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Using social media to connect with your community

This guide offers schools starting points to support planning for, and getting started, using social media with their communities.

What are social media and social networking?

Teacher and student

Social media (like blogs and wikis) allow users to create, share, and interact with digital content. Content can be accessed, created, or responded to, by anyone with an Internet connection who has set up an account for specific applications. Social networking (like Facebook and Twitter) embraces web-based and mobile-based technologies to enable interactive communication between organisations, communities and individuals.

More information »

Why use social media and networks?

"Social networking and portable devices used in schools can promote better communication channels within the school community (parents, students, and teachers) and the local community."

Effective practice for schools moving to end locking and blocking in the classroom  (p. 2)

Some schools use networks like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about school news and upcoming events. Others host blogs or wikis to share information about particular classes or school projects. Interaction through comments and feedback builds a dialogue and deepens the connection between students, your school, and your community.

Social media and social networks can help you:

  • direct your parents and community back to more information on your website
  • respond quickly to incidents and manage risks
  • weave the school messages through online spaces that your community uses in ways that are relevant to them
  • grow your understanding of how people use online tools to help you manage inappropriate communications or privacy settings.

Teacher, Nikki Fielder describes how Apiti School has set up their school website with links to student wikis and blogs. Students reflect on the benefits to their learning this provides, and share how having a YouTube channel supports learning and sharing. 

Clearly identify your purpose for using social media

  • How does it link with your school vision and pedagogy? 
  • Research and consult with your community before selecting a tool and beginning your journey.

Determine your goals

Set aside time for your leadership team to:

  • learn about different tools and how they are used
  • observe how other school leaders are using social media
  • discuss and agree your purpose for using social media
  • consider ways to manage, feedback, and engage over the long term; for example, through an online safety or digital citizenship committee. See Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in school  – Active and ongoing risk management approaches (p. 16). 

Connect your rationale for using social media with your school vision and values

This may include:

  • improving student learning experience and fostering digital fluency  as part of the curriculum
  • building community engagement
  • learning about expectations, patterns, and tools in use across your community
  • managing requirements related to NAG 5  and other statutory requirements regarding safe learning environments.

Hingaia School principal, Jane Danielson explains the different applications they are using to connect with their community. Their aim is to connect with as many people as possible both pushing information out and encouraging feedback and engagement from the community. 

Knowing your purpose(s) and your audience will inform your choice of social media tools.

Rosin Lamb, Communications manager at Pakuranga High School, describes all the social media tools she is using to connect with students, parents, and the wider community. She outlines how to streamline your setup and ensure you monitor what is happening.

Find out how your community is using different tools

Ask your community about their use of social media and how different tools are being used by their children. This can vary greatly between households. Surveying parents and whānau about their social media use is a good opportunity for parents to take a closer look at what is happening on the screens of their children. There may be children who are using social media, without the knowledge of the parents.

More information »

Digital citizenship surveys (NetSafe)

The Community Digital Citizenship survey provides benchmark data for consideration when rolling out a new digital technologies related initiative.

Common social media tools used in schools/kura

Facebook  – a social networking website that makes it easy for you to connect and share. As at 2015, it is currently the most popular social media platform.

YouTube  – provides a forum for you to discover, watch, and share originally created videos.  

Twitter  –  a microblogging tool for broadcasting and following daily short-burst messages to the world. This is the simplest of social media tools and provides a quick way to promote your school brand by drawing attention to a link and directing traffic back to your school website or blog.

Instagram  – a social networking service that enables users to take pictures and videos, and on-share posts to other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr.

Education-based social media tools

Edmodo  – this platform allows teachers, students, parents, and caregivers to share and interact with learning content. It is a popular social learning network site for education.

TeacherTube  – this site allows for the viewing and sharing of education based and instructional videos. You can download and access some of these videos offline.

Blogging tools

Blogging  – information, school stories, and examples of how to use blogging tools in the classroom on Enabling e-Learning.

More information »

"Discuss parent concerns prior to launching."

The intent to use social media needs to be a conversation, not a mandate. There should always be a clear option for students not to be included in social media. You are still providing a variety of other access points for parents to communicate, and these should be emphasised as much as the social media tool itself.

