Digital Professionalism & Why I Didn’t Tweet @NSTeachersUnion During Job Action Last Week.

February 21, 2017

Last week, Nova Scotia teachers were in the process of job action that culminated in a strike on February 17. If you follow me on Twitter, you might be aware that about that same time I was preparing to present at WestCAST 2017. WestCAST is the Western Canadian Association for Student Teaching. WestCAST conferences bring together education students and faculty from across Canada with a focus on western provinces. The most recent conference, #WestCAST2017 , was hosted by my Vancouver Island University Faculty.

On the first day of  WestCAST 2017, I was delivering a presentation entitled, “Digital Footprints & Digital Professionalism for Today’s Educator” (If you want to find a version of the presentation and resources, check out the Resources page of The Centre for Educaiton & CyberHumanity @ VIU https://wordpress.viu.ca/cyberhumanity/resources/  ). That same morning, the Nova Scotia teachers and their union were in the news. As an extension of my WestCAST activities, I thought about directing a tweet to the @NSTeachersUnion account on the topic of digital professionalism but decided against it. During my WestCAST session, I discussed with attendees why I wanted to tweet the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union, what I wanted to say, and why I didn’t do it.

As a previous K-12 teacher of many years in British Columbia, I have been a long standing member of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and have served on the executive of a provincial specialists’ association (BCTF PSA).  I respect the work that BCTF does to promote teaching and learning in British Columbia. It is not news that the BCTF and BC provincial government have had a contentious history.  (If unfamiliar, check out the decade plus interactions that reached the Supreme Court of Canada: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/b-c-teachers-win-landmark-supreme-court-of-canada-victory ).

My teaching career in BC has spanned a number of job actions coordinated by the BCTF in response to wide variety of issues. I have walked a number of picket lines.  However, during the BCTF’s more recent job actions around 2014, I had been working in post-secondary for a number of years.  I watched from the sidelines as K-12 teachers became frustrated and angry over their ongoing situation. What was significantly different this time was that many teachers had social media accounts and were using them to voice their frustrations—and not always in professional ways. As the Vancouver Sun reported, “Social media has become the online extension of the picket line for teachers” (Robinson, Shaw, & Sherlock 2014). The Sun article went on to cite the BCTF Media Relations Officer Rich Overgaard when he noted that the social media activity was “unprecedented…completely constant and sustained since the beginning of the rotating strikes” (Robinson, Shaw, & Sherlock, 2014). While the BCTF has put time and effort into providing social media and professionalism training for members, whether through ignorance, frustration, or what boyd (2008; yes, she uses a lower case “b”—not a type-o here) would term a lack of awareness of “unintended audiences”—there remained teachers who coloured way outside the lines of what I consider digital professionalism.

In 2014, I’d already been teaching about digital footprints and professionalism here at #VIUEd for some time. During my 2014 presentations on the topics at the time, students raised the issue of teachers’ vitriolic comments, vulgar language, and bitter engagements on social media which involved the government, members of the public, & even fellow teachers at times. (BTW such comments on the topic continued for a year or so after.) Now, let me clarify, not all teachers in BC on social media were interacting in what might be considered as unprofessional ways, but there were enough of them self-identifying as teachers (through profiles, posts, or related content) for a person interested in social media and digital professionalism to take notice. Moreover, this slippage in civility was not one sided and involved people from other sectors. It is interesting to note that despite the “unprecedented” activity of BC teachers on social media in 2104 and people anecdotally remarking on the nature of the content—as far as I know, no research has been done on BC teachers’ social media content, perceptions, and the effects before, during, and after job action. In my opinion, there’s a thesis in there for someone—unfortunately, not me. I’m too busy working on my current PhD thesis on the topic of information privacy and teachers’ use of educational technology.

Some who discuss the professional use of social media might question the use of an educator’s own personal/professional account for  activism. (Note: This type of account is separate from a school-sponsored or authorized presence.) I, however, think there are appropriate and inappropriate times for such uses, with degree or extent of the impact as an additional consideration. I think that there are ways to do it “professionally”. If you are a principled person, there will come a time in your career that challenges to those principles might move you to speak using your professional voice on platforms such as social media; however, that action needs to be considered, conscious of the extent and implications of your actions as well as their ramifications; should be founded on solid ethical ground, and you must be willing to be held accountable for it later. If you balk at any of those points, you likely shouldn’t do it.

So, what did I want to tweet to the @NSTeachersUnion last week but didn’t? I wanted to suggest to the @NSTeachersUnion that they remind members of the potential professional impact of their social media posts during their job action and any period of continued negotiations or contention. Why didn’t I? As discussed during my #WestCAST2017 session, it is important during events like strikes or similar job actions, to have people emotionally committed to collective action—it builds solidarity and support for your cause. As so frequently happens on social media, I was ultimately concerned that any comment or reminder about digital professionalism during challenging times could be seen as a threat to the aims of their job actions, and potentially make me the target of misdirected anger and abuse. I guess this blog post could do the same, but I think in this digital age, when teachers and their unions move into periods of contention, they should pause to consciously and publicly remind themselves of their digital professionalism .

In the end, I will leave you with a quote from Ellaway, Coral, Topps & Topps’ (2015) article “Exploring Digital Professionalism”. Though published in Medical Teacher, their quote holds true for the teaching profession in general:

“Acts of protest and dissent using digital media…need to be undertaken responsibly and professionally” (p. 846).

BTW: This is my personal/professional blog and is not sponsored by my place of employment. 😉

References

 


Becoming “Twitterate”: A Glossary

January 10, 2017

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A Twitter+ Glossary

“Becoming ‘Twitterate’: A Glossary” by Julia Hengstler available as PDF & used under Creative Commons-BY, NC, SA–license here . Note: Some definitions adapted from Hengstler, J. (2011). Managing your digital footprint: Ostriches v. eagles. In S. Hirtz & K. Kelly (Eds.), Education for a Digital World 2.0 (2nd ed.). Open School/Crown Publications: Queen’s Printer for British Columbia, Canada. Available at http://bit.ly/1s92ivc .

