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  ). 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: ).

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. 😉




Becoming “Twitterate”: A Glossary

January 10, 2017


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 .

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 ( ); 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 ); 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 but not in TweetDeck or third party apps); if you want visuals in your Tweets, you can also cut & paste them from sites like .

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

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 (e.g. the publicly available content from Julia Hengstler’s account is found at; 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 ; Note: other 3rd party apps like 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 , 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. ; See

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 ) 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 .

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: .

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 @
  • 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”


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.

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 ( 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 ( ) 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 ( ).

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 ).  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.

Grey’s Anatomy, Doctors, Educators & The Effects of Twitter?

February 6, 2011
Falling dominoes with twitter logo in lower left

Effects of Twitter?

I’ve had a couple health issues & have been in bed for about a week. (Nothing life threatening–if you were worried.) It gave me some time to catch up on Internet TV–when the 300 channels or so on my satellite were less than appealing. I hadn’t watched Grey’s Anatomy in about a year, but after a week, I’d about exhausted my options. So I watched season 7’s episode 13, “Don’t Decieve Me (Please Don’t Go)” There are several plots running though the episode, but the subplot that interested me here was Bailey’s use of Twitter.

The Twitter Sub-Plot Summary

For those of you who don’t watch the show, all you need to know is that there are 2 surgeons in this part of the story–Bailey & Webber. Webber is older, the chief. Webber is doing a procedure in the OR while the residents looking on all have their mobiles out–apparently texting. When Webber tells them to put the things away, one resident explains that they are actually tweeting following another procedure in another OR on Twitter–an OR that was full. The full session being tweeted was Dr. Bailey’s. This gets Webber in a bit of a flap. He tells Bailey that she’s not allowed to tweet any more until he’s looked into this Twitter thing. Bailey points out that she has consent forms, she’s reaching a wide-audience of students–which is good for the teaching hospital, and that if the patient starts coding (going critical) she stops tweeting. [What she doesn’t mention, is that one of the observers actually does the tweeting and relays questions, comments, etc. to Bailey as Bailey does the procedure.] Regardless, Webber says no more tweeting until he looks into it and OK’s it.  

During her next procedure, Bailey is convinced to tweet when the doctor-observer in her OR points out that this is the 3rd procedure for the patient, Bailey now has a following–even from Australia, the followers want to know the outcome for the patient, and since Webber doesn’t use Twitter, he’d never know. As you can imagine, in typical TV fashion, Webber just happens to be researching Twitter at that particular time. With the help of a fellow doctor, Webber locates Bailey’s Twitter stream and sees the procedure being tweeted. He rushes into the OR to stop her. While he’s reprimanding her, something goes sideways in the operation. The doctor-observer continues to tweet and they get suggestions & questions from doctors at other hospitals via Twitter–one of whom was a previous resident under Webber. Basically, they get free consult and options they hadn’t considered–and are able to reach beyond the resources of their one hospital to save the life of a patient. During the surgery, Bailey leaves to get something from one of the hospitals who tweeted support, and Webber is left holding the bag and fielding tweeted questions on this procedure and others via Twitter.  Post procedure, it has him diving back into a fellow doctor’s old personal hand written journals to rediscover a procedure he had mentioned in a tweet but couldn’t remember entirely at the time. As you can imagine, he’s now hooked to an extent & Bailey gets permission to continue tweeting on her next procedure. As Bailey leaves his office, Webber asks her to tweet the procedure that he rediscovered in the hand written journal during her next procedure on Twitter.

Episode’s Twitter Use Reflect Reality?

You bet. There are numerous hospitals using Twitter to tweet procedures as done in this episode. You can read here how Henry Ford surgeons Twitter from OR: Here you can find the 2009 Top Hospitals on Twitter: To put this in professional perspective, imagine a teacher-observer, or student-teacher, in your classroom tweeting what you do from the moment you start class to the end of class.  For us, I think the closest parallel would be lecture capture systems–more prevalent at the post secondary levels–but alone it lacks the social networking aspect.

