In technology terms my Mum has come a long way in the past ten years. She used to view computers in the same way that I imagine blacksmiths viewed Karl Benz chugging past in his horseless carriage. It was the future, but somehow out of reach and not necessary for now.
Mum works for a successful education consultancy. They find schools and guardianship for overseas students seeking private education in the UK. The nature of her work meant that inevitably she succumbed to using a computer and her confidence quickly built. She has now worn out multiple laptops and printers, set up collaborative work areas, manages a database and more recently started using a Blackberry. I now get reminders about wearing a jumper via Blackberry Messenger.
However social media still eludes her. Or rather, she evades social media. I think this is mainly because she has heard lots of bad stories about Facebook in particular and not having used it herself, she doesn’t see the benefits.
This all came to a head when it transpired that a student had been posting comments about his school and living arrangements on Facebook and generally causing quite a bit of upset.
What to do? Mum realised that she couldn’t stop students using social networks (the fact she realised this seemed like quite a good starting point) so I suggested the following:
1. Contact the student in question and ask them to apologise to the people concerned. The comments were very personal and not necessary.
2. Acknowledge social media and offer some guidance. This won’t be the first or the last time that this happens. In fairness to students, if they are not shown any guidance about using social media, then how can they be expected to know any different? There is also a general duty of care that extends to students using the web safely.
3. Publish the guidance on the company website and make it part of the student induction pack.
4. Offer students a space, perhaps a Facebook page, where they can talk online if they want to let off steam or complain. At least by knowing where this space is, and seeing the comments that appear, the company has a chance to respond and deal with any issues.
Here’s the guidance I offered, which is based on some of the specific issues raised by students:
I need to find out how far the guidance has gone, but am hoping for an excuse to build a Facebook page in the New Year. Any amends or additions to the guidance gratefully received.