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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Tips for Music Classroom Social Media Pages

For better or for worse, as music teachers there is always a need to advocate for the importance of our programs. One of the best ways to do that is to share all of the great things that we're doing in our classrooms with the community- most people have no idea that there is so much more that we do beyond our public concerts! In this day and age social media is one of the best ways to do that, but navigating any online community safely, ethically, and effectively can be tricky. Today I want to share some of my top tips for running a social media account for your music program.

First of all let me say that I am by no means a social media expert. I'm also not an attorney. These are just some introductory tips to help get you started in a responsible way, based on my own experience running social media accounts for my school's music program. That being said, I have found it extremely worthwhile to have a social media presence for our school music program, and I don't think any teacher should feel that they need to be "power users" in order to have meaningful social media accounts for their classroom!

Which platform?

Social media encompasses a broad range of ever-changing platforms. I highly recommend picking one platform to start with for your school account- don't try to start posting everywhere all at once! Better to do one well than to do several hardly. Ask yourself 2 questions when you're deciding which platform to use:

1. Which one(s) am I comfortable using?
2. Which one(s) do others in my school community use?

If you've never used the platform you choose as a personal user before, it will be a much steeper learning curve to get your school account going. So if there is one platform you already use, go with that one. The other factor will be the audience you'll have- if you're choosing between a few platforms that you're comfortable using, do a little sleuthing to find out where your school/ district already has a social media presence: do the board of education, other classroom teachers, the athletics program, or administrators already have accounts that parents and community members follow? You can also look at which platforms have local community groups and organizations already actively sharing. The more you can connect to pre-existing active audiences, the easier it will be to get your own content out into the world!

In most cases, I think right now the top candidates for teachers are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. There are different limitations for each platform, and those change over time. At the time of this writing, Instagram will require some type of image or short video for every post and does not allow sharing clickable links, and YouTube will require some type of video file for every post. Spend some time doing some research by searching for names of local people and places and see what is already happening on those platforms in your school community to figure out which one is best for you!


Of course one of the top concerns when you're sharing your classroom in social media is privacy: both your own personal privacy and the privacy of your students. To protect your own privacy, the most important thing to do is to make sure your school account is not connected to your personal account. How you do this will depend on the platform you're using, so you'll want to do some research for the one you choose, but you'll want to be sure to look at the settings of your school account, and then stop yourself from liking/ sharing/ following your school account and its content from your personal account. 

Protecting your students' privacy takes a lot more effort but is obviously of paramount importance. If you aren't familiar with FERPA, a federal privacy law in the United States, be sure to read this post by Jillian Starr to make sure you understand the laws first. A few basic steps you'll want to take before sharing anything connected to students and their work (their faces, their voices, their names, their handwriting, etc):

1. Check with your building and/or district for media releases. Most schools and districts will ask families to sign a release giving them permission to share photos/ videos from school events/ classrooms. Find out what that release covers, and get a list of anyone for whom you don't have that permission/ release.

2. If your school doesn't already have this in place, you'll need to solicit explicit permission from families before sharing anything tied to students anywhere online. That includes any identifying information, including their handwriting or voices- covering their name on a worksheet or pixelating their face is not enough without explicit permission!

3. Even with media release, I recommend never sharing names of students, period. The only time I might make an exception is to honor an award of some kind. If specific students win an award etc and you want to publicly recognize their achievement, ask the family specifically about sharing their name in that specific way before doing so. Otherwise just share as "this 4th grade student", or some other generic identifier.

4. Ask for student consent. In the same way that you wouldn't want a student taking a video of you teaching and then sharing it without your permission, our students should be able to say no if they don't want a photo or video of themselves to be shared, even if their families have signed a general media release. Let students know your plans before you take pictures or videos, and tell them they can let you know if they are uncomfortable and you will respect their wishes.

The best "rule" to keep in mind: if in doubt, don't. The thing about the internet is you can never completely erase something once it's up. There are very simple ways to access old content that has been (supposedly) completely deleted, even from "private" accounts and posts. It's better to err on the side of caution and make sure you don't create an undesirable digital footprint for your students.  