Episode’s Twitter Message

Clearly, Twitter is shown in a favourable light in this particular episode: 1) hospital and patient get access to more doctors’ knowledge, ideas, and suggestions; 2) the field is enlightened as various doctors can follow the procedure, ask questions, get answers, & learn; 3) the hospital–especially as a teaching hospital–has its profile raised especially among today’s mobile-friendly population; 4) the mention of Australia, gives us the notion of the global boundaries that can be transcended by technology; 5) the mention of reconnect with an old student, gives us the sense of the social connections & reconnections–as well as learning relationships–that can be built and maintained via technology–extending face-to-face professional learning networks. It’s all rosy–and when technology and social networking are used professionally and responsibly, I agree Twitter can be great.

Role of the Technologically Cautious & Issues for Rising Professionals

If you are a committed “bleeding edger” with regard to technology, you may never understand the important balance that the technologically cautious like Webber or the technologically fearful can provide. Their voice, in my opinion, is a critical check & balance in the technology adoption process. They help us to move beyond the rosy picture to think about what could go wrong, why people might be fearful, weigh the potential concerns. Sometimes those extra moments of consideration help us to envision what other relevant issues might arise–issues only the technologically savvy might envision when they take the time. In my opinion, when implementing newer technologies, we need to think about what could go sideways, BEFORE it does, in order to prepare for it, prevent it, or at the least mitigate it if it does happen.

As the episode was unfolding, I found myself at first judging Webber for his slower uptake of technology–but then asked myself, as “Chief” what would be his concerns beyond personal discomfort with learning a new technology. One issue that extra moment rasied for me was, what happens when a doctor makes a decision that could be considered “problematic” or “wrong” by others. If it’s tweeted, it’s permanently out there for the world to see & critique; it would reflect on the the hospital, the Chief, and the doctor’s colleagues–ultimately the profession as a whole. It could be fodder in a malpractice suite. People make mistakes all the time–it’s part of our learning process. Experienced professionals tend to make fewer of these–especially public ones–otherwise their professional longevity is questionable. What about as we’re rising up through the ranks of a profession? What then? Do we have ‘allowances’ for errors or misjudgement? As professional elders, or administrators, are we more constrained in dealing with these errors or misjudgement when they become a matter of the digital public record?  Do we ask students and rising professionals to stay off social media where their every posting is open to public, global, scrutiny? What training do we provide? What guidelines?

Tweeting Affect Decision Making Processes & Professional Behaviour?

This led me to other questions. Does Twitter effect choices made by doctors in a tweeting OR? Would doctors tend to take fewer risks, be less innovative if their every action could be scrutinized by professionals around the world via twitter? If a doctor has a personal need for fame, would it make that doctor more inclined to take risks? Would tweeting from an OR make doctors more thoughtful in their choices–more carefully weighing outcomes now that their actions and decision-making processes are revealed & set in digital stone for later review? Would they second-guess themselves and thereby have confidence issues? Have doctors and the tweeting hospitals considered these factors and accounted for them by setting parameters re. what procedures may be tweeted, by whom, and when?

It has been the claim that putting students’ content on the internet can make for higher quality product–students know the world is watching and want their work to reflect well upon them, but students have the time to make drafts, edit, and post polished work. Tweeting from an OR is the professional equivalent of  having a teacher-observer, or student-teacher, in your classroom tweeting what you do from the moment you start class to the end of class–fielding comments, questions, suggestion based on the parameters you may outline–or maybe you didn’t. You’d know they’d be tweeting–but still what would be the effects on your instructional style and interaction with the students? What happens when you forget they are there? What happens if you make an error in judgement? What if you had a bad day?

