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Influence of Law and Ethics

If you are, like me, a teacher with at least two digits of teaching experience, the chances are that you, like me, trained as an educator in an environment totally different to the one you find yourself teaching every day. Probably, like me, you adapted quite well to the use of technology in the classroom. You replaced your textbooks for e-books; your workbooks for web-based activity sites, etc. Then, you hit the new wave: Social Media in the classroom. 

The underlying question in relation to the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the likes in the classroom is not fundamentally related to digital literacy, but confronts that unspoken mantra that you, like me,  have probably followed for as long as you have been teaching: keep your private life, private. 

Henderson, Auld and Johnson (2014) observe that "Social networking sites blur the boundaries between professional/school and personal lives, thus there has been considerable caution on the part of teachers and institutions", since "unlike early forms of digital word processing that supported a high degree of individual authorship, social media facilitates the joint production of texts" which extent beyond the control of the authors. 

However, the ethical implications go beyond bringing together our professional and private persona in the context of a socially constructed cyber-space. Social Media classroom interactions bring into the classrooms students' social practices.  These practices emerge from a, sometimes "unregulated" and most times unknown-to-parent, layer of social interactions, which due to the co-constructed nature of social media interaction, will merge with an institutional, highly regulated environment.

 If teachers "unavoidable act as moral educators themselves" (Hall, 2001) the implications are tremendous for a classroom of Social Media interactions. The concept of anywhere-anytime no longer applies only to the way we access content online, but rather to the increasingly interlinked social interaction between teacher, students and their personas.

 "The decisions of teachers (like the members of other professions) are now more frequently questioned and challenged by members of a more articulate and better-educated community, aided by mass media eager to publicly disclose examples of professional frailty" (Hall, 2001), since the increased role of school into the education and socialisation of students resulted in responsibilities traditionally associated with the families being now undertaken by teachers, who increasingly see themselves having to deal with more personal and ethical decisions.

My school Code of Conduct discourages Social Media interaction with students. This message is constantly reiterated during staff briefings, House meetings, teacher only days, etc. We are only allowed to interact with students in Social Media to organise co-curricular of EOTC activities, and we are continuously reminded to double check our Privacy settings and the content shared. 

Secondary education is an environment defined by spaces, where students constantly move between public and private areas; between specialist classrooms, study areas and recreational spaces. Uniforms and titles (Mr, Mrs, Sir...) are systematically used to establish boundaries (and responsibilities). The seemingly pan-democratic sphere of social media would naturally clash with this systemic, hierarchical institutional order. 

Perhaps, "showing integrity by acting in ways that are fair, honest, ethical and just" (Education Council, n.d) means that the future of social media interactions in school is one in which personal and professional personas are dissociated and clearly differentiated (the same way we use school laptops and personal computers, work or personal emails and even our voicemail). Or, alternatively, one of full integration in which both teachers and students can expect an ever more intrusive presence of institutional rules and regulations and, therefore, limitations and consequences.

References:

Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved              from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/sites/default/files/Our%20Code%20Our%20Standards%20web%20booklet%20FINAL.pdf

Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical              problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from        http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Developing-leaders/What-Ought-I-to-Do-All-Things-Considered-An-Approach-to-the-Exploration-of-Ethical-Problems-by-Teachers

Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of Teaching with Social Media. Paper                     presented at the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014, Adelaide, SA.                           Retrieved from http://acec2014.acce.edu.au/sites/2014/files/attachments/HendersonAuldJohnson_EthicalDilemmas_ACEC_2014_0.pdf


Comments

  1. Your blog is short and concise. I agree with your recommendations that the school should have a policy which clearly outlines the requirements, procedures and consequences. We recently had John Parsons presenting cyber safety education and his recommendation, to prevent any unnecessary comebacks was to have a clear school policy which everyone understood and adhered to.
    On the other hand, as you also mentioned, the world is changing at a rapid rate, and so must we. If done carefully and mindfully, it will be a success.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The old Practising Teacher Criteria highlight the need to "establish and maintain effective professional relationships focused on the learning and well-being
      of ākonga". I personally rescue the term "focused". My social media persona is not always focused on that aspect, it merges my wider interest with my professional standards. If I am going to be scrutinised I would need to establish clear boundaries between my social and my professional persona.
      I agree with you that clear policies are a must, but "layering" our interactions seem to be for me the future of social media interactions.

      Delete
  2. I think it is fair enough to distant our communication relationship using social media with our students. It is more appropriate to have a respectful and professional interaction on-line in terms of school work e.g. homework, assessment submission, google classroom. It will support and establish a good teacher-student relationship policy regarding social media issues. On the contrary, 21st century teaching and learning encourage every school system to move and align with the digital fluency. Thus, frequent use of social media will open it's door of interaction and communication between the teacher and the student. At any rate, safety and privacy is within our control and limitations.
    Your blog was very well said.

    ReplyDelete
  3. School policies will need to constantly evolve to cater for the ever increasing new technologies coming out. I teach at an Office365 school and we have been using Microsoft Teams more and more. Within Teams there is capacity to communicate with students. I now often have students send me messages asking about assignments etc. Do we allow this or should we only be using our regular school e-mails?
    When I introduced Teams to my year 9 class, students were using it to communicate with each other and a fair amount of it was inappropriate and outright bullying. I did not even know Teams could be used like this. Not only does school policy need to keep up but we as teachers need to keep up.

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  4. Its interesting to hear of school policies around social media use. I have not been made aware of any at my school. I am sure they are there I would just need to find them from someone. I guess people follow the code in their absence and a whole lot of common sense. Unfortunately common sense is not all the common and teachers befriend students on social media and get themselves into all sorts of ethical issues for them and the students.

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  5. Your post certainly has had some attention! As it rightly should, you bring up valid points. Our online world is rapidly changing, the lines are being blurred and how do we manage ourselves between different communities and with different audiences? We have our personal social online presence and then our online professional presence. We have also a range of audiences- personal, students and then students parents, and with those different audiences and environments come a range of views of what is professional and what isn't.
    For example one school I have worked at the students were not allowed to email the teacher directly, no communication via email or any online media, however is that effective or even possible in today's learning environment? Our current school senior school students have their own school email address, google docs etc. But as a need to have guidelines to protect all parties we have living and breathing policies. We can all have policies but they need to be living. One way we did this was to use a company such as "Bridging the Gap" to come in an run professional development and then work toward staff co-constructing these policies and procedures. They are revisited each year.... because as we know the online world is moving so fast and we need to keep just ahead of it. Great timely post.

    ReplyDelete

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