Recently, I had a fantastic opportunity to work with students for a full week on the idea of “Digital Leadership” and how to use technology to make a positive impact on their world and the world of others. It was amazingly well-received although I was extremely nervous about the process. Typically, I work with adults and knowing that I would work with K-12 students for a week, I had the typical “First Day of School” jitters that many, if not most, teachers have no matter how long they have been teaching. Going out of my way to connect with students before I presented, make conversation, and just get to know them a bit before I started really eased my mind, and honestly, it made them more comfortable with me speaking to them. It was a great reminder that relationships are often the beginning and end of good teaching.
Many times after I finished my talk, I was amazed at how many students asked me to take a selfie with them. I felt that it was almost a form that they appreciated what I had to share and that they connected to not only the content but to me on a personal level. In fact, several groups of students came up to me after my presentation and asked if they could have a selfie with me, even though they didn’t have a phone. They just wanted me to take a picture with them. It was very endearing!
I also asked if any students would be interested in being a selfie with me for my Instagram. I shared with them that if they don’t want to be in it, that is totally fine. The majority of students jumped at the chance, while some others chose not to be in the picture.
After the days, I worked with the adults, and we had a lot of conversations about what was shared with students. Some were excited, and some were still pretty apprehensive. The majority, if not all, were open to having the conversation. And that is what is most important. Not that all people are at the same point, but that we are willing to see technology and social media use with students as not a “black and white” issue, but somewhere in the gray. We need to get into the gray if we are going to help our students.
In fact, I can tell you that some of my views on the topic have changed. I used to think that all teachers should have a presence on social media. I don’t think that anymore. But I do think we are better prepared to talk to students about how they use technology when it comes from a place of an abundance of knowledge rather than an absence.
In some areas I am well-versed, and in most areas, I am not. I am comfortable deferring to others when I feel they have more experience and knowledge in an area. I think that is an important skill to develop not only as educators but people. Do we talk down about something we don’t use or know well, or are we willing to learn from others that have more expertise and experience in the area? I felt students seriously considered what I was saying about how they could use technology in meaningful ways because they saw that I also used it. The credibility mattered to them.
All that being said, I wanted to share a post I originally wrote in 2015 talking about asking students their permission to post pictures online with them. I think it is a good conversation to have and one that we need to constantly evolve and reconsider. I hope in some ways, this article can help to lead some conversations in your school, with colleagues, and/or other adults.
Below is the original post with the Grammarly treatment. Thanks for reading!
Getting Proper Permission for Posting Student Pictures Online
Educators often ask me about posting student pictures on social media to be able to celebrate the great things that are going on in their classrooms and schools. Not only does it share the learning, but it also helps students to understand their presence online and what it tells people.
Usually, the process for a school includes some vetting; a school or district will provide some type of form for caregivers to sign. There will be discussions with them, and hopefully, there is a process where families look to sign off that they are okay with the process of posting. Ongoing discussions with staff also may discuss some good things to post and things that you might not want to share with the world. Yet, I have noticed that sometimes there is something missing.
Asking the students for their permission.
Now I am not saying all teachers do this, but I think that if we want to model something to our students, we need to constantly ask them if it is okay if we post their pictures, even if we have permission from the adults, even if the student signs off on something previously.
There are a few reasons that stick out to me why you should ask students for their permission…
First of all, each day is different, and there are days when maybe a student is not up for you sharing their picture with the world.
Secondly, we need to model that if we are going to post something online about someone, we should ask permission. Even if a student is younger and may not understand the full breadth of how many people can actually see the picture, it is still a good practice to model.
Finally, tying into the last point, how comfortable would many teachers be with students just taking a picture of them with their phone and posting it online without permission?
I appreciate the educators that make this a common practice, no matter what forms are signed. If we do not ask the student for their permission, do all of the other forms and permissions matter as much?