The Privacy Pyramid

Which parts of your website should be password protected? What belongs behind the login?

Chances are, members of your school community have an opinion: staff, faculty, alumni, parents and even students. There are legal considerations, too, depending on the country you live in and the age(s) of the students you work with. Somewhere between the legal guidelines, security, school policies and personal preference lies the squishy compromise that allows content stewards to determine what can be available to anyone in the general public to see, and what’s protected with a password for internal viewing only.

privacy pyramid

This graphic is meant to help give you a way to think about the different levels of privacy. Note that this is an inverted pyramid: private content is in the smallest piece of the pyramid, public content in the largest. The most controversial piece is the middle section – to be determined by your community, your security team, your Head of School.

privacy pyramid explained

Examples of the types of content in these categories are above. Private content will usually include family contact information: phone numbers, post and email addresses. The potentially sensitive content section can contain several options, all to be determined by your stakeholders. A few notes:

Faculty directory: this can include all sorts of details, such as photos, email addresses, phone numbers and even short bios. My take? The more information you can share publicly about your fantastic teachers, the better. It also helps the faculty members to increase their professional digital footprint.

Student surnames: do you name students on your website? First and last names? Class year? Do you name students in photos? Whatever you decide, be sure to be clear about your policies with parents. At the beginning of the school year as part of the re-enrollment process, have all families sign consent forms acknowledging acceptance of the policy.

Calendars: sharing generic details (“Band trip to Zurich” and “field trip”) is not the same as publishing exact itineraries and travel documents. Err on the side of vague if there is a concern. Also be aware of what other schools publish about your school. Take athletics, for example: if the opposing teams post their schedules publicly, your school’s schedules are as good as public too.

Photos/videos: Do you post photos of kids at all? This can be one of the most controversial discussions/decisions for your school. Always consider the legal ramifications for your particular country and age group. However, there are obvious benefits to showing student photos, including showing what the school community is really like, and how students engage with faculty and one another in your school’s learning environment.

While it is important to have buy-in from your constituents, privacy issues can’t be “design by committee.” Your highest level of administration (principals, head of communications, security team, advancement) should support the decisions on these items and move forward with policies.


Flexing Your Faculty: Teacher Blogs

I’ve previously written about the valuable role students can play in generating content for social spaces. Student-generated content is a great way to communicate the culture of your school, straight from kids who experience it every day. But you might not realize that there is another source for content creation right under your nose—the faculty.

Faculty bloggers are a great way to round out your school’s story online. You can show off your outstanding teachers to several different audiences. Potential families and potential employees are both curious about what life is like on campus. Although student recruitment is a major part of outreach, staff turnover rates in international independent schools range from 10 percent to as high as 60 percent. This makes staff and faculty recruitment a big part of school marketing.

Making the Case

Faculty are already busy—they’re teaching, after all—so asking teachers to blog on top of their regular duties might be a hard sell. There are ways to make the case, however. Teachers already regularly communicate with parents in a variety of ways. Think about how some of that information can be turned into blog posts—for example, photos from a field trip, quick video clips from presentations or class reading for the week. If the class is using technology or other tools in the classroom, all the better. Initiatives like 1:1 programs (one laptop for each student) are also great fodder for blogs.

Another way to make the case is to appeal to a teacher’s professional goals and career arc. Blogs can be a great way to create and maintain personal brand. As previously mentioned, it’s not uncommon for international school teachers to change schools. Some migrate to new schools every two to three years and having a digital record of classrooms and activities can be a great way to show course progression, teaching styles and interest to potential employers.

Privacy Concerns

As always, protecting students and families is critical. Faculty should adhere to the same data protection and privacy policies used for all school publications. I am personally a big proponent of having the majority of content publicly available, but keeping kids safe is of the utmost importance.

Finders, Keepers

Your teachers might be creating the greatest blog content ever written, but if it isn’t easy to find, they might as well not bother. Make faculty blogs easy to find for all of your audiences: potential families, current families, potential employees and the teaching and learning community at large. Consider creating a page on your website that lists all faculty blogs and make it easy for users to navigate between them.

Final thoughts: Blogs aren’t the only way to share faculty-generated content. Microblogs like Twitter, photo sharing sites like Flickr or the many social bookmarking sites are also options. It’s up to you, the school and your faculty to figure out what works best.

Don’t Panic!

When to act, and when to do nothing?

