Shontavia Johnson discusses the importance of “digital literacy” for professors in Inside Higher Ed.
Much has been written recently about uses and abuses of social media in the academic setting, most of it negative. However, social media plays many important roles — sharing information within the academic community, creating an online presence for public and private funding organizations and sponsors, connecting with community, and attracting students to academic programs — and it is important for professors who engage in online activities to understand the basics of digital literacy.
In her article, published by Inside Higher Ed, Shontavia Johnson provides context and recommendations to help professors to avoid pitfalls and use social media to their best advantage:
Digital literacy is critically important to professors engaging in online activities, especially through social media. Here are ways professors can ensure their own digital literacy.
• Know your institution’s or board’s policies on social media and academic freedom. This document should outline what is and is not permissible for the institution’s faculty and how academic freedom is defined. Note that your position at a public university or as a tenured professor may not insulate you from discipline. The Kansas Board of Regents’ social media policy, for example, allows any faculty member to be fired for “improper use of social media.”
• Understand privacy settings for your social media accounts and use them. This suggestion, of course, is not foolproof. As [author and digital media expert Luvvie] Ajayi explains, “privacy ain’t privacy anymore.” Someone may take a screenshot of your posts and preserve them elsewhere for digital eternity.
• Develop strategies for connecting and interacting with students. Having social media friends and followers who also currently sit in your classroom may require an additional level of consideration when posting online. Some social media services allow users to group certain friends or followers into categories with limited access to posts. Some have even suggested that professors keep their social media spaces off-limits to students.
• Above all, remain true to yourself (also a suggestion from Ajayi). Academic freedom is, of course, essential to much of a professor’s work. Social media accounts often embody important communications connecting the academy to the public, and that should not change. Choosing digital boundaries is a personal decision largely dependent on an individual’s level of comfort with their tweets and posts appearing on the proverbial Times Square billboard.