Our school has been working on much policy over the last two years. This was identified as an area of need during our last accreditation, and we have made a major effort amongst the leadership team to collaboratively write policy. My role is new to the school this year and one of the tasks that I have been working on has been our school social media policy. The need for such policy at any educational institution goes without saying in these connected times.
For our final project, it was an easy decision to land on the creation of policy. To get the project underway, I emailed my classmates and simply explained my situation and asked if anyone else wanted to get involved. I heard back from three other classmates, Alex McMillan, David Higginson, and Liliana Bandini, who were all eager to get involved. In order to overcome the challenge of being spread around the world, I started a Slack Channel for us to communicate with, and to share our documents. I also started a Google Drive folder for us to work from, and linked this folder to our Slack channel. I have collaborated online before, but what made this project a particular challenge was the distance between us, mostly me, as I am in Brazil, and my three group mates were in Asia. So it typically meant being patient with responses from each other. What was very beneficial for all of us, was the fact that we were genuinely vested in this project and the policy. All of us were looking for something useful to bring back to our schools, which made it a pleasant work experience.
When we started the process, I was originally thinking that we would split the policy into two parts, one for employees, and one for the greater community. However, through discussion with the group, we landed on the creation of one single policy for our community as a whole. Once we were finished, I did make some changes for my community in particular. In the Brazilian context for example, WhatsApp is the messaging service of choice. People do not text message here, or use any other type of messaging service. These groups are used for friendships, family, work, sports, hobbies, you name it, people probably have a WhatsApp group for it. In our elementary school, every class has a WhatsApp group that is managed by a parent volunteer for that class, as well as a WhatsApp group for the grade. In MS and HS, there are groups per grade, and a variety of other things. These are not officially sanctioned by the school, but we know they are used to pass information along, and thus had to be addressed in the policy. One of the other sections that I was sure to include for our context was around “friending” students in social media. I am sure my group mates addressed this to some degree in their policy as well. Given that we are also enacting a child protection policy, having clear policy about online friendships is vital.
As I mentioned above, at our school we are writing several policy documents concurrently. Our process is to work in a small team to write the document, bring that document to the leadership team for feedback and revisions, take to the board for approval, then set a date to launch to staff. For this document in particular, it will be brought to staff in July 2019, during the full staff Orientation for review and sign off.