In Part 1, we discussed reviewing your institution’s policies surrounding the use of social media and networking within your class. Once you know theboundaries of what you can and cannot do with these services, you’ll need to investigate the critical issue of content ownership.
Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Twitter and other social media and networking services provide excellent platforms for distributing and promoting educational materials. Their popularity attracts many instructors to initially flock to these services as a way of integrating social media/networking into their classes; why not use the same services as your students are using to engage them in learning? There are pros and cons to using this strategy; the obvious benefit is your students are most likely on these services so you won’t need to ask them to sign-up for new accounts to make contact with them. The drawback I hope that you’ll investigate further, is data ownership and stewardship – especially when it comes to free services. The old adage, “nothing in life is free” is very true when it comes to social networking. If you’re not providing payment, your information and content is almost certainly being used for by the service provider to generate revenue. For example, Facebook’s “Statements of Rights and Responsibilities” state:
17. We can analyze your application, content, and data for any purpose, including commercial (such as for targeting the delivery of advertisements and indexing content for search).
10. About Advertisements and Other Commercial Content Served or Enhanced by Facebook
Our goal is to deliver ads and commercial content that are valuable to our users and advertisers. In order to help us do that, you agree to the following:
- You can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. You give us permission to use your name and profile picture in connection with that content, subject to the limits you place.
- We do not give your content or information to advertisers without your consent.
- You understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such.
Facebook will take your content, analyze it and place ads that are hopefully in some way connected with your topic. If you continue to read, they have the authority to remove content if they believe it is infringing copyright; however educational uses of copyrighted content usually has a wider leeway in what you can and can’t use in the classroom and it’s not clear whether they will consider the context of how you are specifically using it. Google’s YouTube service even allows copyright holders to insert advertisements into videos that it believes violates their ownership rights. Although it will be tedious, it’s in your best interest to read the legalese and find out how your content is being used outside of your original intent. The last thing you want is to have inappropriate ads appearing or suddenly find that content you’re referencing in class is no longer available.
Social Networking – It’s All About Control Of Content
When you are using free services, in the majority of cases, the service provider actually has control over your content. Terms of service agreements these days are written to practically give them power to do whatever they wished with your content. So, how do you use social networking to engage students while ensuring control over your content?. Use social networking to inform students that something important is occurring in your class and drive them back to a place on the Web that you (or your institution) controls. This can mean a small announcement on Facebook or Twitter with a link that sends the reader to your Learning Management System (LMS) or your own personal website that you’ve created. By using services that you own (or that your institution owns), means you can ensure that your content is not being usurped for other purposes. You know exactly how it is going to be used and that it’s going to available when you need it.
Many free services have versions specifically tailored for education, and when possible I’d recommend them over their public counterparts in most circumstances (i.e. Google Apps for Education). Their terms of service address most of the concerns of educators regarding how the content is being used and often take into account regulatory concerns (i.e. FERPA or Section 508 surrounding accessibility). Regulatory compliance may be an issue and be a factor in the services you wish to use as it could risk funding to your institution in certain circumstances. Do your homework, read up on what social networking services are providing, how they use your data, and ensure that any regulations that your institution need to follow are being addressed.