Perhaps in the education profession, our closest parallel is today’s lecture capture systems (primarily at post-secondary) at least as far as the issue of what happens when things go sideways and it’s captured in the digital public record.  Does lecture capture affect your inclination to take instructional risks? What if you have a bad day–and it’s the day you forget that there’s a lecture capture system running because you’ve gotten so used to it? Case in point is that of Carnegie Mellon University’s  Professor Talbert when he went sideways about an “overly loud yawn” during a lecture to HA 1174. If you haven’t seen the video, watch it and see for yourself:  I was so stunned by it, that I quickly dragged 2 colleagues to see it. One thought it was a hoax. This was not a hoax video–research revealed it was taken from a lecture capture system. I’ve had bad days in class as I’ve come up through the ranks. What if they were captured for posterity and came to define my teaching? I recently read an article that some US States will start recording class sessions for teacher evaluation–where a 3rd party goes into the class and records it for others to review and critique. These are pilot projects leading toward a wider scale US evaluation process. 

Ultimately, lecture capture is a poor cousin to Tweeting in respect to immediate feedback, suggestions, questions, and support when dealing with an instructional issue, procedure, or strategy for our students. In education, it is far more likely that we will be gaining this kind of support asynchronously in face-to-face situations, though digital or blended instructional environments may lend themselves more toward synchronous, real-time, discussions about at class and its students as it unfolds–much like the OR.

 The are interesting questions, that have me pondering what the implications might be for both the medical and educational professions.

Fleas in a Bottle?: Will Social Networking Stymie Personal Development of Youth?

October 28, 2010

Recently I was giving a workshop on digital footprints at the CUEBC Conference Saturday at Simon Frazer University, Vancouver, BC. A digital footprint is the collection of all the traces you leave in electronic environments as you use or move through them. Some is content you actively volunteer—like your Facebook profile. Other material is passive—the cookies a site stores in your browser, the content your district collects about your use of their equipment, etc. All this data can be aggregated to build a profile of you and your behavior—to profile you in the FBI-sense of the word. The PEW Report, Digital Footprints (2007) states that what can be found and assembled through a simple Google search today, used to take a private investigator months to do. We tweet where we are and what we’re doing complete with pictures. Social networking profiles itemize our likes & dislikes, our friends & families. As PEW (2007) states, we’ve crossed from being “findable” to “knowable” .

We are living in an unprecedented era with regard to digital footprints. Mashable posted a recent article by L. Indvik (October 10, 2010) citing that 92% of all toddlers in the US and 81% internationally, already have a digital footprint. This would be a passive footprint as it would be data posted about those children versus data they post themselves. Further, Indvik (2010) cites that 23% of children have a prenatal presence—like sonogram images and such posted before birth. For these toddlers and the unborn, their digital footprint will encompass just about their entire lives. Contrast that to adults in their 30’s-40’s (I’m in there): for us, our digital footprints will stretch back about 15-20 years (Indvik, 2010). In between these groups are the tweens, teens & twenty-somethings—let me call them the 3T’s—who are just starting out with their digital footprint—often in the absence of good judgment or good adult modeling.

For those of us in our 30’s & 40’s,  our digital footprints began at just about the same time we were entering mature adulthood. I know there are exceptions, but by–in-large we would have started posting at about the same time our impulse control, and mature thought processes of foresight, etc. were emerging. This is in stark contrast to the 3T’s who often started posting when their impulse control, long range projections and overall mature thought processes were barely emerging. I would argue that their age, lack of foresight, discipline/personal control coupled with the emergence of social networking and lack of elders’ scaffolding in those networks created a “perfect storm” that will adversely affect their digital footprint in a way 30/40 somethings and beyond will rarely experience. (My position that society & educators abdicated their responsibilities in regard to preparing these young people to handle this technology–but that’s for a later post.) Some of the 3T’s most thoughtless and foolish actions are being chronicled for the world before they have the opportunity to reflect upon them and decide if sharing them with the world & posterity is a good long term strategy.