  • Communicate with your schools’ parents, whānau, and wider school community about the purpose and learning benefits of using social media.
  • Give parents the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their concerns prior to launching any social media platforms.
  • Ensure all members of staff have an opportunity to voice their thoughts. 
  • Invite parents to share their thoughts. You can setup a survey for parents and provide anonymity.
  • Provide examples of how social media can support specific learning opportunities and foster a strong school culture. Identify successes and examples from other schools.

Teachers and students from Apiti School explain how they use wikis and blogs to share their learning with parents, whānau, and the wider community.

Set up safe and secure systems

  • Use generic school-based email accounts, such as admin@yourschool.nz to log in. This allows the access rights to be passed to other staff should people leave or responsibilities change. Access to social media sites should not be managed via staff personal accounts.
  • Create passwords that are unique and memorable, and not easily attacked or connected to other sites or online tools. Use PassCreator  or Secure password generator to generate a strong (long and complex) password.
  • Set up multiple administrator access. The multiple administrator approach (such as that supported in Google Apps) involves more than one user having full administrator rights (including being able to add or remove other administrators). This means that use can be tracked.
  • Set up two-factor authentication on your account or domain to increase security. This means that anyone logging into the account needs to use information (such as a mobile number or code) as well as an email and password.

The rapid increase in HTTPS (secure) technology means end-to-end encryption for most social media sites. End-to-end encryption is a method of secure communication that prevents third-parties from accessing data while it's transferred from one end system or device to another. 

More information »

Access to platform(s)

Consider how your school’s Internet filtering system configuration helps manage access to your chosen social media tool or platform.

  • Ensure your selected administrators can access and manage your social media platforms from school.
  • If your students are at an appropriate age, and you would like them to use selected social media tools, ensure they are not blocked.

Administrator rights and responsibilities

Decide who is the main administrator of your social media accounts. Ensure that at least two staff have responsibility for management and updates to your accounts. This allows for access if a staff member is absent or leaves the school.

Privacy

Rock climbing at school

Rock climbing at school

Image source: USAG- Humphreys

  • Investigate how to adjust the privacy settings to control who can post, respond, and remove content. Often the default setting is to broadcast and distribute to the widest audience possible, when it may be more appropriate to only communicate to a smaller select group.
  • Discuss privacy expectations with all staff to ensure everyone has a shared understanding of what is appropriate.
  • Tagging – it is advisable not to tag  images of students. It is safer to use captions or write short a description of an image – for example, “Rock climbing at school camp”.

Decide who can add content

It may be easier to manage the page/tool if only one or two staff members are adding content. Consider assigning a communications manager and growing capability across the school, staff, and students as part of a focus on digital citizenship.

Ensure that everyone adding content is aware of the technical and social considerations. These might include:

  • who owns the content
  • who is featured in the content
  • for whom the content is intended
  • parental permission to share images, work, or other activities
  • capability to upload and share in ways that support appropriate purpose and audience.

Agree on the kind of content to share

Devote a staff meeting to look at how other schools have used social media and share different ideas of what kind of content has been shared. Consider how you can keep the focus on learning.

Will there be images of students included in the content? If so, have parents given their consent? Many schools have policies about how images are used on the school website and in other publications, but make sure you also address how a student’s image might be used in social media.

Branding

Include a high quality image of your school or school logo.

You need to be aware of the age requirement policy for the platform you choose. Thirteen years is often considered to be the appropriate age for individuals to use most forms of social media, although it is considered more of a guide for individuals outside of the US.

Many platforms are owned by US based organisations. While their legislation relating to how services are accessed by children does not apply in New Zealand law, the terms of service do. Schools must also be aware of their responsibilities in relation to NAG 5  (Education Act 1989) and the Privacy Act  (1993).

"Seek permission from parents."

Based on your own context, you may wish to seek explicit permission from parents/whānau so that they are informed and understand what sites the students are using. This is a key for managing any risk that might arise as a result of the use of those sites.

Boards of Trustees have statutory responsibilities that apply to the use of social media both in and out of school in relation to NAG 5  and the Privacy Act .

Ensure your Board understands which policies and procedures need to be added or updated to include the use of social media. The Board will include some parents from the community who can also advocate for appropriate use, especially in situations where teachers may not always be present.

You may wish to create a social media/networking policy for your school. Ideally, this will be part of your existing policies regarding appropriate behaviours in school.

Consider:

  • adding specific policy statements related to social media and social network use into other policies, rather than having a separate policy just for this type of technology
  • reviewing existing agreements because social media may offer new functions or characteristics not yet included.

