With the number of teachers and school administrators that have increasingly embraced social media as a way to better connect with parents and families, we must address why it’s time to STOP using social media in the classroom.
Problem 1: App Overload
The first problem goes back to the idea of families becoming disengaged through what we refer to as “App Overload.” For schools to continually inform, involve, and engage families, there needs to be open lines of communication among teachers, families and administrators. But if one teacher is on Instagram, and the next is on Facebook, and the school administration uses Twitter, it can be harder than ever for parents to keep up with the latest news.
It’s also easy for important messages to be lost amid all of the photos and status updates (not to mention the different formulas that determine what information a user sees). While private accounts and groups can work, managing who is requesting access and who sees the information year to year can be a hassle.
Disparate apps and social networks make it especially hard for parents to find out what they really want to know: how their child is doing. These different social media channels, combined with different apps, pages, emails and websites can ironically end up fracturing the K-12 community, rather than bringing it together.
Problem 2: Privacy
The second problem revolves around the privacy of social media, and complying with privacy regulations at the local, state, and federal levels. Knowing whether your school or district has policies around social media use and how to comply with them is important. Social media usage in the classroom has the ability to clash with both FERPA and Copyright Compliance. Educators should be aware of FERPA policies, and what they can and cannot share in posts and photos (did you know that student handwriting is personally identifiable information?). A teacher posting public photos of students working on classroom projects has good intentions, but can pose certain liabilities if it’s not carefully reviewed.
Additionally, social media limits the oversight of schools and districts. When teachers are using a number of different social accounts, tools and apps, it makes it difficult for school and district administrators to stay involved in the communication streams. It also doesn’t give schools or districts the ability to see actual data and report on the levels of engagement within each classroom. These analytics would certainly make it easier to find break-downs in communication before a family becomes disengaged.
Solution: One Private K-12 Solution
To be clear, social media should absolutely be used on the school and district levels for the purpose of PR and Community Outreach/Engagement. This is an important tool for engaging the outer community. However, educators should be using a classroom-only tool to safely share information about their students with families.
Parents should have one place to look for everything they need to know about their children’s education, not five places to look for bits and pieces of information. That’s why K-12 school districts need a unified communications solution that gives parents the equivalent of a front row seat or a window into the classroom.
So when evaluating a solution that you can use to engage with families, consider the following:
– It should connect educators, schools, and the district together in a private and secure space (one that is FERPA compliant at minimum).
– It should allow for two-way communication on every post (regardless of whether it’s a message, announcement, media file, or an event) so that families can respond, coordinate, and know what is happening every day with their children.
– It should allow educators to post messages that allow families to truly understand daily events and reinforce learning at home.
– It should have one central, shared calendar so that families can easily find out what’s coming up in the classroom, at the school, and in the district.
– It should be capable of translating posts within the platform or network, as well as the notifications that go out to families.
Over the years, there has been a growing spotlight on the education funding gap. The gap has become more of a problem for many K-12 school districts with recent statistics showing an increase in teacher spending on school supplies.
Many schools and districts are finding that traditional fundraising can no longer cover some of the greater costs that are needed, and as a result of the mass growth in technology, an increasing number of K-12 members are now requesting funds through crowdfunding sites. These sites are providing valuable opportunities for K-12 staff, organizations, and teams to raise funds for additional resources and experiences, while addressing the needs of our schools and students.
However, these Crowdfunding sites were not built specifically for school districts and lack the necessary oversight and control. Every single online fundraising campaign that is posted poses serious liabilities for a school district, and can result in a number of legal and financial violations.
As a result of the liabilities, some districts take the easy route by setting policies that ban crowdfunding. However, this option forgoes the many benefits that crowdfunding has to offer for school districts, and creates a new task of having to police the large number of crowdfunding sites to ensure district members aren’t using them. It can also imply a lack of trust in their educators. Until the educational funding gap is solved, schools should absolutely fundraise online, however it should be done in an appropriate way. That’s why it’s important that district leaders be aware of the liabilities associated with crowdfunding, and use the information to evaluate crowdfunding platforms for their district.
Below, we’ve put together the 5 Liabilities of Crowdfunding that every K-12 District should know:
1. Fundraising on the School or District’s Behalf: Most Crowdfunding sites will allow anyone within the district to launch fundraising campaigns. This means they can use the name, logo, or images of the school or district without any form of consent. Based on how the campaign is pitched, the campaign can reflect poorly on the district, and the results of the campaign can cause PR nightmares.
2. Sharing Student Information: Everyone loves to see pictures and know the students that are being directly impacted by their contribution, however this can be a largely overlooked FERPA violation. Sharing student images or names without consent can create huge liabilities for a district.
3. Routing Funds through Personal Accounts: Many Crowdfunding sites transfer the lump sums directly to the person who posted the campaign, which raises legal and financial accountability issues. In most cases, this is also a violation of district and state policies that affirm that the District Treasurer is supposed to be in charge of the funds.
4. Ownership: Once completed, who actually owns those funds or products that are produced through that campaign? Was the campaign personal or on behalf of the district? Is that the property of a teacher, a school, or the district? Some teachers will tell you that everything they raise is for the school, while others will tell you differently if policies are not in place to outline this problem.
5. Existing/Incompliant Resources: It’s actually a common occurrence for staff to raise money for items that either already exist elsewhere, or already have funding. It’s also not uncommon for staff to raise money for technology that isn’t approved or that the curriculum isn’t available for.
Livingtree Give takes the same concept of online fundraising, but uses features built specifically for school districts to do so in a coordinated fashion in order to eliminate these liabilities. Give provides district oversight to every fundraiser, while also assuring donors that every single campaign has been vetted and approved through the district’s built in and customizable approval process. District admin can now track every single dollar, route funds through a single district account, easily disperse funds to the appropriate accounts, and generate reports – all in real time.