George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Recently, I have had students discover my @TheNerdyTeacher Twitter account and follow me. It usually only lasts a few days before they unfollow me -- a few days of my flooding their feed with blog posts, education news and Edutopia articles. The big question I get from kids is, "Why don't you follow me back?" I tell them that I have some guidelines when it comes to Twitter and following students. I thought it would be great if I shared them with all of you that use Twitter as part of your education life.

1) Have a School-Only Account

@TheNerdyTeacher is my personal/business account. I use that to connect with educators from all over the world, and it is not a place for me to connect with students from my school. @MrProvenzano is my school account, and I use that to connect with my students and others interested only in school-related tweets. It's wise to have a divide in the personal and work tweets when possible. If students still want to follow the @TheNerdyTeacher account, they are welcome to, but I will not follow them back from that account.

2) Create a Set of Follow Rules to Share with Students

I always follow a student back if he or she follows me on my school account, but then I tweet them some guidelines that I stick to when following students. I tell them that if they use profane language on a regular basis, I will unfollow them immediately. Although they have the right to tweet what they want, I have the right not to see filthy tweets fill my stream. I also tell them I'm obligated, by law, to report any illegal behavior I might see on a student's Twitter feed. They need to be very careful about what types of things they tweet and what pictures they share. Lastly, I tell students, "If you would not tell me to my face what you want to tweet, you probably should not tweet it. If you do, I reserve the right to unfollow you."

3) Limit the DMs

There will be times when students will DM me a question that might be something they do not want to share with the entire Twitter stream. Sometimes it's about a missing assignment or bad grade. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I direct students to see me or send me an email. I like Twitter because it is a public stream that anyone can check. Some people might raise an eyebrow if teachers and students are communicating behind the privacy of DMs. It's something to keep in mind for even the best intentioned teachers.

By following these three guidelines, I have a great Twitter relationship with my students. Some will follow me and I will follow them back without problems. If I see a tweet that might be bad or inappropriate, I will talk to the student and tell them to be careful of what they tweet and the possible consequences that could stem from that kind of communication. They are usually very apologetic, and some have even deleted those tweets. Thanks to two amazing students, @Sam_Metry95 and @WintersComb, for chatting with me about these issues.

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Octavio Rodriguez's picture
Octavio Rodriguez
High School Teacher, Hoffman Estates

Our School district will approve a code of conduct that we will have to follow and makes so much sense because it deals with us and being safe went commenting or have a discussion with students. I am working on adding different Joomla Extension that allow students to blog on my site that is protected and can only be used by them. I have created various quizzes and have used the free sites to enhance the subject matter being presented. Students have been told since the start of the year what the expectations are they will be held accountable for and any violation will cause them to loss credit and or privileges on the site. Students don't abuse this because they know that the technology is there to help them. But there are other technologies that are not being used correctly by many teachers and that has caused them to step into the news because of miss use. Technology is growing at an exponential rate and teachers need to know how to use the technology in a safe and useful way.

Todd Finley's picture
Todd Finley
Blogger and Assistant Editor (Contractor)


These are really practical and well-thought-out guidelines. I like how you set the ground rules immediately so that there is not misunderstandings.

scubear's picture
English/ICT teacher

Before a couple of years ago I can't recall any school having any strict guidelines.

Last year I was at a school where the rules were what can be said but didn't restrict contact through social media. My self imposed rules was keeping Twitter personal (by making my Twitter name difficult to associate with me, as used on this site), setting up a work only Facebook account (and also changing my name) and limiting what I post on there. Only once did a student ask something that was too work related to post a reply on Facebook and I asked him to speak to me instead to keep within the school guidelines. I've frequently reminded students that what they post on social networks is very public, tantamount to going to a city centre and shouting from a soap box, it's just a case of whether anyone is listening in both cases.

I attempted to set up an in-house blogging system (using Google apps) but found the students were suspicious of it and despite offering credit points for their contributions found they were only doing what was required and maintaining public blogs elsewhere. I would certainly welcome suggestions how this could be done better in the future. I also attempted to include CoverItLive on their home pages. Initially I set it up so they can post unrestricted but as soon as they worked out anonymous messages could be posted it was used for bullying and spamming. So I put restrictions that meant messages needed to be approved by a selected student within small groups (student selected) but found they lost enthusiasm and after the lesson never used the system. Students complained when I asked them to send questions through CiL and it faded out of use.

Then I had a think about how to get them engaged and set up a Facebook (private) group for the class, linked a shared Google pages account where there were links to their individual pages and then I found that the level on engagement and independent learning increased a fair amount. I'd like to say it was more dramatic but most of my classes were very hard work!

I left the school last summer and joined another school as an English teacher. Here the rules are very simple. No contact is allowed with students through any form of social media. I find that effective but very dull.

Shawn Krinke's picture
Shawn Krinke
Junior and Senior Language arts Teacher, North Dakota

I believe this will be useful in the near future, if not now. I currently do not have a Twitter account, but I can see advantages to having an educational account as a way of staying connected with both students and other educators. I appreciate the posting of these guidelines not only as an outline for my conduct, but as a learning tool for the students. Digital citizenship is extremely important, and Tweeting with students would be an excellent venue for teaching them the importance of their digital self.

Amber's picture
Kindergarten teacher from Minnesota

I agree with this as well. I can't say that I have a Twitter account that I use, but find that there are similar circumstances with any social networking site. I think that it is okay to have students or even parents that follow you or are your friend, but you must maintain your professionalism at all times. Often, you can model to your students how to appropriately use the site and use it as a teaching tool.

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