Account. A Twitter account is necessary to post content or engage in Twitter conversations; an account can be created by an individual or group, and pseudonyms are possible; you do not need an account to view others’ publicly shared Twitter content; beware of ‘fake’ accounts; an account is like a plant and should be tended (participate in posting content and exchanges with others) to be healthy.

Block. Process whereby you prevent another account from being able to follow you, add you to their Twitter lists or see your tweets while they are still logged into Twitter; if your Twitter account is public, blocked users, are able to access your Twitter page content via a browser and see what you’ve posted there; the other user will still be able to mention you (@yourusername) in their tweets & you will not receive notification; not knowing what others say about you is not always best.

Client. A software program that allows you to access and use your Twitter account; the basic client is provided by Twitter (www.twitter.com ); other clients like Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite, provide extended functions and features; some clients are free & some fee based while others have a blended approach.

Deactivaction. Process of killing your account; once deactivation is requested there is a 30 day window for deletion; you can reactivate an account that is still in the 30 day grace period.

Digital footprint. Traces or records of a person’s online activities that may be aggregated to create a profile about a person (including groups/organizations); footprint data collected may be active—content voluntarily contributed by a person—or passive—data collected about a person by a second or third party—or second-hand—contents others contribution about you.

Direct Message. Original post by a Twitter user to another user considered a “private” communication; content usually prefaced by “D” or “DM”; users may only direct message those who are following them; a DM is not visible to followers or on the webpage version of any public accounts; it is very important to understand that the privacy of such direct messages can only be assumed and never assured; users are still able to cut/paste or screen capture such ‘private’ content.

EdChat. A subset of Twitter Chats (see Twitter Chat)  that are educationally themed; each chat has its own hashtag (see Hashtag; e.g. EdChatDE= edchat Germany); the original #edchat started in 2009 to help educators stay current with developments in the field; currently there are many variants, while many are geared to K-12 education, there are a number of post-secondary ed chats (e.g. #CdnPSE=Canadian Post Secondary Education chat; #digped=Digital Pedagogy chats hosted by Hybrid Pedagogy: A Journal of Teaching & Technology, #higheredchat, #msachat =social justice in higher ed; #fycchat = freshman youth composition; #HELiveChat=higher ed chat sponsored by UK’s The Guardian) (See http://www.onlinecollege.org/2012/09/09/50-great-twitter-chats-academia/ ); often a ‘host’ Twitter account is created like @Cdnedchat for #Cdnedchat  that happens on Mondays 5 pm PST/8 pm PST.

Follow. Act of subscribing to receive content from a particular Twitter account in your timeline; anyone can follow any other account’s public Twitter feed at any time—unless an account has blocked you (See Block).

Follower. Person or group subscribing to receive content from a particular Twitter account; if a Twitter account is public, people can see who the account follows—this can reflect on your digital footprint (See Digital Footprint).

Handle. Your chosen username preceded by the “@” sign (e.g. Julia Hengstler’s handle is @jhengstler); you pick your username—choose wisely, especially if you will be using for professional purposes; remember that even if not for professional purposes, it is likely your twitter account can & will be connected to you.

Hashflags (and Twitter Emojis). Twitter has sets of icons that can be embedded in a Tweet; some icons are commissioned/purchased for use during advertising campaigns (hashflags) while others are more basic (emojis); paid icons are enabled for a specific event/occasion; paid icons go through periods of being active so when the ad or event campaign ends, the tweets (even old ones) will lose their icons but keep their hashtag text—which allows Twitter to re-cycle icons for future uses;  began in 2010 with World Cup to represent countries by flags; to further complicate matters, not all platforms support the images (e.g. visible on Twitter.com but not in TweetDeck or third party apps); if you want visuals in your Tweets, you can also cut & paste them from sites like https://www.piliapp.com/twitter-symbols/ .

Hashtag. A keyword preceded by the “#” sign associated with a tweet to make it more discoverable, or to support aggregation of tweets on a particular topic (like putting a handle you can grab on a box); more than 1 hashtag can be associated with a tweet (e.g. #postsecondary #education #highered); hashtags ‘count’ for your 140 character limit; there are commonly used hashtags, but you can also create your own like #oltd506 for VIU’s Education course, OLTD 506; it is a good idea to investigate if a hashtag you’re thinking of using is already in use and if so what it’s associated with.

Like. When you endorse a particular tweet, retweet, or reply (See Tweet, Retweet, or Reply), by clicking the “heart button”; your ‘likes’ are listed in the “Likes” tab of your Twitter profile page (See Profile); other people can see your “likes” from your profile page; what you like can determine what ‘sponsored’ content is displayed to you; what you like reflects on your digital footprint (See Digital Footprint).

List. Way to organize tweets from various accounts to see them in an aggregated stream; you can create and define lists by topic or interests; if your Twitter account is public, others can see your lists (and what accounts are in them) from your profile page and your lists can reflect on your digital footprint (See Digital Footprint); when you add a user to your list, Twitter notifies them.

Meet-up. An informal meeting of people in a Twitter network generally organized by a person or group that determines the purpose, specific time and place, and shares the details for the meeting via Twitter; individuals then physically gather face-to-face and participate; at larger events such as conferences, meet-ups can be good networking opportunities for people who have been connecting via Twitter around special interests.


 

Mentions. When someone posts a tweet, retweet, or reply, (See Tweet, Retweet, or Reply) including your Twitter handle (@yourusername). Twitter clients (See Clients) can monitor your mentions in columns (e.g. TweetDeck); if you block someone you will not see if they mention you (see Block); the mentions timeline is a subset of notifications (see Notifications).

