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Schools address social networking, should students and teachers be 'friends'?

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News Dickinson, 58602
The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Most students and many teachers have accounts on social networking websites, such as Facebook or Twitter, and education officials said there is an understanding of what is acceptable conduct between instructor and student even in the absence of technology-specific policies.

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However, multiple officials said explicit parameters may need to be defined or current guidelines might need a review.

Valerie Fischer, director of school health and adult education for the North Dakota Department of Public Education, said social networking could enhance the learning process, but it is something that has to be used carefully.

"It is a relatively new concept, and if done appropriately and in a controlled method, it could be very effective for both the teacher and the student," she said. "However, there are also those gray areas where without understood parameters by both parties, it could be misused and misrepresented."

Dickinson Public School Board President Kris Fehr said there is not a definitive policy for conduct between teachers and students on websites, but that the Education Standards and Practices Board, as well as the North Dakota Century Code are specific on inappropriate contacts between students and teachers.

"School employees know it is inappropriate to contact students about something not related to school," she said.

Dickinson High School senior Madison Deibert said she thinks it is very clear what is acceptable and what is not when using networking in relation to school.

"Teachers don't really want to have us on Facebook," she said, adding that they are likely refraining to maintain professional integrity.

Trinity High School Principal Carter Fong said his school uses a general technology use program and social networking websites are blocked at the school.

"We discourage personal contact between students and teachers on Facebook, but if it is school related and monitored, I think it could be beneficial," Fong said.

Trinity may pursue a student-operated, school-sponsored Facebook page for announcements and updates, Fong said. The school has also utilized social networking to generate interest in fundraisers and to connect with alumni, he said.

Fehr said social networking offers another means of relaying

information.

"It is one more way of communicating, one more way that a student has to clarify the assignment, find out when the bus leaves, those things that are education related. Assisting the students in making the most of school," she said. "And

we should be making the most of technology."

District 37 Senator Rich Wardner said there hasn't been much discussion on the matter in the Legislature because school districts have been able to manage.

"If they need our help, they will come to us," he said.

The use of social networking does pose dangers, but also poses opportunities to enhance learning, Wardner said.

Fehr agreed and said that it should be used on a case-by-case basis.

"It is probably best if school districts address it according to their needs and their policies," Fehr said.

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