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. 😉




Uncovering Privilege in Online Education

April 21, 2016

“Tethered.” A. Worner, 2014. CC-BY,SA

(Download my full paper, “Uncovering Privilege in Online Education: Applying McIntosh’s Lens” here.)

This past semester I was privileged (pun intended) to audit Soci 470, a course in educational sociology given by my colleague, Dr. Jerry Hinbest, in the Sociology Department at Vancouver Island University (VIU). While proximity made the course accessible for me (Jerry’s office and classroom are one floor up from me), the course also made me further question the ‘accessibility’ of online education for students in general.

People who have taken OLTD 506  with me in VIU Education Department’s  Online Learning and Teaching Diploma Program over the past 3 years are aware of my equity concerns when teaching about social media use in education. Equity and access are strong threads in the technology integration workshops I run for our VIU Ed pre-service and graduate students. They are also evident in my Twitter feed (@jhengstler). Yet, it was Jerry’s course, the readings and interactions with his undergraduate students that gave me the tools and time to reflect on my position in greater detail. The paper I’ve posted began as a paper and presentation submitted for Soci 470. In this version of the work, I’ve attempted to refine my thoughts for a more general audience. ( I also use Chicago vs. APA citation style, to allow for a less “academic” reading experience. To someone so programmed in APA, this was a bit of a challenge.)

Below are the “5 Key Assumptions of Privilege in Online Education” that I uncovered in my reflection on the topic. If you want to know more about them in detail, or how these issues could be addressed, please download the full paper here: “Uncovering Privilege in Online Education: Applying McIntosh’s Lens”.  It is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0, so you may freely share it and use it under those provisions.

The 5 Key Assumptions of Privilege in Online Education

  • Assumption 1: Everyone Has Internet Access.
  • Assumption 2: Public Schools Level the Playing Field for Online Education.
  • Assumption 3: Online Courses (Like MOOCs) Democratize Education, Especially in Post-Secondary Education.
  • Assumption 4: Online Education is Accessible for Everyone.
  • Assumption 5: You’re Free from Discrimination in Online Education.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the topic.

Supporting School Social Media Use from the Top

June 23, 2015

Today’s post is a poster called “Supporting School Social Media Use from the Top”. It provides what I consider to be the key ideas and/or ways administrators and school leaders can support social media use in their schools. Please heed the copyright notice at the bottom of the poster. You are free to link back to this page. If you would like permission to re-use or re-produce this poster, just email me at Julia[dot]Hengstler@viu[dot]ca.  As to why I’m not using Creative Commons myself–that’s a post for another day. I hope you find this helpful. Let me know what you think.

Poster: Supporting Social Media Use from the Top

Teacher Sick Day? GASP!

February 26, 2015
Sick. Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov (Creative Commons, Attibution)

Sick. Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov (Creative Commons, Attibution)

This is not my usual topic for a post, but it’s an education opinion piece.

I was recently sick—but am not teaching this semester. (Note: This is not a picture of me sick: first clue, I’m female. 😉 ). I remembered my K-12 teaching days and how I sweated over whether or not to take a sick day.

I tried to find some tips for teachers to support them when they are sick & really should take a day off. Yes, this situation does actually occur: teachers, in schools with oodles of germy students, are not superhuman and do indeed get sick themselves. Sometimes they get seriously ill. Teachers (and other workers in other jobs) have allotted sick days because it’s a fact: we all know people get sick.

I admit I was a bit disgusted to see that most of what rose to the top in Google results were allusions to teachers using sick days indiscriminately or for a “day off” to miss work. There were even statistics that say that teachers take a disproportionate amount of Fridays & Mondays off. (Hey, my doctor’s office is often overrun on Mondays with sick people. Any correlations?)

In one article, a teacher reported how the school administration sent around an email stating that students sick with vomiting or diarrhea should stay home for 2 days before returning to school–but same standard was not in place for teachers.

Another teacher pointed out how much work is involved in staying home–arranging a substitute/teacher-on-call, creating some lesson plans, dealing with whatever other outfall then and upon your return. He then prided himself on only ever taking 2 sick days in XX years of teaching.

Do people abuse the system? I’m sure like every system there are abusers, but teachers do get legitimately sick and rather than coming into school, spreading their illness and extending their time required to get better, they need to take a sick day and visit the doctor.

So, if you are sick and should stay home or in bed— Teacher, take a sick day.

End of MS Clip Art Means Educators Need to Pay Attention

December 16, 2014

I recently got the news that Microsoft Office will no longer have Clip Art (see more here ). What will happen now is that your search for images to embed in MS Office documents (Word, Excel, Publisher) will be handled by Bing (a search engine owned by Microsoft) using a filter to identify Creative Commons Licensed materials. In theory, this should return “useable” images for you, but the reality is a bit more complex for the average educator. Please read on.

What You Need to Know About


Every CC License Except “CC0” Has Requirements for the User

Many people think they are free to use Creative Commons licensed materials in whatever way they want. This is incorrect. Creative Commons content is licensed in a particular way and all but one of the licenses has requirements. The exception license is designated “CC0” where the creator/author is contributing content to the “public domain” meaning you can do whatever you want with it, however you want. Some countries do not legally recognize that authors/creators can directly put work into the public domain. cc-0.fw

There are 6 other commonly recognized forms of Creative Commons (CC) licensing. What they all have in common is that EVERY ONE of the other 6 licenses requires ‘attribution’ as a minimum requirement when you make use of that content. Below is a quick grid of the 6 main licenses (other than CC0), their icons, and the requirements for use.

