Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Social media doesn’t “cause” unprofessional or inappropriate behavior. It “catches” it.

Something interesting has been happening across schools and districts in response to online safety concerns.  Instead of empowering and teaching students how to harness the power of the internet and social media they are banning teachers from interacting with teachers in online spaces like Facebook. These misguided schools and districts like this one in Ontario tell educators, students, and parents that,
"The use of the Internet and social media, despite best intentions, may cause members to forget their professional responsibilities and the unique position of trust and authority given to them by society,"
Really?  Do policy makers really think the Internet and social media “cause" such behaviors or "catch" em? When we block and ban are we doing what’s best for kids or are we doing what is more convenient for those in charge who would have an easier time if they didn’t have to deal with such issues?  

The reality is that the student - teacher connection is one of the most important pieces of learning and socialization for our children and this needs to happen in both the online and offline worlds of our children.  Teachers aren’t acting inappropriate because, “The Internet or Facebook made me do it.”  If a teacher is acting in inappropriate ways online, that is an extension of who they are.  The reality is that if we can’t trust our teachers to behave appropriately online, then we certainly shouldn’t have them spending all their days with our children.  If we and do trust our teachers, then we realize they are a part of the equation when it comes to keeping kids safe.  Teachers can act as role models and guides in children’s worlds online or offline. The hard facts are that child maltreatment is usually at the hands of parents, family, friends and clergy yet we don’t have mandates or ban events like picnics, family reunions, or church. Rules and mandates should be around behavior, not “where” interaction takes place. 

9 comments:

  1. This reinforces my idea that the next evolution in learning is going to happen outside of schools because people higher up the food chain still don't get it.. if you try to kill off networked thinking an innovation it just relocates somewhere else

    ReplyDelete
  2. Succinct and well said. Great finish!

    I do remain very sceptical that it will be listened to though. Policy and institutions are run with fear and suspicion (which fosters a sense of control). Plus, we have the age old dilema of those making decisions on things they have no idea about....

    However, let's do what where can, where we are, with what we got!

    David

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fabulous post! So very true, very true indeed about social media catching who we are. Do you think that if educators used Web 2.0 in the classroom from early on, taught online safety throughout their schooling, that this would be an issue? And is it an issue because many parents didn't grow up with the internet, or if they did, it wasn't the social media we have now... so they respond in such ways? Curious to your thoughts.

    Kind regards,
    Tracy Watanabe

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Tracy. I find that educators that are true users of social media meaning, it's not something they're just trying for one particular purpose, are very frustrated by these policies. Additionally, I'm not sure that parents have an issue with this. After all, wouldn't parents want the people they entrust to care for their children each day want them in their online worlds too? I think there are two issues at play. One issue is that it's much easier if schools don't know about inappropriate behavior...if they don't see it, they don't have to deal with it. The other is that parents these days seem to have turned over a large part of the job of raising their children and deciding what is best to school staff. I shared this problem in my post, "Video Rebuttal to Educational Leaders and Parents On The Social Media Ban Wagon" http://t.co/NrixXEY

    I think this is detrimental to children and that parents and their children need to take more ownership of the learning.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I hadn't seen that video -- Powerful!

    Agreed, banning the very thing that could engage them is frustrating. What I keep wondering is if they grow up knowing how to use it appropriately, if the argument would be moot because there'd be no reason to ban it, esp for just the 2%.

    There's got to be other reasons for schools not pursuing how to use social media appropriately -- maybe stagnant culture, lack of growth, etc. Your point, however, that some schools just don't want to deal with it (if they don't see it, then it must not exist syndrome), could also contribute. It takes changing beliefs and culture... and that curve of change is tough, but worth it.

    Your other point is parents need to take more ownership of the learning from the homefront. How do you suggest educating those parents who just don't know because they've never used social media and are surrounded by like-minded who also don't understand it? -- My answer to that question is through the children...

    Kind regards,
    Tracy Watanabe

    ReplyDelete
  6. As a soon-to-be high school teacher, I've recently minimized the publicly viewable information on my Facebook page, and have no intentions of "friending" any of my students before they graduate. While I'm not ashamed of anything I do in my personal life, I don't think it would be professionally appropriate to discuss it with most of my teen-aged students.

    That said, I agree that a ban isn't the right answer, either. I would love to make "groups" for my classes, where I can post topics covered, and homework assignments, and interesting random things related to the subject.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Miss N, I'm curious why an arbitrary graduation date is keeping you from friending students. Does a piece of paper suddenly gain someone access to developing a connection with you as a person?

    I've written about this before, but I don't understand why it is adults have issues with discussing real life with students. As a teacher I think/thought real life discussions were some of the most important ones for us to have and I was closest with my students and teachers with whom those sort of relationships developed.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You are right on target with your point that social media does not cause inappropriate behavior. We need to focus on banning and addressing the behavior itself.

    This year the Virginia Department of Education considered regulations that would have greatly restricted or banned the use of social media for student-teacher interaction. After a negative reaction, the department backed off and issued more general guidance regarding sexual misconduct, regardless of the means or approach.

    Here is a link with some details. http://tinyurl.com/3s4st6c

    In a response to someone who commented on your blog, you reflected that you "don't understand why it is adults have issues with discussing real life with students." I agree that discussing real life, whether it be a sports team, music, or a favorite ride at a local amusement park can help build strong student-teacher relationships. However, would you tell colleagues that it is always ok to friend students, regardless of the written and photographic content of your colleagues' facebook pages?

    ReplyDelete
  9. The most appealing thing among these sites is that they provide a platform for the individuals to express their views, gives them the freedom of choice and expression.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...