"Write your policy in plain language so everyone understands it."

A responsible use agreement, policy, or digital citizenship agreement should be written in plain language, allowing all members of the school to access and understand it. This document will reflect your school values and be linked with specific behaviours related to social media. Work with your students, parents, and the Board of Trustees to construct your agreements. The NetSafe Kit for schools  details seven steps required to produce a cybersafe learning environment with digital citizenship at its core. 

Students, teachers, and the BoT describe their pedagogy and process for collaborating to create, understand, and implement their digital citizenship policy and student agreement.

Image use

How do staff and students use, select, or manipulate images when they are being used as part of a presentation or item at school?

It is important to help students and your community understand that content on the Internet is often owned by others and does not automatically come with the rights to reuse, copy or share. Use images that have been deliberately tagged for reuse and model this behaviour to all members of the school community.

More information »

Review policies regularly

Review your code of conduct/responsible use agreement regularly to make sure that documentation, processes, and procedures are appropriate to help you manage the challenge and opportunity of using digital technologies.

Apiti School principal, Mary Cumming explains their process step-by-step for reviewing and updating their digital citizenship agreement. The is a collaborative process involving teachers, students, and the Board of Trustees.

Sample policies

Prevention is better than response

“Involving students, parents, and whānau in meaningful discussions about the role of digital technology at school and beyond can help to prevent incidents occurring and reduce their impact when they do.”

Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in school, NetSafe (p. 14)

The overall objective is to create a learning environment, which involves the safe and responsible use of social media tools.

 "Take a proactive approach."

  • Clearly explain appropriate and expected behaviours.
  • Display clear guidelines for use.
  • Revisit expectations regularly within the context of learning.
  • Respond to incidents when they occur. 

This approach should reduce negative outcomes by:

  • reducing the incidents of misconduct involving digital technology
  • minimising harm to students.

Your prevention and response plan needs to take a proactive approach to managing the online environments the school is responsible for.

More information »

 Agree expectations

"Encourage students to – Care before you share.” 

Clarify with all members of the school what is considered appropriate to post online, whether that is on a blog, Facebook page, Instagram, or other platform.  Think about your school values and learning focus.

Agree expectations first with staff and then, if appropriate to your context, the students. It’s important to link your school values and definition of a good digital citizen  together.

More information »

Model appropriate behaviours

Consider your language, content, and the permissions for images. 

  • Always ask permission before taking photos or video of others, especially if you wish to share the images. 
  • People have a right to privacy and asking permission to publish their image models courteous behaviour.

Always monitor your social media channels

Wherever the school name, brand, and content is associated with any form of social media, it is important to be proactive and monitor what is being said about you so you can:

  • promptly respond to questions and comments
  • quickly identify situations where there may be bullying or inappropriate comments
  • be alerted to when your school is mentioned online.

Use tools that make monitoring easy, for example:

  • Mention  – when you put in key terms such as your school name, you are provided with a daily report on where your school has come up.
  • Hootsuite  – provides a dashboard to monitor all your social media channels at once.

Discuss setting up your school social media platform(s) with your community

  • Develop a shared understanding of your purpose for using your chosen social media applications.
  • Work together to develop and agree protocols for appropriate posting and use of images. Publish these on your page or profile so you have a set of criteria that can be referred to if you need to address inappropriate behaviour.
  • Encourage parents, whānau, and the community to join, “like”, or “follow” your school social media platforms.
  • Post, monitor, and respond to comments regularly to build your audience interaction.

Request that other social media tools/pages associated with the school be carefully considered. For example, if a parent creates a school Facebook page separate to the “official” school one, encourage the parent to ensure their page is not confused with the official or teacher driven page. You will not be able to control this, but it’s important for parents to understand that the school’s reputation and perception from the community can be greatly affected by having several pages and sites associated with the school.

School story: Dealing with inappropriate comments on Facebook

Students using Facebook

Image source: Anna Briggs

“Our school set up a Facebook page to help with broadcasting and sharing of school events. We decided to use Facebook because the social media survey we did with our parents and community confirmed this was the most popular social media platform. Not only did we find that the Facebook page was a quick way to connect with parents and the rest of the community, it was also effective in directing people back to the school website. So, we had more people engaged with what was happening at school and greater participation as far as volunteers and support for school activities.

