 2008). Kist stated (2008), âthe majority of his pre-service teachers are in their early to mid-20sâ and that âtheir responses to his social media inquiries could be grouped into âtwo major categories: the benefits (and rights) of participating and ways of participating safelyâ (p. 246). The pre-service teachers that remarked on the benefits and rights of participating in social media had no intentions of stopping. They cited keeping in contact with friends and family as the most important benefit to social media, and they did not feel obligated to give up that ârightâ whatsoever (Kist, 2008). On the other hand, some respondents cited that they would change their approach to social media by editing their user pages to reflect only certain content and images as a way of âparticipating safelyâ (Kist, 2008). In essence, they would be more aware of what they posted and of what they made public in case students, parents, or administrators were to view their pages. They argued, âItâs kind of like if a student called me on my cell phone. I would be upset because that is my personal number, but I am not going to get rid of my cell phone because I am a teacherâ (Kist, 2008, p. 246).
Recognizing that new educators will not easily, if at all, give up their rights to social media, what alternatives or advice can be given to them when trying to maintain a responsible image? In an article entitled âNot Just âYour Spaceâ Educators Urged to be Careful on the Internetâ, Laura Barrett of the Massachusetts Teachers Association stated, âthat educators must always be aware that they are held to a high standard for ethical and appropriate behavior in publicâand the public sphere now includes cyberspaceâ (Barrett, 2007). Barrett went on to explain that a fellow MTA member and new teacher suggested âI would tell them to imagine putting up your MySpace page on open house night and showing it to your parents. Are you embarrassed? Think about that. If a posting or image would make you uncomfortable, take it downâ (Barrett, 2007). She explained, âTeachers need to do their homework tooâ. They should make sure the pages of their friends do not contain inappropriate images of them (Barrett, 2007).
GUIDELINES: THE SOCIAL MEDIA PASSPORT FOR TEACHERS 
Barrett (2007) listed the Massachusetts Teachers Association advisory guidelines for teachers when using social networking sites. They included:
1. Teachers should not use instant messaging as a means of communicating with students. IM lacks the safeguards of ordinary communication between teacher and student.
2. E-mail communication with students after school should be kept to a minimum and should focus on immediate class-related matters.
3. Always think and write like a teacher. Use your "teacher's voice." Use spell-checking software. Be professional, and be appropriate.
4. Think of an e-mail message as if it is on official school stationery. E-mail to students or to parents is never a private communication.
5. If you use the school district's server to access the Internet, do not assume that you have an "expectation of privacy" in your online activities. This is true whether you access the server at school using a school computer or access it from home using your personal computer.
6. Your school computer and your school district's server have the capacity to track your Internet activitiesâ your "Web tracks" reveal where you have gone and when you went there. (p. 11)
When trying to adhere to these ideas, many additional co-factors must be considered. These include: studentsâ rights, administratorsâ rights, parentsâ and guardiansâ rights, and state and local laws. It is important to recognize that laws will greatly vary from state-to-state and even county-to-county.
Social media is a technological phenomenon that I do not foresee dying down any time soon. In my opinion, educators must learn to carefully balance their rights and desires to be social media users with their responsibilities to the communities, and especially, the students they serve. School districts should diligently work to adopt policies that will allow teachers to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech (social media) while maintaining their responsibility to professionalism and credibility. In the words of Edison Haines, âWith every civil right there has to be a corresponding civil obligationâ, and this holds true in the case of educators versus social media.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN? 
1) Which of the following words is defined as âprimarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing informationâ.
C. Social Media
2) Which of the following are not forms of social media?
B. Cell phones
3) Which of the following scenarios should a teacher consider when communicating with students via social media?
A. Teachers can communicate however they choose with their students.
B. Teachers can rely on emails to students being completely confidential.
C. Teachers should not use instant messaging as a means of communicating with students. IM lacks the safeguards of ordinary communication between teacher and student.
D. Teachers should only contact students by email when discussing non-classroom related matters.
4) In which state did a school district propose the suggested guidelines listed above for teachers when communicating with students via social media?
5) During his interviews, Dr. Kist found that his pre-service teachers held which general attitude towards social media?
A. Dr. Kistâs pre-service teachers wanted to âparticipate safelyâ when using social media.
B. Dr. Kist's pre-service teachers were likely to give up social media once becoming teachers.
C. None of Dr. Kist's pre-service teachers had heard of social media.
D. Social media was not popular amongst Dr. Kist's pre-service teachers.
Answers: 1 (C), 2 (B), 3 (C), 4 (C), 5 (A)
Barrett, L. (2007). Not just âyourspaceâ educators urged to be careful on the internet. The Education Digest, 37(June–July 2007), 7.
comScore. Social networking explodes worldwide as sites increase their focus on cultural relevance; Facebook and Hi5 more than double global visitor bases during past year (Data File). Retrieved from http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2396.
Kist, W. (2008). âI gave up Myspace for Lentâ: New teachers and social networking sites. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(3), 245-247.
Responsibility. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from http://www.merriam-webster.com.
Right. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from http://www.merriam-webster.com.
Social Media. (n.d.) Retrieved February 6, 2009, from the Social Media Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media.