BENEFITS AND PITFALLS: SIMPLE GUIDELINES FOR THE USE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOLS IN K-12 EDUCATION DR. STEPHANIE HUFFMAN

University of Central Arkansas The article will outline a framework for the use of social networking tools in K-12 education framed around four thought provoking questions: 1) what are the benefits and pitfalls of using social networking tools in P-12 education, 2) how do we plan effectively for the use of social networking tool, 3) what role does professional development play in navigating this challenging issue, and 4) what role does educator preparation play in developing tech savvy educational teacher leaders? Insights, eoncems. and alternative perspectives on the topic will be covered outlining a plan to target appropriate use.

Applied Research Problem There are numerous research studies on the benefits and pitfalls of the use of social networking tools. "Social networking sites have been rapidly adopted by children and, especially, teenagers and young people worldwide, enabling new opportunities for the presentation of the self, learning, construction of a wide circle of relationships, and the management of privacy and intimacy. On the other hand, there are also concerns that social networking increases the likelihood of new risks to the self, these centering on loss of privacy, bullying, harmñil contacts and more" (Livingston & Brake, 2010, p. 75). Framed within this setting is the applied research question, what responsibility does educational leadership preparation programs have in regard to preparing future educational leaders for the challenges that face P-12 educators with the use of these tools? According to Barnes (2010), social networking tools are a group of Web sites that provide people with the opportunity to create an online profile and to share that profile with others. Any topic can and is discussed. These sites also contain a variety of applications with social, educational, and recreational repercussions. The most commonly used are

MySpace, Google +, Facebook, and Twitter. Based on the data collected in 2007, about 42% of the users were ages 8 to 17. Of the 42%, 27% were 8 to 12 years old and 55% were 13 to 17 years old. The other 58% were age 18 and older (Timm & Duven, 2010). Benefits and Pitfalls Why are social networking tools so popular with children and young adults? As children develop, they attempt to self-identify. Identities are constituted through interaction with others. Social networking tools provide ample opportunities for children and young adults to explore ones boundaries of self through presentation of self, learning, building relationships, exposure to other diverse groups and perspectives and the self management of privacy and intimacy (Livingston & Brake, 2010). "Because identities are constructed within, not outside, discourse, we need to understand them as produced in specific historical and institutional sites within specific discursive formation and practices, by specific enunciative strategies[and] within the play of specific modalities of power" (Hall, 1996, p. 4). Because of the duality of development of self, social networking tools can be both powerfiil allies and enemies in educating our youth. Through appropriate

154

Benefits and Pitfalls: SIMPLE Guidelines for the Use of Social Networking... /155 professional development/training of faculty social networking tools can be utilized to enhance the educational experience of students by extending the learning beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. The use of these tools allow not only classroom teachers but other school personnel (e.g. counselors, school librarians, and principals) to target privacy and intimacy issues. What should and should not be shared? Without addressing or acknowledging that our students are using social networking tools, we place them at risk. The same benefits can turn into pit-falls if left unchecked. The ease, speed and convenience of widespread access and distribution of content can be unsettling. Uninformed students and teachers can put themselves at risk by sharing the most innocent piece of information. Once information is released into cyberspace, it becomes a part of a global network. Persistence and search ability of content, replication and manipulation of content create a fi-amework in which underage children are at risk (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Bullying has gone global as well. Traditional bullying occurred during the school day. Cyber bullying broadens the abuse to a 24/7 scaffold. This raises the following question, are these guidelines infi-inging on the academic fi-eedom and privacy rights of classroom teachers? What role do educational leaders (e.g., principals, superintendents, school counselors, school librarians, and technology coordinators) have in regard to these issues? The development of school and district policy that protects children and that also provides the least restrictive environment for teaching and learning is fundamental. Professional development is essential to training classroom teachers and students on both the benefits and risks associated with social networking. Collaboration and inclusion of all stakeholders is vital in the development of age appropriate activities and lessons which use these tools (Livingston & Brake, 2010).