The downside was that we had a parent who left a negative comment about one of the events on the Facebook “wall” when she should have spoken to one of the teachers directly. The comment became a spark that ignited a huge discussion between three parents on Facebook where their opinions about a variety of things related to the school were shared with anyone who might be visiting the page.

Our Facebook administrator quickly removed these comments and contacted the parents directly. We asked that any other issues or concerns be addressed by physically coming into the school and discussing face-to-face. If that was not possible, then an email sent to the appropriate teacher would be okay followed by a meeting to follow up if necessary. We definitely wanted to make sure that our parents understood that it was distracting, unproductive, and hurtful to broadcast a concern, rather than raise the issue in person or with a direct message.”

Examples of schools using social media

Facebook and Hobsonville Point Secondary School

  • The school posts about activities in their own school and in the wider community.
  • Posts showing their successes and experiences focus on specific initiatives and benefits to groups of students.
  • Issues related to the school itself that have arisen in the media were also addressed with reassurance, balance, and respect.

Twitter and Pinehill Primary School

School events, photos, and links to the school Facebook page and school website are promoted through Twitter.

Twitter and Ormiston Primary School

Learning taking place around the school is shared with the community through:

  • images
  • video
  • hashtags of themes and concepts explored – for example #sportsday.

The Twitter feed is embedded directly on their school website, which is an effective way to keep your school website current when some of the content may be static.

It can be confusing and distressing when incidents occur through the inappropriate use of digital technologies. The Education Act 1989  contains provisions that are directly relevant to how schools should manage an incident involving digital technology.

More information »

For successful ongoing management of your social media tools...

Follow your set expectations
  • Decide who posts and how.
  • Model appropriate language and behaviour at all times.
Monitor your accounts, post regularly, and respond promptly
Social media in use at Pakuranga College
  • Regularly monitor your Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts. 
  • Set up alerts to inform you when a post is added so you can respond promptly.
  • Use social media to highlight face-to-face teacher, parent, and student interactions. For example, you might post photos from a sporting event with a link to more content on your school website.

"If something inappropriate appears remove it immediately."

If something inappropriate appears, take the necessary and immediate steps to remove it. If possible, contact the person who made the initial post directly to clarify why the post was taken down and encourage further dialogue to take place over the phone or in a face-to-face meeting.

Review your agreements regularly
  • Continue to communicate with the Board to check their understanding about how social media is being received.
  • Plan to review your digital citizenship agreement with students, parents, and whānau regularly. Make it visible across all levels of the school community. 
  • Regularly promote the link to your documentation through the school newsletter and your social media channels, and share digital citizenship tips frequently.

Social media is an effective tool to promote a dialogue and funnel the attention of the community back to your website for more information.

Engaging parents in learning through technology

Engaging parents in learning through technology

Hillcrest Normal School teacher, Michelle Macintyre shares how technology has enabled parents to be involved in different ways with students' learning.

Using technologies to connect with the community

Using technologies to connect with the community

Principal Jane Danielson explains the different applications they are using to connect with their community. 

Digital citizenship at Apiti School

Digital citizenship at Apiti School

Staff and students from Apiti School explain some of the practical strategies they have put in place to ensure they are safe and responsible digital citizens.

Sharing student learning

Sharing student learning

Staff and students from Apiti School discuss the benefits of using e-portfolios to share student learning with parents and the community. 

Connecting with the community through social media

Connecting with the community through social media

Rosin Lamb, Communications Manager at Pakuranga College, explains how they use social media to connect with the community.

Apiti School – Process for developing a digital citizenship agreement

Apiti School – Process for developing a digital citizenship agreement

Principal, Mary Cuming explains the process the Board, teachers, and students worked through to develop a digital citizenship agreement at Apiti School.

Connecting learning and the community

Connecting learning and the community

Teacher, Nicki Fielder and students from Apiti School explain the different social media tools they use to connect with parents and the wider community.

Using blogs to communicate with the school community

Using blogs to communicate with the school community

James Rea, DP at Russell Street School, shares how students are using their library blog to post book reviews and character profiles.

WHS Digital citizenship programme

WHS Digital citizenship programme

Wellington High School DP, Dominic Killalea explains their Digital Citizenship programme, which begins at Year 9. Dominic also discusses some of the challenges they have faced opening up the network to students and how they have dealt with these challenges. 