Mute.  Allows you to hide a particular account’s feed from your timeline without unfollowing or blocking it; the other account is not notified that they’ve been muted; you can unmute accounts at any time; muted accounts can still follow you, & send you direct messages (See Direct Message) ; when a muted account mentions you (see Mention), you will see the tweet (See Tweet) in your notifications (see Notifications);  any tweets received prior to muting would be visible as usual; if you do NOT follow the muted account, you will not see their tweets that mention you in notifications; For information re. using mute see https://support.twitter.com/articles/20171399#

Notifications. A special timeline in Twitter that includes any content relevant to your tweets (See Tweet) and handle (@yourusername); information includes latest retweets (See Retweet) of your content, tweets directed to you (replies or mentions using @yourusername), which tweets were liked (See Like) and by which accounts, & any new followers (See Follower); notifications can be filtered by type—certain Twitter clients (See Client) have more functions for filtering content.

Page. If you choose to publicly share your Twitter content, your content will be made publicly available as a web page with a URL similar to www.twitter.com/yourusername (e.g. the publicly available content from Julia Hengstler’s account is found at www.twitter.com/jhengstler); people without Twitter accounts can read your public Twitter content from this location using any web browser.

Pin. When you maintain a particular tweet at the top of your profile page by clicking on the “…” button and selecting “Pin to your profile page”; a new pin displaces the last pin; works in Twitter but not necessarily in all Twitter clients (See Client).

Poll. You can create and share Twitter polls with your followers; Twitter polls can have questions with multiple response options; voting remains live for 24 hours; how an individual votes is not publicly shared, though aggregated data is available; For how-to see http://www.simplehelp.net/2015/10/23/how-to-create-a-poll-on-twitter/ ; Note: other 3rd party apps like https://twtpoll.com also allow you to run twitter polls with increased functionality and duration; could be used as a ‘response system’ (a.k.a. ‘clickers’) in a course.

Private Account. A private Twitter account is one where only authorized people have direct access to the account’s tweets (See Tweet); this doesn’t prevent someone accessing content and copy/pasting it outside of the restricted circle—though the retweet function will be disabled; with a private account users have to approve all requests to follow (See Follow) you; your tweets will be excluded from public Google searches, though your followers (See Follower) will be able to search them in Twitter; if you direct a tweet at another user using @thatuser’sname , they will not see it unless they are one of your approved followers; if you convert from a public to a private account, any previously public content will become private from that point forward; you can only share links to specific tweets from your timeline with approved followers.

Profile. Information you that you choose to share with Twitter and the public; includes the name you supplied (can be pseudonym), your twitter username (See Handle); it can also include other links you provide, brief biographic or other statement, and a profile picture; your profile picture will appear next to your tweets when others view it in their twitter streams; sharing your bio or a statement allows others to connect with you on the basis of interests—people might avoid following or replying to accounts with no descriptive information; clicking through to an account’s profile can help you determine if you would like to follow or otherwise interact with that account.

Promoted. This is content that is delivered to you by Twitter in exchange for money from their customers—Twitter advertising; accounts, tweets, moments, trends, & videos can all be promoted by Twitter advertisers and displayed to/in your Twitter account when you login; various hashflags are a form of promoted ad campaigns (see Hashflag).

Protected Tweet: A tweet where you have actively chosen to restrict access to just your followers (see Followers); while the general public does not see a protected tweet, your followers can use cut/paste or screen capture to further share it.

Reply. On Twitter, an original post of 140 characters or less directed to a particular Twitter user; retweets are prefaced by “@” followed by the username of the person to whom its addressed; replies can help structure a conversation thread; many Twitter clients allow users to monitor replies regardless of whether you are following the person who posted the reply; replies can be a way to contact people who are not following you; a reply is visible to followers and on the webpage version of any public accounts; any account names embedded in the reply count in your 140 character limit.

Retweet. A tweet (See Tweet) from another Twitter user that is re-published on Twitter with attribution; a retweet is usually prefaced by “RT” followed by the contributor’s account name; attribution may be multilayered to indicate the path the original tweet traveled; a RT is visible to followers and on the webpage version of any public accounts; you can see who retweeted your content in notifications (see Notifications).

Settings. In this area of your account you can control aspects such as username, language, time zone, security/privacy, password, muted accounts, blocked accounts, etc.; go to your Twitter page at www.twitter.com , log in, click on your profile picture/icon and select settings.

Storify. An online application that allows users to capture data from Twitter (and other social media platforms), edit, organize and republish it; useful for curation especially for Twitter chats (e.g. https://storify.com/jhengstler/twittersmarter-chat-9-15-16) ; See https://storify.com/

Stream. The timeline of a Twitter account organized in chronological order or that can be viewed publicly online.

Timeline. This is content streamed in real-time to your account and organized in chronological order.

Timestamp. Content separate from the body of a tweet (See Tweet) that indicates when a tweet was posted; depending on your Twitter client (See Client)—can appear above or below a tweet, or in details of a tweet.

Trends. A special timeline visible in Twitter (available on your home page on www.twitter.com ) identifying popular or powerful hashtags or content; by default preferences are determined by Twitter based on your account information but you can manually change your preferences.

Tweet. A posting of 140 characters or less via Twitter sent to a user’s network or follower’s (see Follower); tweets may carry embedded links, images, video (recorded & streaming); a tweet is by default public but you can protect your tweet (See Protected Tweet).

Twitter Chat. A semi-formal online Twitter exchange among several accounts (see Account); a scheduled event generally organized by a person or group that generally follows a Q & A format around a specific, pre-determined theme hosted by a designated moderator; participation is open to anyone with a Twitter account by using the hashtags (see Hashtag)  & following the Q&A format; sorting through related tweets can get confusing as people often use a Twitter chat hashtags outside of a scheduled event to tag tweets; often a ‘host’ Twitter account is created like @Cdnedchat for #Cdnedchat  or @HigherEdChat for  #higheredchat; other e.g.s of postsecondary Twitter chats include #msachat =social justice in higher ed; #fycchat = freshman youth composition chat; #HELiveChat=higher ed chat sponsored by UK’s The Guardian); See http://www.onlinecollege.org/2012/09/09/50-great-twitter-chats-academia/ .

Twitter. A social networking platform for posting informal online journal or diary entries in postings of 140 characters or less called tweets (see Tweet)  that are shared with followers (See Follower);  Twitter allows for embedded links, images, and videos; See: www.twitter.com .