Community and social media managers deal with this conundrum on a regular basis. When managing a social media presence, what constitutes “action-worthy” audience behavior, and when should you just stand by?

The chart below was inspired by Charlene Li’s “social media triage” as blogged here by Andrew Careaga. The idea is to use the chart as a way to determine the “threat level” – from low to high – and assess the amount of action required to manage it.

Social Media Threat Level Graphic

Most of the issues we deal with on a regular basis fall into the “low” category: combative comments, unofficial groups, spam, etc. These require little to no action to manage, other than consistent monitoring. In fact, reacting too quickly or being defensive could do more harm than good.

“Medium” level issues not only need more attention, but also may require the involvement and input of higher levels of management and other members of your team, including alumni volunteers and other campus departments.

Finally, “high” issues require coordinated action and involve the highest levels of management. While situations that fall into the “high” category are relatively rare, it pays to have a strategy in place for managing these types of situations, similar to a crisis communications plan. Be sure to include strategies for coordinating efforts across campus departments. Also think about how and when to involve Provosts, Vice Presidents, and general counsel. These high-level administrators should know about the situation, and your strategy for managing it.

This chart is meant to help guide your thinking about social media issues, and does not cover every single situation that might come across your desk. It should, however, help you prepare for what lies ahead.

Student Generated Content: Part Five

This is the fifth post in a series on integrating student-generated content into communications, particularly in social platforms. Read the entire series here.

Below are two great examples of blogs and other presences that highlight student generated content.

Example One: Beyond the Elms from my alma mater, Scripps College

Beyond the Elms is written by current students as they begin to explore their options for life after college: graduate school, entering the workforce and entrepreneurship. Students also discuss their searches for summer internships, interviewing tips and other career-related endeavors. Valinda Lee, Assistant Director of Career Planning & Resources and manager of the student bloggers, shared a great success story with me via email:

“One of my writers is interested in going into literary criticism. In one of her posts she mentioned the names of a few critics who she admired. One of them must have had a Google alert set on his name and found the blog entry. He left a comment offering help to the student, and they connected for a great informational interview. He happens to have connections to her midwest hometown and put her in contact with an editor of a paper there.”

Thank you Valinda!

Example Two: Videos from Students on Ice

The Students on Ice Foundation offers educational expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic for high school students, focused on helping young people gain a better understanding of our planet and environment. During each expedition, students share their experiences and impressions, all of which are captured on video. These videos are then uploaded to the web, giving visitors a first-hand account of the students’ adventures. The videos are also a great way to thank donors and others who helped make the trip possible. Watch the clips from the 2010 expedition to Antarctica here. You can also follow their upcoming journey to the Arctic here.

Looking for even more examples? Check out this shared Google spreadsheet created by Kyle Judah (@KyleJudah) listing student blogs from institutions around the world.

I know there are many, many more examples out there. Please share yours in the comments! I hope this series of posts has inspired you to think about how your organization can use student generated content to reach your many audiences.

Student Generated Content: Part Four

This is the fourth post in a series on integrating student-generated content into communications, particularly in social platforms. Read the entire series here.

Managing student staffers can be tricky. Here are some things to remember:

Put Someone in Charge

A single member of the professional staff should be responsible for student workers. Having this point person helps eliminate confusion on where to go for guidance and assistance, both for student workers AND staff members. Brainstorming, determining the content calendar, and selecting topics can be highly collaborative activity, but one person should have the final say on editing decisions and other issues.

Be as Clear as Possible

Describe what you have in mind when giving directions to your students. Be specific. Don’t tell your students to “go take some pictures.” You won’t be happy with the result. Instead, say something like, “take photos of people, make sure you can see their faces. Make your photos tell a story.” This way, you won’t end up with random photos of the sky, the ground, or other “interesting” shots you probably won’t be able to use.

Provide Feedback and Evaluation

Meet with your students on a monthly basis to share the results of their posts. Show them the number of hits, comments, and any other feedback. Tell them how they’re doing on meeting deadlines, working with the team, etc. Make sure they understand the impact of their work on your larger audiences – this will motivate your students and make them feel like part of the team.

“Pizza is not Pay”

That’s my mantra. Student content generators are valuable members of your team. Don’t try to buy them off with pizza and soda. Compensate them with a monthly stipend, pay them on a post-by-post basis, or have them work for an hourly wage. Thank your students for their hard work with more than money: offer to serve as a professional reference, and publicly thank them whenever possible.

In an upcoming post: some great examples of student generated content.