It’s posts like this from Digital Education, “Teachers banned from Twitter after indescreet tweet” that get me concerned about the lack of professional development around web 2.0 technologies for teachers. If you’re not familiar with the situation, a Scottish teacher known as a tech leader in a rural district tweeted , “Have three Asperger’s boys in S1 class: never a dull moment! Always offer an interesting take on things”. This caused a ruckus with the district & community. Read the Guardian article for more detail here. So what does the district do but BAN the use of twitter & blogging by teachers although they may access other teachers blogs, etc. It is my belief that there are a significant number of teachers and educational professionals using social networking tools, who don’t have a solid grasp re. how social networking services replicate information–so that you can only delete your original but the replicants are still out there–or the reasons why they should separate their professional & personal social networking identities. Often many do not understand the permanency of electronic communication until it is too late and their careers are impacted.
Here was my response to the Digital Education post, “No Tweets for Scottish Teachers.”
Are teachers allowed to discuss their work? Of course. That said we have a professional responsibility to protect the best interests of the students under our care.
ETHICAL HUMAN RESEARCH STANDARD
From the Guardian article it appears that the teacher identified the students as being hers, being in her S1 class, & having the specific condition. The article also states that she is in a rural community. Now if it’s like our rural districts here in Canada, that type of description would not meet ethical human research standards–as it is likely I could readily identify the students from the given information.
NATURE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING & TWITTER
There is also a comment in the article that the teacher only “sent to people she regarded as personal friends”. Was her Twitter account public or private? If public, anyone logging on to the internet page with that teacher’s account name would see the information–and if the teacher completed an online public profile–those students could be identified without too much difficulty. Was it sent as a DM (direct message) to those “others” with an expectation of privacy or not? If not, the others could RT (retweet) the message–and anyone following the “others” would see it and could then similarly RT it. If it was a DM–everyone who uses direct messaging needs to understand (in any social networking or collaborative software)–those only have an “expectation” of privacy. Anyone could cut and paste that DM content into a tweet and repost it–not ethically perhaps but not everyone is ethical 100% of the time. Once those messages enter the twittersphere–or any social networking application that allows replication & transmission of content–there is no going back. You can delete your contribution–but if it has been replicated by anyone on your network–you no longer have control of that piece.
All users of social networking–teachers, students, parents, administrators–need to know how the software works so that they can consciously use it to support student & professional development. What we need is more professional development around web 2.0 tools so people can use them in a conscious and informed professional manner–not prohibitions. I have seen several mistakes by professionals like this likely well-intentioned teacher simply because they didn’t understand HOW social networking works and what the ramifications might be re. content posted there. I have begun to develop & deliver workshops on Digital Footprints for educators and students alike for this very reason. If you are interested contact me. Happy to share what I know.