When we first started thinking about setting up a school Facebook page I did a lot of research. I looked at other school pages, I searched blogs and school policy documents and even contacted the DEECD to find out what their guidelines and recommendations were.
Some general guidelines
This is tricky as Facebook change their layout and setting options quite regularly! I have been trying to show my staff for the last few years the importance of locking down their privacy settings and the same principles apply to a school based account.
Firstly, I thought it was important not to have the account tied to my personal profile. I might not be at this school for much longer (likely) and it saves the hassle of changing admins. I also wanted to keep my personal profile totally separate so set up an account for “ICT Coordinator” that was linked to the school ICT account email. I did have a few issues during setup before the page was launched with Facebook locking me out of my account because I “don’t appear to be a real person.” All I needed to do was provide a phone number, so I used the school mobile phone number.
Having established the page and the account, I wanted to lock down the privacy settings. This was a balance between keeping some control over content and encouraging community interaction. Some may choose different settings than we went with, but I’ll talk you through them (based on the Facebook admin settings as at August, 2013)
Page visibility – I didn’t publish our page right away. I spent time setting up some content so that we didn’t launch with a completely empty page! I also wanted to run it past our Principal for his approval.
Posting Ability – I checked “Anyone can post to my Page Timeline” but did NOT check posting of photos and videos. All photos published have social media consent from parents, I can’t monitor outside content.
Post Visibility – We allow posts by others and have a highlight box at the top of the page. Any ‘problem posts’ can be deleted.
Post Privacy Gating – This is off as I only post from the school account, not my personal account, therefore all posts I make are intended to be public.
Messages – Yes, I wanted families or community members to be able to contact the page via private message. This may change in future, it depends who is monitoring the page and if it is more efficient to have a single point of contact (e.g. school email) rather than a lot of different options.
Tagging ability – We didn’t want students or other community members being tagged in photos or videos so this is turned off
Notifications – I receive email and Facebook notifications of interactions on the page.
Country Restrictions – We have families from all over the world, therefore we turned this off, we are trying to encourage community interaction
Age Restrictions – None, as we want all community members to be able to access the page. This also means that users do NOT have to sign in to access the page, allowing those with no Facebook account to still access the photos and information posted here.
Page moderation – You have the ability to list certain words that you always want clocked from the page, so far we have not added anything to this list… where do you start?! There are probably lists somewhere that you can automatically add. I might have to investigate this myself!
Profanity Filter – Strong. Naturally.
Similar Page Suggestions – We have this on. This is preference only.
Replies – We have replies to comments turned off. This means that no one can reply directly to another person’s post. This decision was taken to avoid anyone making direct comments to other community members. This is a preference that may be changed once the page has been active for a while and the school community are familiar with its use.
Merge Pages – if other pages have been created with your school name you can request to have them merged to a single page.
Delete page – If you no longer wish to host a school page, you can choose to delete the page.
We have a school newsletter which comes out each week and we have a school website. We didn’t want to Facebook page to merely repeat this information. Our classes do not currently have blogs, so we decided that the main feature of the page would be sharing the activities and learning happening within our school
We also wanted to share school events as they happen. At the moment, teachers have class lists showing the students in their class with social media permission. They can take photos of these students during class and school events. They then mms these photos to me and I crop/edit them and upload to the page. A fantastic example of this was during our recent Year 5 and 6 school camp. Students were away from home for 3 days and the teachers attending were able to send photos of the students back for me to upload to the page. We had a huge amount of activity from parents and siblings wanting to see what the campers were getting up to. We also had teachers accessing the page with their classes back at school (the page is set to public so it can be viewed without logging in to Facebook) and talking about what our senior student were up to.
We also feature samples of students’ work which is a great way of sharing with the community the types of learning activities in which our students participate.
Some final thoughts
Earlier this year there was an incident in which a child was ‘exposed’ to an inappropriate image on the QANTAS Facebook page. This raised issues that we need to consider as a school. The boy’s father had argued that QANTAS should have noticed the image immediately as Facebook is a 24hour service. After contact the DEECD legal team we were advised that there is nothing we can say or do to protect us from that kind of incident. All we can do is be vigilant in monitoring the page and have a well established policy for reporting and action that all community members are aware of.
Some teachers have also expressed the desire to interact with the school Facebook page, but do not want to use their personal account for privacy reasons. Our Principal has also voiced the same concerns. There has been suggestion that teachers should set up separate profiles for professional purposes. Ideally, this is a decision that is made as a school team and teachers are given guidelines about how to interact. For example, you don’t want a situation where some teachers are ‘friending’ parents and students and other teachers are not. You also don’t want parents wondering why their child’s teacher is not ‘friending’ them, so it’s a good idea to have established community guidelines.
The most important thing to remember in all of this, if you are faced with the task of setting up a social media profile for your school, is that not everyone knows as much about using social media as we might think. Just like most of us drive a car without knowing exactly how it works, many people use social media without really understanding it. Our role as educators, especially if we choose to embrace social media as a school community, is to work with students, parents and staff to model and explain Cybersmart ways to interact with social media.
Has this post helped you? Do you have any unanswered questions? Please leave a comment below
You might also like to check out Social Media in Schools.