Trustee wants social media courses in schools

Vancouver students should learn social media literacy in a systematic way, says Vision Vancouver school trustee Mike Lombardi.

Lombardi hopes to convince the Vancouver School Board to call upon the new Minister of Education, expected to be announced June 7, to make sure social media curriculum is added to information technology courses.

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Lombardi declared this intention to the Courier following the release of the school board's draft policy on social media that was discussed by the board's Education and Student Services committee, which Lombardi is a member of, May 28. The policy advises district staff not to request or accept any students or minor as friends on social networking sites nor "interact with students or minors on social networking sites for purposes not related to the delivery of the student's educational program."

Lombardi, a self-described "prolific user" of social media, believes teachers could set up a private Facebook page for specific education-related purposes and then take the page down when the reason for it ends. Some school staff are friends with minors who aren't their students, including friends of their children or relatives, so the policy may need to be made specific to befriending students online, or school board administrators who will enforce the final policy will have to use common sense.

Lombardi said the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the Ministry of Education Teachers Regulation Branch advise against befriending students on Facebook.

The draft policy also recommends that school staff monitor the content they or others post to their social media accounts. "We're going to have to be realistic about that," Lombardi said. "How much time do you expect your employee to spend monitoring their Facebook page."

Culinary teacher Shirley Wong permitted students to set up a Facebook page for her when they told her they no longer check email but check Facebook. "I didn't like what I was seeing," said Wong, who deleted her account and reverted to emailing students from her school board address.

Wong also texts select students about school-related subjects, particularly their work placements and on field trips. She talks to them at the start of the year about appropriate times to text and appropriate topics.

The draft policy advises school staff not to exchange personal phone numbers with students.

"The school board doesn't provide us all with cellphones," Wong said.

The draft policy advises school staff not to criticize district employees or the school district on online sites. "Teachers had some good points about making sure we don't violate their charter rights," Lombardi said. "One of the suggestions in there [is] that you shouldn't criticize your school district. That [recommendation to teachers is] totally inappropriate and that will never see the light of day in the final policy."

Staff also released a draft acceptable use of technology policy and regulations for feedback last week. Senior management says both policies will need to be updated annually. The policies will go before the committee again June 27, with a recommendation to the board. For more information, search for "social media policy" at vsb.bc.ca. Input can be emailed to mike.lombardi@vsb.bc.ca or any other trustee.

crossi@vancourier.com twitter.com/Cheryl_Rossi

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