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Quick Tips for Using Social Networking in Schools

1. If you want to use social networking for school work, don’t use Facebook. It’s more of a nonschool tool, and students won’t be thinking about learning or education. Instead, use such sites as Elgg, Ning or Saywire.

2. Update the acceptable use policy.

3. Be prepared to answer questions and have conversations with parents about your district’s use of technology. Make sure you have signed forms from parents of students giving them permission to use social networking for writing in school. Send copies of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) home to parents. COPA was passed in 1998 and restricts access by minors to any material on the Internet defined as harmful to such minors.

4. Develop staff development plans, and coordinate the efforts of IT and education technology staff members.

5. Look for ways to enable teachers to manage their own sites and students, without involving the IT staff more than necessary.

6. Set up learning goals for your students by class. “Our goal is to foster communication and collaboration,” says Jim Klein, director of information services and technology at the Saugus (Calif.) Union School District. “We’re teaching 21st-century learning skills, using a collaborative learning environment and fostering a love for writing for students. We want to seek relevant feedback and reach an authentic audience aside from a one-to-one assignment model.”

7. Ensure students cannot be identified by having them use only first names and avatars, not last names and real photographs of themselves.

Source: Jim Klein, director of information services and technology, Saugus (Calif.) Union School District.