What will be the effects? Will these young people be labeled for life because of young foolish indiscretions?

When we were talking in the session, I likened it to growing up in a small town where everyone knows your business. For example, there’s a woman in my small community—in her late 30’s holding down a respectable job, mother of a few kids, who during her wilder teen years got drunk and jumped on the hood of someone’s new car with her boots on. She damaged the car, but ultimately paid for repairs. To many people in our community, she will forever be labeled. She will be that woman-who-got-drunk-&-jumped-on-X’s-new car-in-high-school. Of course, she could have always moved to another town or bigger town where she’d be relatively anonymous. Quite often that’s what people do if the situation becomes too uncomfortable—at least that’s what they did before the advent of the Internet, high powered search engines, identity aggregators and social networking. That got me thinking about the fleas-in-the-bottle analogy used by Zig Ziglar. If you’ve never read it or heard it—fleas are confined to a bottle and when the bottle is removed they continue to jump roughly within the confines of where the bottle was. They have been conditioned. (There used to be a video on YouTube showing the fleas, but I’ve been unable to find it. If anyone knows where it is, please let me know and I’ll add it here.) For our youth, the questions I pose are:

  • Will the 3T’s (tweens, teens & twenty-somethings) of our time forever be constrained by the behavior they published on MySpace, Tagged, Bebo & Facebook—or that others have posted about them?
  • Will they be the proverbial fleas in the bottle? Will it hinder their ability to move past the youthful indiscretions onto productive adulthood?

During the workshop, I also spoke about the need for professionals to unfollow or unfriend individuals in a social network who post problematic content (discriminatory language, off-colour jokes, sexual content/comments, etc.) that would reflect poorly on the teachers’ professional standards/code of ethics (BCCT Standards, BCTF Code of Ethics, etc.). I explained that though you may not repost the content you see in your network (like retweeting it in Twitter), if the problematic content is in the other person’s public stream (e.g. a public Twitter stream), and the person is publicly visible in your network (e.g. your Twitter “home page” who you’re following ), that person’s problematic content will be associated with you. I advise people to contact the network member privately and state that though you valued his/her previous content, the current statements would reflect poorly on you professionally—and that for professional reasons you will be unfollowing/unfriending/unnetworking him/her. It is my belief that if you simply click unfollow because they post offensive content, people may never know that the content is offensive and affecting their digital footprint. Sending a private message can be a teaching/learning opportunity.

One of the attendees looked at it from a different perspective:

  • What happens when all the more socially and politically correct people unfollow/unfriend/unnetwork the problematic ones?
  • Wouldn’t that leave all the politically incorrect “fleas” in a smaller bottle reinforcing each other in their politically & socially incorrect views?

What will the impact of the perfect storm be on youth development? What will its impact be on toddlers and unborn who already have digital footprints? Will they be Ziglar’s Fleas in a Bottle?

Twitter Pressure= Better presenters/teachers?

December 3, 2009

I was participating in a discussion on Venessa Miemis’s blog, emergent by design re. Web 3.0 as a move to a collective social media consciousness. (See here) While collective productive consciousness is one of the bright sides of social media, the collective “gang” consciousness is one of its dark sides. As adults, some people have experienced cyberbullying, but by-in-large, this has been relegated by many in education as an issue of tweens & teens. (Not so…but as you will find, research on cyberbullying of adults–whether by other adults or by students is VERY thin. I will share what I know on that in another post when I have time.)

People are discovering the Dana Boyd debacle @ Web 2.0 (See ) This has sparked discussions re. the shifting power dynamic between presenters & attendees who are Twitter-wise. I would hazard to extend this paradigm shift to instructors/teachers and students who are Twitter-wise. My prediction is that RateMyProfessor will look like a love-fest compared to the “rate my lesson” that will spring up from students using Twitter on a variety of mobile devices. While easier to spot in a small classroom, the larger lecture-hall will be a breeding ground. So post-secondary, watch-out. A few reports are surfacing in post-secondary where instructors have consciously made the Twitter stream a part of their sessions–and taken a few lumps over it. What can they know about the unsanctioned streams?