Unfollow. When you remove someone from the accounts you are subscribed to receive content from on Twitter; procedure may have social ramifications though unfollowing may be required to preserve professionalism or the character of your digital footprint (See Digital Footprint).

Unpin. When you release a particular pinned (See Pin) tweet (See Tweet) from the top of your profile (See Profile) page by clicking on the “…” button and selecting “Unpin from profile page”.


Capture Twitter chats & #edchats with Storify

January 10, 2017

Quick tips to capture an #edchat or Twitter chat with Storify

  • Create a Storify account @ storify.com.
  • Participate in your edchat and note its hashtag (but this will work for any topic with a hashtag in Twitter).
  • When the edchat is over, login to Storify
  • Select “Create New Story”

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  • In right column click on Twitter icon, enter the hashtag in the search field (you can specify some other items using the search field like Type, Location, Language if you need), & click on search icon

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  • Storify collects all relevant tweets w/ hashtags in right hand columnedchat_storify3-fw
  • In the Story panel on the left, create a headline like “[Name of edchat] [Date of edchat] [hashtag]” like “EdchatDE November 5/2016” & add description if you wantedchat_storify4-fw
  • Pick the tweets on the right that you want to add to your “Story”
    • I usually pick “add them all” at the top of the column

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  • You can also scroll through the list on to drag/drop specific ones into your Storify story.
  • It’s now up to you if you want to “edit” the Tweets in the Storify window:
    • Delete extraneous comments (e.g. do you want to keep the “introduce yourself” responses in your content here?);
    • Organize content users strung across multiple tweets that got interspersed with other’s tweets (e.g. ones that have “1/2” and 2/2” indicate it’s a 2 part tweet);
    • Organize the question tweets by an edchat leader with all the answers (i.e. put Q1 first and all the A1 responses under it; move on to Q2 and then organize all the Q2 ).
  • Once you have edited the number and order of the tweets to your likking, publish your Storify and share the link using the “Share” button (you can pick the social media where you want to share the link via icons).
  • Of course you don’t have to share, and could keep the edited copy for yourself…but others might be interested.

If you have any other tips or tricks for capturing #edchats or Twitter chats with Storify, please feel free to add them in the comments.


Sexting & A Safety Agreement for Families

February 15, 2016

After running a recent workshop on privacy legislation and educators, I was approached by an attendee. The person was currently going through a divorce, was just starting her teaching career and concerned about some racy photos she made and shared with her husband. They were now divorcing. She was wondering if she should be concerned about those photos. My response started with, “It would have been simpler if you hadn’t shared those photos…” (My advice continued, but that’s for another post.)

 

Sexting is risky business, there’s no denying it. We need to discuss the risks with our children as soon as they are ready, and have a plan in place to help and support them if they get in trouble. This post is provided as a tool to help families understand the issues and perhaps enter into an agreement (document template provided at end) with their children to lend support should it ever be necessary.

Sexting & The Issues

Sexting is the practice (even if it’s just one time) of sharing intimate, explicit images, videos or messages with one or more others. The practice of sexting between romantic partners or as a means to flirt and attract romantic partners has been on the rise—especially among older teens.

Often people share sexts under the assumption that the person(s) receiving the sexts will keep them private. When relationships breakdown, one of the parties may break that assumption of trust and share that ‘private’ sext with others. In fact, the top 3 justifications 18-54 year olds gave for non-consensual sharing of personal data were:

  • a partner lied (45%)
  • a partner cheated (41%)
  • a partner broke up with them (27%).1

The same data showed that 10% of ex-partners threatened to release intimate photos of their partner online and of those, 60% followed through and shared them. 1

But it’s not always relationship breakdowns that cause sexts to be made more public: loss of personal devices holding sensitive information like sexts (e.g. cellphones, tablets, computers) can leave parties vulnerable—especially when said devices have little to no password protection. (TIP: Use strong passwords- See http://www.howtogeek.com/195430/how-to-create-a-strong-password-and-remember-it/ ). Some people share their passwords—to their phones, or online accounts—and later find out someone breached that trust and shared content (like sexts) they wanted kept private. (TIP: Don’t share passwords guarding personal information—your devices or accounts. My one exception: my kids share their passwords with me.) Then there’s always the risk of a hacker revealing content—especially if any of the parties involved store their sexts online or in the cloud (E.g. In 2014, a hacker breached Apple’s iCloud and publicly posted private nude photos of female celebrities).

The risk of sexts:

  • They are permanent digital records of intimate/explicit things;
  • They are easily copied & distributed;
  • They could be shared without your consent;
  • They could be shared with unforeseen people: friends, family, future/ current employers, the world;
  • They could be shared in ways you never intended (like posted publicly online).

While sexting may be done consensually, age differences between the participants may make the practice a legal concern–this varies by country & legal jurisdiction (e.g. child pornography). Another concern is that social and peer pressure can be used to extort sexts from otherwise uncomfortable or unwilling participants. Englander (2012) writes that among 18 year olds, “Indisputably, the most important motivation for sexting…was pressure and coercion”. 2 The two main reasons for sexting were:

  • “because a date or boyfriend/girlfriend wanted the picture (66%)”
  • to attract someone you’re interested in (65%). 2

Youth are still discovering what constitutes a respectful romantic relationship. Sometimes the partners requesting the sext through pressuring and coercion may be unaware that they are crossing a line toward sexual harassment. In the case of youth and young adults who choose to sext, they may not be fully aware of the permanence of the content in the sext, how readily it can be distributed, and the potential impacts if shared.

Youth and young adults aren’t necessarily thinking about their future careers when they sext. Sexts made public can affect your employment—future or continuing—in trust professions like teaching. In British Columbia, you need look no farther than the Shewan Decision (1987)3 to understand the ramifications of how sexts in the wrong hands, or made public could affect your job. Other examples of trust professions where sexts-made-more-public could be an issue: counseling, law, law enforcement, medicine, politics, etc. Members of these professions are held to higher standards than the general public—particularly teachers who are seen to influence the development of children and youth.

