Thoughts from a NZ science teacher and digital learning fanboy.
Sunday, 2 October 2016
Post 5 - Legal and ethical contexts in my digital practice
I started at my current school just over a year ago. Upon arrival in one of my classes, I was told by the teacher temporarily looking after what was to be my classes until my arrival that my students had already checked me out on social media, and had a basic idea who I was. My first thought was "where and how did they find me?" quickly followed by "what did they find?" In answer to the first question, anything from Twitter (the actual culprit), Google+, Blogger, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook? I knew that personal stuff was all locked down in Facebook (nothing more than a few rants and a couple of swear words in all honesty...) and that my digital footprint was relatively clean. So they found out I have a campervan, am a Science teacher, a Google geek, cat mad and a vegan. Nothing I don't tell my classes in that getting to know you phase at the start of the year. Phew.
It could have been so different. Had I been a party animal (I'm not!) or done some things that were a tad dubious, posting them online could have been quite problematic.
Using Social Media with students raises even more ethicla issues. There has been extensive coverage in the New Zealand Herald recently about an inappropriate online and real - life relationship between a teacher and 13 year old female student that ended very badly. Much of this relationship was maintained on social media. This digital communication has been used extensively in court as evidence in this case, clearly breaching the Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers (n.d.) across all sections.
We strive to make our students 21st Century leanrners, connected and collaborating, communicating globally, sharing their learning far and wide. This means the use of Social Media platforms, where potentially a teacher's personal and work lives can become entangled. However, these tools really lend themselves to moder education, and the advantages are often far outweighing any negative aspects.
Some of the issues that are caused through this use of Social Media include 'friending' students on Facebook etc. This means students then have access to everything the teacher does, and vice versa. As students really don't want teachers to know what they have been up to (particularly in the secondary level) it is not appropriate for students to know what teachers are up to either. Teachers (and students) should be very aware of locking down profiles that are personal to the nth degree. A good starting place for information on this would be the Education Council website 'Teachers and Social Media'.
Hall (2001) discusses how to approach ethical issues to find an answer that is ethically acceptable, and also raises the issue of professionalism - "What would happen if everyone did that?" Does what a person is doing look bad to the students, whanāu, community or profession or cause doubt about the professional competency of the teacher? It is always best to stop and think about it a minute, before becoming yet another headline in the Herald about teacher misconduct. We need to ensure professional distance in our communications with students at all times. The boundaries are increasingly blurred with digital technologies, and it is prudent for a school to consider creating a policy document to guide staff in these matters (Henderson, Auld &Johnson, 2014; Ministry of Education, 2015). This is something we are in the process of considering as more teachers make sue of social media to communicate with students, gratifying that need for immediacy that is a feature of our learners' lives.
It is good practice for teachers to think about what they share online, especially if it is accessible by students (believe me they WILL find it, if public), but also to ensure privacy settings are set as high as they can for personal accounts. Be aware your audience may include students, whanāu, the wider community, or yoour potential future employer! Remember the internet has a persistence that remains long after the hangover has worn off...
Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers | Education Council. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2016, from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers-0
Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. IIPE Conference for Ethics, Law, Justice and …. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/content/download/545/4465/Hall 2001.pdf
Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of teaching with social media. In Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014, Adelaide, SA. Retrieved from http://acec2014.acce.edu.au/session/ethics-teaching-social-media
Ministry of Education. (2015). Digital technology - Safe and responsible use in schools. Retrieved from http://www.education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/School/Managing-and-supporting-students/DigitalTechnologySafeAndResponsibleUseInSchs.pdf