Using social media to keep in touch with students can encourage a culture where teaching staff are expected to be on call 24/7.
Possibly because I’ve worked in sound editing for film and television, I’m very aware of intrusive noise. It’s distracting, making it hard to focus when we’re meant to be at work, and making it impossible to switch off when we’re not.
Social media and digital communications tools bombard us with interruptions so, while I’m all in favour of staying connected, I’m also thinking about ways to set some limits. These are my top tips:
Lay down some rules
If people know you won’t respond to messages after 6pm, for example, they’re less likely to chase you for answers. Make it clear what these limits are in your email footer and on your profile.
Step away from the technology
If you don’t have your devices with you all the time, you won’t be tempted to check who’s been in touch. Think about leaving your phone, tablet and laptop in another room when you go to bed. At very least, switch notifications off before you go to sleep.
Encourage people to believe you’re not always online
If you want to work late, that’s fine. But consider waiting until the following day to send emails and messages about it. If the recipients are up too, and they respond, your working day might suddenly become even longer.
Look for alternatives
Using social platforms that are specifically for work collaborations allows you to keep work and leisure separate and helps you avoid sharing sensitive student information more widely than you meant to.
I’m experimenting with Yammer and Slack with my students and setting up specific groups for individual projects. It’s an added bonus that working on these platforms will help them use social media in a professional way and get them used to tools they might use when they get a job.
University and college staff, as well as students, feel huge pressure to be working constantly – or at least, to be constantly available to work if asked.
It isn’t the best way to be productive and it isn’t good for physical and mental wellbeing. In France, workers have the legal right not to check emails outside working hours, and a growing number of companies in the UK are introducing rules of their own.
As yet, limits like these aren’t widely in place in the UK’s HE and FE institutions but I’d like to get people thinking about it.
This blog is adapted from an article in the Digifest magazine. Daniel will deliver his lightning talk ‘how to live in a 24-hour social media world’ at 14:00 on day two of Digifest, Wednesday 13 March.