Youth Reluctance Reporting Problems

Unfortunately, youth are reluctant to report problems that arise from sexting—especially to parents/caregivers. They are concerned that:

  • Someone will “judge” them for sexting.
  • Someone (parents/caregivers) will take away their devices or technology.

A Sexting Safety Agreement (V 1.0)

To support families in navigating risks associated with sexting and to encourage youth to report problems to caregivers, I’ve drafted a Sexting Safety Agreement (V 1.0)  along the lines of the M.A.D.D.’s Contract for Life (an agreement between caregivers and youth to manage the risks of impaired driving). This is one of the first documents I’ve released under Creative Commons licensing: BY-NC-SA (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike).

 

Footnotes

  1. McAfee, 2013, Lovers beware: Scorned exes may share intimate data and images, http://www.mcafee.com/us/about/news/2013/q1/20130204-01.aspx.
  2. Englander, E.K. (2012) Low risk associated with most Teenage Sexting: A Study of 617 18-Year-Olds, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Centre, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, MA. Available at: http://webhosbridgew.edu/marc/SEXTING%20AND%20COERCION%20report.pdf
  3. In the late 1980’s, a nude photo of a teacher in the Abbotsford School district was submitted by her husband (also a teacher) and published in a magazine as part of an erotic photography competition. The teachers were disciplined by the Board and it lead to a series of court cases. Ultimately in the BC Court of Appeals, Shewan v. Board of School Trustees of School District #34 (Abbotsford), 1987 159, the court stated: “The behaviour of the teacher must satisfy the expectations which the British Columbia community holds for the educational system. Teachers must maintain the confidence and respect of their superiors, their peers, and in particular, the students, and those who send their children to our public schools. Teachers must not only be competent, but they are expected to lead by example. Any loss of confidence or respect will impair the system, and have an adverse effect upon those who participate in or rely upon it. That is why a teacher must maintain a standard of behaviour which most other citizens need not observe because they do not have such public responsibilities to fulfil.”(page 6; http://caselaw.canada.globe24h.com/0/0/british-columbia/court-of-appeal/1987/12/21/shewan-v-board-of-school-trustees-of-school-district-34-abbotsford-1987-159-bc-ca.shtml)

Working with Visitor Posts in the Timeline of a Class, School, or District Facebook Page

September 17, 2015

[Note: This post is geared for people who are starting out as Facebook Page administrators, managing a class, school, or district social media presence via an organizational Facebook Page.]

Icon of One Cartoon Head in profile talking to another

By Terry [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

You may have set up a class, school, or district Facebook page to connect with your audiences on social media. Maybe you created it as a page which is managed by a single–or limited number–of individuals to ensure that the page is content is moderated & reflects your social media & organizational standards. Maybe you’ve been moderately successful getting it of the ground for pushing out information, but are missing the interactivity people in your audiences have come to expect from social media.

One day you find that Visitor Posts are popping up on your organizational Page in a box entitled “Visitor Posts”. Congratulations! Someone’s listening and you’ve made contact. How do you respond?

You have two main tasks: determine whether the content posted aligns with your organization’s (class, school, or district’s) objectives and mission and/or serves its community? If not, click on the down arrow to the right of the post’s account name and you’ll find the options to:

  • Hide from Page
  • Delete from Page
  • Report post
  • Embed post
  • Turn notifications (off or on so you can know when comments are added)

Your decision will depend on the content you see. If the content is clearly spam or offensive, go ahead and report the post. If the post is irrelevant, or not useful for your organization at the time, but you want to be able to see it later as the administrator, hide it from your audience using Hide from Page. If the content the other account posted in your Visitor Posts is relevant and useful to you or your audiences, let it keep it showing on your Page in the Visitor Post section.

But maybe that Visitor Post is so good you’d like to do more to connect with it, the person or organization behind that other account, and share. What do you do now?

  • Like the post as your organizational Page identity.
    1. You may have a personal/professional identity on Facebook separate from the identity of the organization whose Page you manage. You want to keep this personal/professional identity separate from your actions as the organization’s (class, school, district’s) account that you are managing on Facebook. Make sure you are liking the post with your appropriate identity. To do this look in the shaded bar directly below the specific post in the Visitor Posts section. There will be an icon/avatar to the right of the “Like   Comment” with a dropdown arrow. If the icon/avatar is your personal/professional & not your organizational one, be sure to switch it.
    2. Remember “liking” implies and endorsement, so you might want to do a little reconnaissance on the Facebook account that posted to your Visitor Posts section BEFORE you like it. What or whom you “like” in Facebook terms reflects on the professional/organizational reputation of your page. For example, if an account posts something kind about your Facebook Page content, and you visit that account’s page only to find slews of racist jokes posted there, think twice about “liking” that particular account’s Visitor Post and building seeming endorsements of that account’s content.
    3. Also, feel free to add a thankful or useful comment to the Visitor’s post if you feel so inclined. Interacting with it, boosts its presence in your Visitor Posts area.
  • Share the content in your organizational Page’s timeline.
    1. Click on the day & time beneath the Visitor Post’s identity in your Visitor Posts section. This takes you to the original Visitor’s post.
    2. Below the content of the post is a bar with “Like Comment Share”. Click on Share.
    3. You have 3 options: Share Now (only Me), Share…, or Send as Message. Click on Share…
    4. You are taken to the “Share this [Link, Status, Photo, etc.]” window. Below the title of the window, use the drop down list to select the timeline you want to share it to: On your own Timeline, On a friend’s Timeline, In a group, On a Page you manage, in a private message. Select “On a Page you manage”
    5. This brings up some additional options. You will see two boxes that help you specify where the target Timeline is by selecting the Page you manage and the identity with which you are posting. Ensure that both boxes are set to the correct organizational Page, and the correct identity you want to use to share it in your organization’s Timeline.
    6. You’ll have an option to add a comment in the Share before it posts up to the Page Timeline. Feel free to post a thank you or other relevant comment.
    7. Below the content of the Visitor’s Post that you share, you have additional options for having the share be “Public” to all, or to limit your audience.
    8. Once your settings are correct, click the Share Link button in the lower right.

