This guide offers schools starting points to support planning for, and getting started, using social media with their communities.
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.
"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."
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:
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
Set aside time for your leadership team to:
This may include:
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.
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.
The Netsafe Schools Surveys have been designed to help you understand what your school community thinks and knows about online safety, citizenship and wellbeing. A My Kit school account is needed to access the Netsafe Schools Surveys. 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
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 simple social media tool 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 – information, school stories, and examples of how to use blogging tools in the classroom on Enabling e-Learning.
Understanding digital technologies – Refer to Policies and procedures | Managing your use of platforms in this guide for information on managing digital technologies safely in school.
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.
Teachers and students from Apiti School explain how they use wikis and blogs to share their learning with parents, whānau, and the wider community.
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.
Consider how your school’s Internet filtering system configuration helps manage access to your chosen social media tool or platform.
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.
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:
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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.”
The overall objective is to create a learning environment, which involves the safe and responsible use of social media tools.
Take a proactive approach.
This approach should reduce negative outcomes by:
Your prevention and response plan needs to take a proactive approach to managing the online environments the school is responsible for.
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.
Consider your language, content, and the permissions for images.
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:
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
“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.”
School events, photos, and links to the school Facebook page and school website are promoted through Twitter.
Learning taking place around the school is shared with the community through:
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.
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.
Social media is an effective tool to promote a dialogue and funnel the attention of the community back to your website for more information.
Hillcrest Normal School teacher, Michelle Macintyre shares how technology has enabled parents to be involved in different ways with students' learning.
Principal Jane Danielson explains the different applications they are using to connect with their community.
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.
Staff and students from Apiti School discuss the benefits of using e-portfolios to share student learning with parents and the community.
Rosin Lamb, Communications Manager at Pakuranga College, explains how they use social media to connect with the community.
Principal, Mary Cuming explains the process the Board, teachers, and students worked through to develop a digital citizenship agreement at Apiti School.
Teacher, Nicki Fielder and students from Apiti School explain the different social media tools they use to connect with parents and the wider community.
James Rea, DP at Russell Street School, shares how students are using their library blog to post book reviews and character profiles.
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.
Teacher, Mike Crawford and his students from Woodend School describe why they are using Twitter to raise public awareness of local environmental issues.
Sonya van Schaijik, Newmarket School, explains how TeachMeet works and the benefits it provides for teachers to connect and share their practice.
James Rea, Deputy Principal at Russell Street School, explains how they setup their online newsletter and the benefits of using a blog post format within Google docs.
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Resources from the Education Council for NZ teachers including: guidelines for using social media safely and ethically, videos, case studies, and practical information.
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.
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.
A discussion in the VLN between NZ teachers focusing on using Facebook on its purpose to extend the relationship between school and community.
Practical help, starters, and resources on Enabling e-Learning.
A discussion in the VLN between NZ teachers focusing on using Facebook on its purpose to extend the relationship between school and community.
A search tool that retrieves copyright free or free to use content that has been deliberately tagged for reuse.
Information, school stories, and resources to support teachers with setting up and using blogs with students.
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.
Password managers store and enter passwords for you, combining security with convenience. This page provides information on choosing, setting up, and using a password manager.
Resources from the Education Council for NZ teachers including:
The Netsafe Kit for schools was relaunched in 2018. The kit contains frameworks, programmes, and a suite of online tools for schools and kura.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Decision-making guides, how-to guides, and checklists