Creative Commons License Requirements (J. Hengstler, December 2014)

cc-by.fw  Attribution (BY)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
cc-by-nd.fw  Attribution- NoDerivatives (BY-ND)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution OK if it remains unchanged from the original
cc-by-nc-sa.fw  Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution & derivative works OK if non-commercial
  • New works must carry same licensing
cc-by-sa.fw  Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution & derivative works OK New works must carry same licensing
cc-by-nc.fw  Attribution-NonCommercial (BY-NC)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution & derivative works OK if non-commercial
cc-by-nc-nd.fw  Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (BY-NC-ND)

Requirements for the User:

  • Credit the author/creator
  • Redistribution OK if non-commercial
  • No derivative works can be created

MS Bing’s CC Search Filter is Reliable, Right?

Tom Kulhmann, a respected blogger & elearning developer, did a recent test of the Bing search function with MS Office (T.Kuhlmann, 2014, Microsoft is Dumping Clip Art. What Are You Going to Do?). He unfortunately found that the Bing image search returned images from sites “under some sort of Creative Commons license, [but] many of the images [my emphasis] were not necessarily owned but the site author”. He goes on to say, “In my tests, there was nothing to indicate that the site owner actually had rights to the image for me to use. So basically, you can’t trust the images you find in the search [my emphasis]” (T. Kuhlmann, Microsoft is Dumping Clip Art. What Are You Going to Do?).

Your Take-Aways

As an Educational Technologist in a Faculty of Education, here’s my advice to educators:

  • Remember anytime you use Creative Commons content you have obligations—the least of which is attribution (unless it is CC0, Public Domain.)
  • Don’t trust Bing’s image search results as your sole test to determine if the image itself is licensed under Creative Commons & which license it is.
  • Do a little legwork to find the original version of the image online & check it’s licensing. (If you need help, ask others to give you a hand or try
  • Find other sources of Creative Commons licensed image—some ideas below.
  • Be sure to follow the requirements of the particular image’s Creative Commons license.

Some tips to search for appropriately licensed alternative content:


A Canadian Copyright Decision Tree for BC Educators

November 27, 2014

Recently, I was asked to present at Jane Jacek’s (@JEJacek on twitter) school in #SD61 Victoria on the topic of copyright and copyright compliance. As part of the preparation process, I thought it would be handy to have a decision tree. I though one already existed for this, but when I tried to track one down I couldn’t find one. So, I thought I would just have to make one for Canadian copyright and teachers. I needed a big virtual canvas for this as it has various pathways. So, the actual decision tree is housed as a Prezi. The image below is a single screen capture of the entire canvas of “A Canadian Copyright Decision Tree for BC Educators“. Please click on the link above, image or link below, to go to the Prezi itself and see the content in more detail.Hengstler's Canadian Copyright Decision Making Tree


Link to Prezi: A Canadian Copyright Decision Tree for BC Educators (J. Hengstler, 2014)

Feel free to comment or send me an email if you find any errors or omissions you feel should be included.

I hope it helps Canadian teachers–especially those in my province–more readily navigate copyright decisions.

My Reflective Practice: Pondering Implications When Students Reflect the Teacher

October 30, 2014
(Image source: "Mirror, mirror on the wall" by epicture's (More off than on); Creative Commons license;

(Image source: “Mirror, mirror on the wall” by epicture’s (More off than on); Creative Commons license;

As I come to the finish of my second cohort for OLTD 506: Special Topics—Social Media, I am reflecting on my evaluation perspective. It’s not so much the nuts and bolts—though those are affected—but whether what I am marking is based on my expertise in a emergent field, specifically FIPPA (RSBC 1996) compliant educational uses of social media in British Columbia, Canada, or whether there is something more at play. What brought this to mind was an incident in the final synchronous meeting session with the 2014 post-graduate students. While I was in the midst of the final session, I received an email from a colleague in the K-12 sector with a very interesting social media situation. I verbally reframed the issue as a mini-case study to protect the identifying information, and posed the question to the attendees. My thought at the time was, “What better final test of what my students have learned, then to see how they would respond to an informed BC educator’s concerns in this situation? Could they target the key concerns?” A second thought was, “And how well would their analysis align with mine as the expert learner in this situation?”

When several of my students stepped up to the virtual mic, each addressing the key issues as I would have identified them, and proposing the rationale—again as I would have explained it, I was very proud of them: their responses clearly indicated that they were able to process the issue in the way I, as an ‘expert’ in the area would have done. Later, I began to reflect on my response to the students’ analyses more deeply. Was I reacting favourably to my students’ responses because they were what would be expected of an expert, or because they reflected what I specifically would have done? It’s a difficult question for me, as I believe at this point in time there are few people with the knowledge and expertise to train educators in the issues surrounding social media use within the scope of the strict privacy legislation governing BC public schools and institutions. At the same time, I am aware and quite explicit with my students that I have clear philosophical leanings. For example, I believe that social media has a place and purpose in a 21st Century classroom, that teacher professionalism extends to work with and in social media, that privacy is not dead and the respect for it needs to be taught, that educators have a role in supporting student development—and by extension the development of society—in the pro-social uses of technology for teaching and learning. As I continue to reflect on this as an educator, one thing is clear: if my students continue responding to social media issues as they did in the final synchronous session of OLTD 506 (2014), I believe that it will be evident that they studied the topic under my guidance.

Quite often, we can trace the philosophical/academic lineage between students and teachers when we know the work of the individuals just as we see influences between artists. I haven’t necessarily judged this student reflection of the teacher as good or ill. I think I need to further ponder and analyze the potential implications for myself and my students. I also think that my process and evaluative approaches are founded and driven by my philosophical underpinnings and therefore cannot be teased apart. Perhaps only the field can ultimately value whether having my students reflect my process/evaluative knowledge and my philosophical leanings is positive. As with all things, maybe it will only be good, until something better comes along. When it does, I’ll be signing up for that professor’s course. 😉