As music teachers we also have the unique issue of making sure we aren't breaking copyright laws when we share content from our classrooms! There is a myth out there that it's legal to share short snippets (like audio/ video clips under 30 seconds) of copyrighted material. That is not true- it's far more complicated than that. Not being a legal expert myself, I have chosen not to share any audio or video recordings of performances of copyrighted work. I've found there is still plenty of content for me to share between performances of work in public domain and original student compositions, or I can share a photo of a performance if they're performing something under copyright instead. 


The best way to get your content "out there" to the community is to connect with other active accounts. Like and share content from your local arts organizations, the school's athletics department, or the local government account. Tag relevant accounts in your own posts. You'll be noticed by the people who run those accounts, and by some of their followers as well, and hopefully other accounts will like and share your content in return. Just make sure any content you share from other pages still complies with your privacy and copyright concerns (see above)- don't assume that because someone else posted it, it's safe for you to share!

When you're sharing other's content, though, make sure you're sharing with proper credit. It's unethical to copy another account's content without sharing where you got it! If you're sharing something from another page, make sure to:

1. Share from the original post- oftentimes the videos and memes that go viral and show up in your feed are not from the original creators of the content. Take the time to trace the video of that cool performance back to the original performers, or that funny meme back to the original creator of the meme. Tag the actual owners/ creators in your post and share directly from their account instead of sharing a share of a share of a share. If you can't trace it back, don't share it.

2. Keep any watermarks, logos, or other identifying information on images and videos you share. If the creator took the time to put a watermark or logo on their content, they don't want it shared without it. 

3. Do a quick search to make sure any quotes etc that you want to share are attributed correctly. We all know in the age of the internet there is a lot of misinformation. Don't be responsible for spreading it. Fact check your sources before blindly sharing content.

Posting schedule

Once you have your account set up to share safely and responsibly, get yourself on some kind of posting schedule. There's no point in posting on social media if nobody sees your content, and the best way to make sure people actually see your posts is to be consistent. That doesn't mean you have to post every day, but I definitely recommend at least once a week. My school account posts 3 times a week, and I always share on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Having a specific schedule will not only help keep you accountable for staying active, but your followers will know when to look for new posts, and generally social media platforms will show content to followers more from accounts that appear "active".

Content ideas

In order to post regularly you'll need to have plenty of content! It doesn't have to be anything fancy or complicated though. Obviously this list is not exhaustive, but here are some general ideas of the types of posts you could share for a music class account (don't forget to see the privacy and copyright considerations above before sharing):
  • Pictures, videos, or audio recordings of students doing something in class
  • Pictures, videos, or audio recordings from public performances
  • Pictures of written work
  • Pictures and/or information about specific instruments/ supplies and how you use them (for example: "We love using xylophones in first grade to learn about high and low notes!")
  • Quotes by famous musicians, about music education, etc
  • Links to articles about music education
  • Announcements about upcoming events- concerts, trips, parent conferences, open house etc (not just music-specific events, but building-wide events as well)
  • Information about your curriculum (for example: "Did you know students start learning to read music in Kindergarten? Our Kindergartners can read quarter notes and eighth notes!")
  • Information about current artists students should listen to
  • Information about upcoming local music-related community events and organizations (concerts, private lesson studios, arts organizations etc)
  • Pictures of you and/or colleagues working outside the classroom (for example, a department meeting to plan new curriculum, a teacher workshop to learn new lesson ideas, etc)
  • Announcements of awards, recognitions, and achievements by music students, programs, and staff
  • Meet the music teacher (including yourself and other teachers in your department or extracurricular programs)
It can be overwhelming initially to make sure you're doing it correctly, but if you take the time to do your research beforehand and set everything up correctly, and if you are mindful to always err on the side of caution with the content you share, social media can be a powerful tool for advocating for your music classroom and program! If you have experience running a social media page for your class, please share your experiences in the comments. And if you have any questions as you look into starting your own, feel free to ask away- if I can't answer them myself I will try to point you to someone who can! 

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