Hope this helps you as you begin to manage an organizational Facebook Page. If you have any other hints for newbies, feel free to share them here.


Raising Techno-Responsible Kids: Story 2

February 27, 2014

Bike with training wheels; social media logos on rear tire

While I was commuting into work Tuesday, I was listening to The Kid Carson Show (http://www.kidcarson.com/) on Sonic (Chilliwack, BC, Canada). The segment dealt with his 9 year old step-daughter’s request for Instagram—and his response. Much of the discussion and the commentary from listeners dealt with what I’ll call a binary approach—like a 0 or a 1—where our children are seen as either having no access whatsoever (0) or full unrestricted access (1). If you’re in the “no access” camp,  you should know the question is not whether your kids will get access to social media—regardless of type—but when, how, and how prepared they will be to use it.  Ask yourself, “If I’m not preparing my kids to use social media, who is? Whose values will they take into these environments? Who will help them learn how to make good decisions with these tools?”

Many of us overlook a middle ground where our kids can have managed access. Managed access could look like: 1) we post content on their behalf & share responses through our own adult account ; 2) we have an account that is shared between ourselves & our children; or 3) our kids have their own account and share their passwords and content with us. If you think about it, it’s a lot like how many of us learned to drive a car or ride a bike. We started out observing how a skilled adult did it—from back seats or kid seats. We might have tried it on a kiddie version under parental supervision—a Little Tykes car or a tricycle on the driveway. All the time our parents were correcting us where we needed it, supporting and directing. Then we got to a semi-independent stage where parents “rode along” in the front seat or ran alongside. They were chattering away to us even then about what was safe—or not. Eventually, when we had some skill, and they had some confidence in our abilities—we got the keys to the car or we got to take the bike down the road alone. Social media use is a lot like that.

Think of it as 3 phases based on maturity rather than years, and those phases are based on a parent’s knowledge, observation, and confidence in a child’s abilities and core values when using technology. In my work with my own children—9 & 10 years old now—I see these phases as:

  • Digital by Proxy
  • Digitally Coached
  • Digitally Independent

Out of the blue, would you just hand over the keys to your car one day and think your child had the skills to drive? In my opinion, kids don’t magically reach an age where they get the keys to the digital kingdom—they earn them. An approach I use is one where children get graduated, monitored access depending on the tool, their behaviour and maturity. The phases will vary tool by digital tool—and child by child.

Digital by Proxy

In the Digital by Proxy phase, I as a parent will post things on my children’s behalf through my accounts. I will filter content I post—say no pictures of their faces—and discuss why some things are safe to share and others not. I will act as a digital bridge between them and the online world talking through our values and having discussions. I use Twitter a lot and have done this with things my sons wanted to post on Twitter.  A few months back my oldest son (10) asked for his own Twitter account. We talked about why he wanted the account and whether he was ready for it—did he have people he wanted to follow? Did he have content he wanted to share? etc. Since the only person he wanted to follow was me (likely because I was posting content for him), I explained that most of my stuff was “ed tech” and would likely be pretty boring for him. He didn’t have content he wanted to share regularly, so we decided that if he did want to share things, we would use my account as we have in the past. We also agreed that I would share any responses to content I had posted on his behalf.

Digital by Proxy is not just about being a digital “stand in”; it’s also about discussing what it is to be a digitally responsible person. You need to discuss with your children moral and ethical questions about being digital as you encounter them.  For example, Tuesday was a snow day for all of us in the family—all schools closed—including mine. The Simi Sara Show (http://www.cknw.com/the-simi-sara-show/ ) on CKNW was discussing the story of a woman in Calgary who was being digitally shamed. (BTW a good free reading in this area is Chapter 4 in Daniel Solove’s The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet called Shaming and the Digital Scarlet Letter). My kids and husband were drifting in and out of the kitchen as I sat listening and tweeting. I shared snippets with them. It led to a good discussion over lunch on the ethics of digitally shaming people—even if they did do something wrong. My not-so-techie husband also weighed in on the discussion. It got to a point where we began to see the issue as a question of whether ends justify means and we talked about digital shaming as a type of #cyberbullying . As I said to my husband, “If we don’t like what someone’s doing, shouldn’t we talk to the person directly? If that doesn’t work—or we’re afraid to approach that person, we teach our kids to report behaviour to the designated responsible adults. Rather than digitally shaming people, shouldn’t adults do the same—especially if it’s what we want kids to do? If that has been tried and doesn’t work, that’s a different story.”

I’m big on digital proxy where the risks to children might be higher—e.g. exposure to baddies, etc.—or my kids’ maturity & skills are low (which makes me see the risks as “higher” than for a more mature or skilled child) and when they are unclear about uses for the tool. From the outset, it should always be about your kids being safe and responsible online—so they can get the most benefit with the least risk.

Digitally Coached

My response to my sons’ request for text messaging when they were 8 & 9, was different. Both had face-to-face friends they saw infrequently—friends from summer vacations and distant family—and nearby friends with whom they wanted to interact regularly. Text messaging is a great way to stay in touch with these people and in my opinion, their texting circle could be easily managed. Our agreement was that each boy could have separate texting accounts, but that I would set them both up, maintain the passwords, and have the ability to review their use. In the beginning—especially with my youngest, they would text some stuff I would call “junk”—gobbled-gook or inappropriate statements (in line with bathroom humour)—some of which was directed to me as their initial contact for texting.  I discussed with them that a texting account was a privilege & that they needed to show me they could be responsible with it. I check in on their texts from time to time. When they go a bit sidewise with their behaviour, we talk about it and I usually use the phrase, “That kind of behaviour shows me that you’re not ready for your own account [separate from me].” They know they shouldn’t use the accounts to say things that they wouldn’t say to people face-to-face (a house ground rule for technology use).  Some other ground rules for our texting use are that my kids may only text with people approved by me and who they know face-to-face (that includes my husband or I knowing the others face-to-face).  I have written about our ground rules before (https://jhengstler.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/trying-to-raise-techno-responsible-kids-story-1/ ).

