iRules For Schools: Why Teachers Need to Set Digital Boundaries
Janell Burley Hofmann, August 15, 2016
Back to school season is upon us. Teachers, students, parents and all of the great people that work diligently to shine up the buildings, mail out the packets and set up the schedules, are in full swing. As the final days of summer play out, we’re all thinking about the experiences our classrooms will bring this year. As educators, healthy boundaries help a school flourish. Policies and rules should be honored and respected – but also revisited. Reflections and revisions on best practices help educators grow, evolve and have a clear direction for their goals and intentions.
One critical area to have proactive and clear boundaries – or iRules – is with technology. iRules can apply directly to students, but also help parents, and keep educators balanced by preventing burnout. Consider the points below to help your school community be mindful and deliberate in the digital age.
- Have a firm email response policy. Identify (and practice) it for parents from the start of the school year.
- Set a time each day specifically for email (or other digital) response. Allow this time your full attention to effectively and efficiently handle communications.
- Have a plan for emergency communication that is different from your general email policy.
- Think about how accessible you want to be to parents and students online and design your personal and professional social media and communication methods to meet your needs.
- If you have classroom social media, websites or other online methods that integrate home and classroom, design a set of iRules for the accounts and pages to help you make the most of your efforts. (Prompts: Will it be a public account/page? Will I be using photos/names/personal info of the students? What is my goal for having these accounts/pages? How will it help my students and families?)
- If you have classroom social media, set a specific time each day to post, so picture taking and sharing doesn’t take you from being in the moment with your students and distract from teaching and learning.
- Set a personal policy for communicating with colleagues. Texting outside of work can be convenient and helpful as an educator, but it can also be draining. Allow for time and space to be truly away from work – including your digital communication.
- Is your classroom 1:1 or BYOD? Design classroom iRules with your students with expectations for how devices will be used in the classroom and during school hours.
- Increase your digital fluency (training, practice, mentors, professional development) so that technology isn’t a source of stress in the classroom, but a way to enhance communications and learning – not take away from it.
- Align your iRules with the culture and policies of your school district for consistency.