Because of these concerns many state professional licensure standards board are drafting guidelines to help support P-12 education. For example, in May of 2010 the Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board drafted recommendations regarding the educational applications of social networking tools. Acknowledging the benefits of such technology tools, the following cautionary guidelines were drafted to assist educators with aligning their use with the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators. These guidelines specifically targeted the use of social networking tools by classroom teachers: 1 ) To the extent possible, use the social-networking tools provided through school accounts rather than tools available through your own personal accounts, 2)provide parents/guardians and appropriate school ofticials a written explanation of your reasons/purposes for using each tool, 3)use social-networking tools only during appropriate business/school hours, 4)regularly check for inappropriate material on any tool site that you use to which your students and/or the public can post, and 5) report any inappropriate material to your school's administration (Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board, 2010, p. 1). The SIMPLE Model To fiirther elaborate, many of the issues raised can be avoided by planning. While technology and the use of technology in the classroom is exciting, one should never leap before planning. A good technology planning model should be utilized. All too often teachers side step this fundamental building block and sadly find themselves in trouble, which can be avoided. The SIMPLE Model represents the best ideas and techniques for tackling the job of planning for the use of social networking tools an educational setting (See Figure 1). The SIMPLE model is a

156 / Education Vol. 134 No. 2 The SIMPLE Model

Inventory

Staff and Student Assessment

Measurement

Planning

Figure 1. SIMPLE Model

technology planning model which outlines six components for qualify implementation of the use of technology in the classroom. The six components are 1) student/staff assessment, 2) inventory, 3) measurement, 4) planning, 5) leadership, and 6) evaluation. Staff and Student Assessment The teacher must conduct an assessment of their students as well as their own knowledge/skills on the use of social networking tools. Because social networking tool are so widely used on a personal level (by both students and teachers), many teachers feel that they have a grasp of this fype of technology. This is a false sense of securify. As pointed out earlier, while there are great benefits to the use of social networking tools there are also pit-falls. Privacy issues, cyber-bullying, and replication and manipulation of content are just a few of the problems. Teachers and students should be properly trained on their

use. Thus, it is important to first know what knowledge and skills already exists for both populations. Inventory Once staff/student assessment is addressed, a complete inventory of existing intemal and extemal resources should be done. When discussing the term inventory most would logically think of counting equipment or tools. However, in this case the teacher needs to take inventory of all the resources he/she has available to assist throughout the process. This would include equipment needed, personnel to provide training, materials for the actual lesson taught, and a good analysis (inventory) of his or her own skill set. Collecting this data provides valuable insight into the planning process. From this process several questions should be answered: 1) What social networking platforms are available for use?

Benefits and Pitfalls: SIMPLE Guidelines for the Use of Social Networking... /157 2) Does the school disfrict allow teachers to use public/commercial social networking products or is more scriptive/ private product being utilized by the district (e.g.. Sandbox).

social networking tool(s) within the classroom and specific lesson. In order to adequately address technology planning measurement must take place (Ferguson, 2000). Fundamental questions would target the following:

3) What technology personnel are available (e.g., technology coordinator, curriculum administrator, school librarian, etc.)?

1) Do the current resources available meet the needs of the faculty/students in regard to the completion of the lesson? If not, where do the deficiencies lie?

4) What other basic classroom hardware and sofîtware is need and available for use with the teaching lesson? Measurement Measurement focuses on a spectrum of issues, such as: 1) measurement of current in-house media (hardware and sofitware), 2) measurement of current and future curricular needs based on state, regional, and national technology standards, 3) measurement of available new technologies, and 4) measurement of standards (i.e. national content standards, Common Core Standards, and/or other accrediting body). In this instance measurement is defined as "sizing up" or determining "what areas are being met verses what is actually needed" (Reiser & Dempsey, 2011). Applying this definition to each measurement issue sheds light onto pivotal areas where decisions must be made. The measurement element should be utilized in conjunction with both the staff/student assessment element and the inventory element. (Hufftnan & Rickman, 2004) Even though this data was collected within the inventory element, its inclusion in the measurement element provides a bridge or link when determining what is needed in order to meet state, regional, and national technology standards, when evaluating new technologies, and when addressing accreditation issues. By pulling these three elements (staff/student assessment, inventory, and measurement) together a complete technological picture is generate, thus answering vital questions and providing direction for the use of the