Similarly, though both my kids have asked for their own iTunes accounts—and some of their friends already have them—I have said no. I have certain expectations about the choices my kids will make for their apps. I’ve discussed this before in my blog. Games that virtually humiliate victims, etc. just don’t make the cut. My kids ask for apps and have to be ready to discuss what the app is and does—and I’ll take a closer look if I think it’s necessary. In the beginning I got lots of requests for inappropriate apps and games—often because friends had them. When the boys describe an app or game that’s sounding questionable, I usually respond with something like, “That doesn’t sound too nice. Would we do that in real life?” Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve mentioned before, killing dinos to save the village—or zombies to save living brains—usually makes the cut, but virtually bullying a person in a virtual office by throwing things at them, or virtually kicking a virtual friend absolutely does not. If I reject an app or game, I discuss with them why it doesn’t make the cut. Popularity of an app or game alone is not a reason to have it, by our family standards. I know there are “parental controls” for kids’ accounts—but I think I’m a bit more thorough. In the beginning, my boys would ask for their own iTunes account, but as I said to them, “You need to show me you can make good choices about what to download.” I must say that almost all of their more recent app and games requests have been fully appropriate—and yes, some of them may be a bit more violent then I would have let them play a year or two ago.  Don’t tell them, but the time for their own iTunes account with some automated “parental controls” may be coming sooner then they—or—I thought.

In this Digitally Coached phase, I want my kids to be able to make mistakes that won’t cost them later—won’t damage the digital footprints they are creating. I want my kids to learn how to be respectful and responsible—even if they see people online who aren’t. I want my kids to see how digital tools can be used to connect them to a wider world and more perspectives in good ways and how to navigate and deal with the bad ones. I can do this by talking through their use alongside them—much like a coach. But to coach them, they must have a place and opportunity to develop and practice their skills—and I must have some skills as well.  I know some parents feel challenged keeping up with technology—but even if you are feeling overwhelmed, you can have access to a shared account, or monitor what your kids are saying and doing online. You don’t have to know how it’s done yourself but you can know whether  their content and behavior  are “acceptable” by your standards. Now I know that there will be some readers who will say kids can make end-runs around parents. That’s true, but if you are in a trusting relationship with your kids, it’s my belief that they will keep you in the loop with some accuracy.

The digital coaching phase is where the parent feels that risk can be comfortably managed and the kids will benefit from practice and access. It will vary by kid and by digital tool—and by parent. When a parent in your circle says, “Well, I let my son/daughter use that a year ago!” be prepared with, “I’m glad to hear you feel that confident about his/her ability to manage the risks at this age” and leave it at that.

Digital Independence

On the radio, Kid Carson asked me at what age I thought kids might be ready for their own independent accounts on something like Instagram. That’s a complex question and involves a lot of judgement. First you have to know your child and be able to judge his or her maturity level using a digital tool. If you have worked with your kids through the Digital Proxy and/or the Digitally Coached phases with online tools, you have more information by which you can judge the readiness of your child. Even when you feel fairly confident in their skills, it’s always important to review the values and rules you have in place. Remind your children of those values and rules in your discussions of stories in the news or media. Get your kids to weigh in on the stories. Ask them if they see their friends using the tools in “good ways” and “bad ways” & get them to give you examples and reasons why those uses might be good or bad. Ask them, “What did you do with digital tools today that helped someone?” and “Do you think you did anything that hurt someone or made them feel bad?”.  These kinds of discussions help surface the framework your kids are using to judge their own behaviour.

Before you allow your kids to have independent accounts, be ready for mistakes. Think through a few likely scenarios where your child might do something “wrong” by your standards, what the consequences might be for your child, and how they can rebuild your trust and confidence in them (if it was broken). Discuss those standards, consequences, and reparations with them upfront—negotiate as you feel appropriate. Some parents have been known to draft written contracts (See this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janell-burley-hofmann/iphone-contract-from-your-mom_b_2372493.html ).  It’s up to you how formal to make that. In my house we’re happy with discussing  rules  and consequences and reminding our kids of those rules and consequences from time to time. What is important is that everyone is clear on the standards of behaviour expected and the consequences for not meeting those behaviours. I have revoked access to technology on a few instances–but the boys had ways to rebuild my trust and regain access later.

Ultimately, our kids will grow up. They will be in a society where digital tools and social media are widely available and used by most people. As a parent, I believe I should try my best to prepare my children to use technology in safe and responsible ways and to be people I can be proud of—online and off.


What Parents Should Know Part 1: Basic Understanding of Social Media & Digital Communications

May 27, 2013
Image of boys on bikes jumping over stack of social media logos.

Using Media is like Learning to Ride a Bike  (J. Hengstler, 2013)

Friday, May 24, 2013, I was on the Bill Good Show (CKNW 980, BC). (http://www.cknw.com/Episodes.aspx?PID=1116 in the 11:40-12:00 segment). In preparation, I thought more about what a parent or care giver should know about social media & digital communications. It fell into 3 broad categories:

  1. Basic understanding about the nature of social media & digital communications
  2. Potential risks and vulnerabilities when using them
  3. Advice for parents & care-givers

This post is Part 1. It addresses some “Basic Understandings”. Parts 2 & 3 will follow. (Be warned, I readily admit I’m still raising my own kids and shaping their use of technology, so you’ll have to check back for updates on Part 3!)

Understand Social Media is Not for “Free”, It’s a Trade

Nothing is free–despite what Facebook says–especially with social media. While the sites/services may not charge you, don’t be fooled. You are participating in a trade: your information and content for access to their services. This is something that many people–especially kids–don’t understand. If we understand that we’re entering a trade–we can try and strike a bargain we can all live with.