Like all groups, a tone can be set, and if people get vicious, you can bet others will jump on the wagon. We need to be prepared for this.  A Twitter backchannel can be consciously created by the presenter/instructor or the atttendees/students can do it at will. No presenter or teacher can control the Twitterverse. My advice to any presenter or teacher today is–always assume there is a backchannel. What do you want it to say about you?

I am finding comments/gripes springing up about the Twitter backchannel , especially where presenters are not fully prepared for the session they are walking into–that be briefing by the organizers re. format ala Dana Boyd’s situation where a twitter stream was posting live and large behind her or dealing with Twitterlash from tech issues that weren’t dealt with in sufficient time to insure a smooth operation. (BTW, This is not solely the responsibility of tech support personnel.)

The Twitterverse and access to it, ups the ante re. what’s expected of us as prepared professionals. We can be better and Twitter chatter can be an indicator that we should be.  It would be nice if conference organizers prepped all their presenters re. the Twitter (and other social media)  protocols for that particular conference, and it would be great to incorporate some Twitter (and social media) etiquette in your schools, classes lectures–some of this can be beyond your control.

What we can control for are:

  • Before a conference  check in with organizers: Are there Twitter back channels, hashtags, etc. encouraged? Will there be a projected Twitter stream when you’re presenting, etc.? Where will it be–behind you where you can’t monitor it? On a monitor pointed your way? A side wall? Any other social media aspects you should be aware of? Do they have/provide a social media etiquette note in the conference brochure online or in print? Is there a mention of etiquette in any kick-off events like the MC during the first few keynotes?
  • Decide if you want to consciously address the Twitterverse in the kick-off to your presentation/lesson: Do you want to establish your own specific backchannel, hashtags, etc.? Do you want to project a Twitter stream, watch it on a podium monitor, actively incorporate it at specific points, etc/? Do you want to have a quick etiquette reminder–just like some people remind attendees/students to shut off cell phones? Build this into your session or lesson resources like Powerpoints, handouts, Prezi’s whatever.
  • & PLEASE check in with IT support WELL ahead of time: Do you have what you need and is it running? Getting into a session 2-5 minutes ahead, in my opinion is NOT due diligence. If you are at a conference and there are sessions the night before, keynote, etc., meet up with the Techies, check out your venue if at all possible.  Insure that ALL tech–including access to internet and specific domains is working. The techs will respect you more, likely be dealing with less “panic” situations and have a bit more time to deal reasonably with your issues. I was at a conference in a public school recently. Although I came from out of town, I went in the night of first keynote (that I had to drive to from my hotel–and keynote was lasting only about 1 hour in evening), only  to find I had no projector , my “hands-on lab” set-up had not been scheduled and access to some social networking sites–the focus of my several sessions–was problematic due to blockages on the firewall. Because I was there the night before, tech support had plenty of time to get me running smoothly by the next day. One of the managing techies said, “Because you made an effort to get in tonight and check this out, I’m going to make sure this is all working for you.” Do your due tech diligence and leave the crisis tech support for true crises. Now, I know, a night ahead is not always possible, but what about the morning of? Checking the full session before? While others breakfast? During lunch? There are lots of opportunities. That extra investment of time, means you appear prepared and professional–and cuts down on any intimations of incompetence in the Twitterverse. It also lowers any anxiety you might have had over the technology, and lets you focus on your presentation and lesson. Surely the recipe for a solid presentation experience for all.

While most of what I write may be applicable to other social media as well, right now the power seems to be residing in the Tweet. If you are not careful, the Tweet can be mightier than the presentation or lesson. Be prepared. You want the power of the Tweet fully behind you and your presentation/lesson. Do all that you can to make that happen.