2) Do the current resources meet the standards as outlined based on state, regional, and national technology curriculum? 3) Are there any school, district, state or other professional policies that prohibit my use in regards to social networking tools? If so, what are the parameters for use? Planning When using social networking tools with students do not use your own personal account. Create a professional account to use with students and parents. Your personal account may contain inappropriate material for use/viewing of under-age children. Materials that get posted by your friends or acquaintances are not relevant to the educational experience of your students. Regardless, it is always a good practice to keep your professional life and your personal life separate. Your day to day trials and fribulations would not be shared in a traditional classroom setting, thus it should not be shared in a virtual setting (social networking setting) (Greenhow, 2009). This is a trap that many young teachers fall prey to in both a fraditional and virtual setting. Remember these are your students, not your friends. While they may share many questionable topics/events with others as they explore their definition of self, the same is not appropriate for you as their teacher.

158 / Education Vol. 134 No. 2 Once an account is established for both teacher and student, all safefy features provided by the sofrware should be utilized in order to establish as safe an environment as possible. The teacher should also establish a set of rules/guidelines to be followed by students wbile interacting with others in this medium as it relates to the lesson/classroom setting. The following is an example of four basic rules: 1) Respect others and their opinions. It is ok to disagree but not be disagreeable. 2) Respect yourself. Post only items that pertain to the lesson/topic. No posting of obscene materials. 3) Respect your school and the school communify. Student handbook policies outlined by the district apply to this virtual setting. 4) Take responsibility. If you mess up and something gets posted incorrectly contact the teacher immediately. Explain the situation. Help remove or clean up any problem. Provide both adminisfrators and parents with a detailed description of who, what, where, when, and why in relation to the use of social networking tools integrated within the classroom lesson. This provides a framework for the administration and parents to use in support of the teacher, the lesson, and the student(s). 1) Who will be interacting with the students? Are you allowing any outside guest? For example, if you were teaching a lesson over the Vietnam War are you inviting a war veteran to participate in a viriual discussion with the students? 2) What specifically will be the topic/ lesson (e.g., Tom Sawyer, World War II, modem politics, geomefric shapes, musical composers, etc.)? All

materials/postings should be revalent to the content of your curriculum. The teacher should target specific lessons that can be enhanced by this type of interactive tool. Make sure that your lessons are tied to state curriculum frameworks, national content standards, and/ or Common Core Standards. 3) Where are students expected to obtain material/information to enhance discussions/interactions (e.g., teacher provided, Internet, library, etc.)? Where are students to post their materials, comments, and discussion points? It is essential that teachers regularly check for inappropriate materials on any tool site that is used with students and to report any issues to administrators (Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board, 2010, p. 1). 4) When will the interaction/use of these tools begin and end? There should always be an ending point. Leaving the timeframe undefined can lead to other issues. Restrict the interaction to the length of the lesson. When will students be posting (e.g., during class, at home, on the weekends, etc.)? Parents will want to know and a reasonable perimeter should be established. 5) Why use this tool? Provide the adminisfration with explanation of why this is the best tool to accomplish your lesson. As addressed earlier, many public social networking sites provide benefits but also pitfalls. It is important that the benefits out way any possible issues that might arise. Leadership Leadership within this framework refers to the teachers seeking out expert advice on the use social networking tools for teaching and learning, on the policies and practices

Benefits and Pitfalls: SIMPLE Guidelines for the Use of Social Networking... /159 established by the district, state and other professional organizations, and on training for students and professional development for themselves. Technology leadership should be a focal point on each level of the organization. Leadership begins in the classroom with the teacher (Picciano, 2011). Classroom teachers have a hand on both the pulse of student and curricula needs. With the guidance of teachers, technology utilization in the classroom blossoms into a fountain of ever fiowing information. Administrators must see that technology support specialists, school librarians, and a technology coordinator are in place to work on hardware and software problems, as well as help in the creation of faculty technology training (Hoffinan, 2002). Before using social networking tools, the teacher should acquire adequate training themselves and for their students. Administrators should meet this challenge head on by providing comprehensive training on a yearly basis on the integration of technology into the classroom, including the use of social networking tools. It is essential that training not focus solely on software skills, but on the ethical use of social networking tools by students and teachers. The primary focus should be on the application of the tool as well as the social consequences of inappropriate use and the benefits of responsible use. Training might include: 1) A basic understanding of the social networking platform (e.g., features, safety guidelines, etc.). 2) The ethical use of online technology. 3) The protection of teachers and students from predators. 4) The snare of Cyberbulleying. 5) The benefits of social interaction in an online teaching environment. 6) The development of positive learning spaces in a social networking environment.