There are people somewhere writing code for those websites and services, running servers where all the information is stored, using up electricity water, space, etc. All those things must be paid for–and they are paid for when the service provider is able to take the information we provide and sell it to advertisers or other 3rd parties. Some services exploit their trade partners more than others. You can usually figure this out by which sites have been in the news for privacy issues, or just read it in the fine print of the site/service’s Terms of Service or End User License Agreements. If they lay claim to everything you post–with the rights to sell it at will to others, use it for advertising, etc.–keep your eyes open and be careful what you post there. Also, look at their privacy agreements:

  • Who gets access to your information?
  • Which pieces of information?
  • Will they sell it to third parties?
  • What happens if the service/site goes out of business–will your information be sold as an asset & how will it be protected if at all?

When an app or 3rd party add-on asks for access to your information, stop and think, “Does it REALLY need that information to provide the service to me?” If not, then it’s likely it really needs that information to collect your data and possibly sell it to pay for creating the app or add-on–and make a profit. Is it worth exposing your information for that service? Sometimes the answer is yes. For example, I let Google Maps know where I am so that I can get directions when I’m lost, but I don’t let my Camera app have my location data. In fact, I don’t let most of the services I use these days get my location data. Location data is a great marketing tool to target you for adds in your local area. Companies pay good money for it. Bad people like that kind of data too. Thieves, robbers, and pedophiles like it when your picture uploads are date and time stamped so they can figure out the best times and places to victimize you.

If you want to know more about the trade versus free perspective on social media, take a look at how Chris Hoofnagle (director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology’s information privacy programs and senior fellow at the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic) is trying to get the United States FTC to level the playing field in it’s use of the word “free” for these services: http://www.law.berkeley.edu/15286.htm (Be prepared: article is not your average easy read and is pretty academic.)

Now that you know it’s a trade, protect your assets and deal with reputable sites/services–and make sure they keep their trade promises to you.

Understand the 5  Critical Characteristics

Social media and digital communications are:

  •  Persistent
    • What you commit to digitally, is basically there forever. For the not so technically literate, think of it as carved in stone.
    • All that you post online creates a digital footprint.
    • Who needs private investigators? With the amount of information we’re sharing online–our activities, interests, friends, family, locations, etc., the average person can find it in minutes!
  • Readily replicated & distributed
    • Anything you do/say online, can be copied thousands of times and sent around the work in a blink of an eye—and you thought bunnies could breed fast?
  • Always On
    • Move over New York. The World Wide Web in all its incarnations, is truly the “City that Never Sleeps.” With multitasking, we’re talking more than 24/7 and it’s virtually everywhere (pun intended).
  • Searchable

And we have

  • Limited Control
    • While you may be able to tame it, you are merely a lion tamer. You will never have full control, and one day the lion can turn on its keeper.
    • The only control your are assured of is your control of yourself, your behaviour, and what you capture digitally or put online. Control those and deprive anyone of ammunition.

Understand 5 Key Ways Digital Worlds are Different

(Note: the first 4 of these terms were taken from a reading–that I am trying to locate. Will source appropriately when I locate it. Abstraction as concept is from another reading–which again I have to locate. I’m feeling especially conscious of this, in the midst of a MOOC in online cheating where plagiarism is a bit component. Apologies.)

  • Context
    • When we talk to a group in the physical world, we can generally see who we’re talking to. That has all types of implications—like what we consider appropriate to share with that specific group.  In the online world, we may think we’re interacting in a specific context—but in reality, that context is much larger than we think, often extending to the entire world. People might think they’re in a “safe” and “closed” environment, but everything you do is just a cut & paste away from public  view. What you think only a few are seeing, might actually be seen by hundreds or thousands.
  • Appropriateness
    • As mentioned in context, when we’re talking to groups in the physical world we know what’s “OK” to share in terms of content, jokes, personal comments, etc. When we’re online, we may think we’re in a specific context—talking to a specific group—and determine what’s appropriate to share with them. Online we can have many unintended audiences, so we’d better tailor our “appropriateness” to Grandma, our next employer, our scholarship review team, etc. If it’s not OK for a future employer or Grandma to see/hear, don’t post it.
  • Distribution
    • In the paper based world, it took effort to make duplicates on a photocopier and then you’d have to mail them out, post them up around the neighbourhood, etc. In the digital world, all it takes is a post on a site to move out and replicate around the world.
    • Don’t trust “private” communications like direct or private messaging functions. They only stay private as long as the person receiving them likes you and is willing to keep them private.  Your “private” content is just an angry cut & paste away from being public.
  • Access
    • In the paper based world, it took effort to “find” things—records, comments, minutes from meetings, etc. In the digital world, just about everything is a URL (web address) away from you—and if you don’t find it, someone else will and share it with you. Search engines are constantly working to make sure every bit of data is as accessible to the world as possible.
  • Abstraction
    • When we communicate with people face to face, we get many clues—body posture, facial expressions, eye contact or lack thereof—that help us understand how our message is being received and processed. We know we are communicating with another human being. Most of the time, online communication lacks many of those clues. The person on the receiving end of the communication becomes a bit less “real”, distanced from us, and more of a concept. Because of this, there may be less consideration of how people will react or deal with our online activities. People can treat others differently than they would face-to-face–generally with a lot less empathy.

Understand that Age & Maturity Matter

It’s like learning to ride a bike.

Think of how your child learned to ride a bike. Likely s/he started on a tricycle–lots of balance, feet can touch the ground when seated, probably not straying too far from you. Fast forward to the first 2 wheeler–probably with training wheels (or for you more modern folk–with a low seat and pedals removed to coast). You probably had to put some time and effort in beside him or her–maybe holding the back of the seat to help with balance–until suddenly there s/he was pedaling away from you. Then it was an issue of where they were going, with whom, and for how long. Using social media and digital communications is a lot like that. I’m guessing you wouldn’t stick your kid on a two wheeled bike with pedals and no training wheels before s/he was ready. So don’t give them free range with social media and digital communications until they can show you they can act responsibly with them.

Part 2 to follow soon.