Students communicating beyond the classroom using digital technologies

Students communicating beyond the classroom using digital technologies

Teacher, Mike Crawford and his students from Woodend School describe why they are using Twitter to raise public awareness of local environmental issues.

Connecting to share professional learning

TeachMeetNZ

Sonya van Schaijik, Newmarket School, explains how TeachMeet works and the benefits it provides for teachers to connect and share their practice.

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Key resources

Teachers and social media

Resources from the Education Council for NZ teachers including: guidelines for using social media safely and ethically, videos, case studies, and practical information.

Digital technology in schools

Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in schools

A guide to support NZ schools with managing safe and responsible use of digital technology for learning. It includes help on managing risk and incident reponse. Developed by NetSafe and the Ministry of Education, February 2015.

Getting started with social media for your school

Tips on how to use social media for a primary or secondary school. This slideshare presentation gives ideas on how to use social media to engage with parents, students, and the community at large. Published 2015.

How might we use Facebook/social media to connect to our school community?

A discussion in the VLN between NZ teachers focusing on using Facebook on its purpose to extend the relationship between school and community.

Digital citizenship and cyber-safety in schools

Practical help, starters, and resources on Enabling e-Learning.

How might we use Facebook/social media to connect to our school community?

A discussion in the VLN between NZ teachers focusing on using Facebook on its purpose to extend the relationship between school and community.

Search.creativecommons.org

A search tool that retrieves copyright free or free to use content that has been deliberately tagged for reuse.

Blogging

Information, school stories, and resources to support teachers with setting up and using blogs with students.

cloudlearn report: phase 1 effective practice for schools moving to end locking and blocking in the classroom

Cloudlearn report: Phase 1 – Effective practice for schools moving to end locking and blocking in the classroom

This research report includes case-studies on teachers using YouTube, blogging tools, mobile phones, and video conferencing in the classroom. It includes guidelines for schools and teachers, and acceptable use policies.

  • Authors: Stephen Heppell and Carole Chapman
  • Published: 2011

Teachers and social media

Resources from the Education Council for NZ teachers including:

  • guidelines to help teachers use social media safely and ethically
  • animated scenarios showing ethical dilemmas
  • presentation frameworks to help teachers unpack the issues and examine social media use in their own school/centre
  • positive case studies from teachers who have used social media successfully
  • links to other sites with useful information about social media including concepts such as digital citizenship, privacy and copyright
  • a social media map, describing different platforms and the characteristics of social media
  • code of ethics for certificated teachers .

The NetSafe Kit for Schools

The Kit details seven steps required to produce a cybersafe learning environment with digital citizenship at its core.

NetSafe logo

Staying safe online  

 A quick guide with advice, tips and how-to guides for social media, online shopping, safe search and more.

Digital technology in schools

Digital Technology: Safe and responsible use in schools

A guide to support NZ schools with managing safe and responsible use of digital technology for learning. It includes help on managing risk and incident response. Developed by NetSafe and the Ministry of Education.

Edutopia logo

How to create social media guidelines for your school

A step-by-step guide for schools to collaborate their community to develop guidelines for using social media. Resource developed by Edutopia in conjunction with Facebook.

Help! My email account has been hacked

Learn the simple steps to reduce the chance of your accounts being hacked from NetSafe.

Ethics for teachers working online
A webinar recorded in September 2012 using Blackboard Collaborate from the Enabling e-Learning community  in the Virtual Learning Network. Nicky Kingston, New Zealand Teachers Council, looks at the Social Media website aimed at supporting teachers to make ethical decisions.

Ten Trends 2013: The social web
Karen Melhuish Spencer talks about social learning and the social web in this EDtalk. She challenges schools to support students to act with integrity online, offer a curriculum that provokes deep questioning, allow students to drive the learning, and harness technology to show learning in multiple ways.

For further advice contact »

  • Connected Learning Advisory – Te Ara Whītiki  – for help with planning for the use of social media or social networking for learning and community engagement.
  • NetSafe  – for advice and support related to managing and responding to incidents related to the use of digital technologies in your school community.

This guide has been produced in response to a number of specific queries from schools. It should not be read as a recommendation or endorsement of any specific product. The Connected Learning Advisory is a Ministry of Education supported service that provides schools with technology information relevant to their queries and does not recommend one product over another.


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