Evaluation Evaluation is the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. After each lesson an evaluation should take place. These evaluations allow for minor adjustments in the overall plan or as a future guide for lesson development. The evaluation should address the goals and objectives of the lesson, i.e. were the goals and objectives met, what issues were noted, what feedback was received from students, parents, and administrators? A thorough evaluation of the entire lesson should be completed at the end of the planning cycle, thus allowing for any missed opportunities to be addressed durhig the next cycle (Picciano, 2011). Educator Preparation Programs Finally, what role does educator preparation play? Our rapidly changing technological society demands that we prepare technologically savvy educational leaders and classroom teachers at every level of the organization. Gone are the days when a superintendent could just rely on another to handle technology issues or a classroom teacher can rely on the technology teacher to teach technology skills. Having a basic set of technology skills is crucial for all educational leaders and classroom teachers. It is essential for P-12 educational leaders to train teachers and students about the benefits and risks. Therefore, it falls to educator preparation programs to train future leaders. "Our sense of urgency to support our students was confirmed by several incidents at our college, including the dismissal of a student teacher from his internship placement because of the information he published on his My Space page" (Foulger, et al., 2009, p. 2). This is just one example of how social networking tools have created waves in higher education. Just image the possible ramification for P-12 educational leaders, thus, the vital need for support on the use of social networking tools on all levels.

160/Education Vol. 134 No. 2 Conclusions Regardless of the pitfalls, social networking is a mainstay in the lives of youths ages 6 to 18 and adults ages 18 to 65. While it would be easy to stick our head in the proverbial sand, it is not appropriate. We need to embrace this new frontier and reap the benefits. Educators have always found ways to reach their students, although the approach may seem scary and unfamiliar we can utilize these tools. The best way to address these concerns is through planning. Technology is an essential component of everyday life and social networking is second nature to our students (Greenhow, 2009). When used appropriately and wisely, teachers, students, and classrooms are transformed into a rich interactive environment. When utilized the SIMPLE Model provides a structure for developing a successful technology plan for the use of social networking tools, as well as defining links between interaction and curriculum enrichment. SIMPLE helps the planner maintain focus on the major issues, thus maximizing the benefits while minimizing in pitfalls. References Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board (2010). Recommendations regarding the educational applications of social-networking technology. Arkansas Department of Education. Barnes, S. (2010). A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday: Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Net, Aug. 15, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2010, from http://firstmonday.org/issues/issuell_9/ bames/index.html. Boyd D., & Ellison N. (2007). Social network sites: definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer- Mediated Communication, 13, 210-230. Ferguson, D. B. (2000). Moving beyond the shopping-cart mentality. Curriculum Administrator, 36(7), 52-55. Foulger, T., Ewbank, A., Kay, A., Popp, S., & Carter, H. (2009). Moral spaces in MySpace: Preservice teachers' perspectives about ethical issues in social networking. Journal of Research on Technology Education, 42{\), 1-28.

Greenhow, C. (2009). Social scholarship: Apply social networking technologies to research practices. Knowledge Quest, 37(4), 42-48. Hall S. (1996). Introduction: Who needs identity. Questions of Cultural Identity, Hall S, du Gay P (eds.). Sage: London; 1-17. Hoffinan, B. (1995). Integrating technology into schools: Eight ways to promote success. Technology Connection,2(6), 14-15. Huffman, S. P., and Rickman, W. A. (August, 2004). Technology planning: The SIMPLE Model. Educational Technology, 44(4), 36-40. Livingston, S. & Brake, D. (2010). On the rapid rise of social networking sites: New findings and policy implications. Children & Society, 24, 75-83. doi: 10.1111/j. 1099-0860.2009.00243.X Picciano, A. G. (2011). Educational leadership and planning for technology. 5th ed. New York: Prentice Hall Reiser, R. A. & Dempsey, J. V. (2012). Trends and issues and trends in instructional design and technology. 3"* ed. New York: Pearson Timm, D., & Duven, C. (2010). Privacy and social networking sites. New Directions in Student Services. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

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