A K-12 Primer for British Columbia Teachers Posting Students’ Work Online

May 17, 2013

cover_capture_sm.fw  There is little doubt in my mind that web 2.0, social media, and cloud computing offer powerful vehicles for teaching and learning—but only if educators use them responsibly, abide by the rules and regulations, and teach their students to do the same. According to lawyer, Pam Portal, “BC’s privacy laws are arguably the strongest in Canada” (Cooper, et al., 2011, “Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses”,2). These laws and regulations protect the privacy rights of the individual in British Columbia, Canada. Our unique legal context sets the boundaries for what the K-12 should be doing online with student information, work, and data. If you’re not from British Columbia, or aren’t in touch with what’s happening here, consider us the “Europe” of privacy protection in North America. If you are an American teacher or a Canadian teacher anywhere but in British Columbia–you likely have more permissive regulations in the use of Web 2.0 tools–especially those that are housed in the cloud.

The institution where I work, Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo, BC, Canada), is in the vanguard of addressing privacy issues associated with use of cloud based tools at the post-secondary level in BC education. In 2011, VIU  published “Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses” with BC Campus,  and our Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (under Director, Liesel Knaack) has been running numerous training sessions to raise faculty awareness of their obligations in use of cloud, Web 2.0, and social media technologies—especially with regard to students. As part of that effort, and in discussions with Liesel, I began to develop some resources to streamline how faculty in our Faculty of Education and other post-secondary instructors could meet the new requirements–items like forms to guide instructors, and an information backgrounder to share with students.  As BC K-12 educators got wind of what I was doing, I had individuals from BC K-12 schools–public and private, traditional and face-to-face–contacting me to see what knowledge, resources and guidance I could share. At that point I was solidly focused on developing resources I could use with my faculty, and I kept hoping that ‘someone else’ would take on that mantle and deal with providing specific K-12 resources. I happily provided what I had–but it was from the post-secondary perspective. When I shared content, I’d repeatedly ask the recipients to share back what they developed. Many of these individuals were dealing with these issues off the side of their K-12 desks—among many other responsibilities. I checked back with a few of them and their content development had gotten sidelined in one way or another.

Working in a Faculty of Education as I do, I am reminded that I am only a step away from the K-12 context. Our Education students are doing practica in BC K-12 schools–some of them with institutionally loaned equipment—and I need to support their responsible use of technology under current legislation. In September 2013, I will be teaching a course in social media in our new Online Learning and Teaching Diploma (OLTD) Program, and I will need resources to guide my students as educators in responsible use of social media in BC’s K-12 context. Knowing my interests, parents have approached me to describe incidents where students are using social media and cloud based resources in their local schools without any permission forms or information being sent home. One parent described Googling her child’s name only to find a Prezi with scanned family photos and information—yet the parent had never been approached for permission–much less had discussions or handouts on the activity and its potential privacy risks. I have heard numerous accounts of teachers doing great things with Google docs and their classes–using Facebook or Twitter, but when I pause to ask them whether they sent out and obtained written permission slips, I either meet a dead silence or am told, “Oh, our school media waiver covers that.” The likelihood that a school media waiver meets the key criteria set down in our BC law and regulations for ‘knowledge’, ‘notice’, and ‘informed consent’ with regard to these types of activities in these technological environments is slim.

So, last month, I decided that “someone” was going to be “me”. I’ve spent about a month drafting this document I call “A K-12 Primer for British Columbia Teachers Posting Students’ Work Online“.

This document was possible only with the support of these key individuals:

  • Liesel Knaack, Director, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia
  • Rebecca Avery, e-Safety Officer, Kent County Council, United Kingdom
  • Mark Hawkes, e-Learning Coordinator, Learning Division, Ministry of Education, British Columbia
  • Dave Gregg, e-Learning Officer, Learning Division, Ministry of Education, British Columbia
  • Larry Kuehn, Director of Research and Technology, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation
  • John Phipps, Field Experience Supervisor, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia

Consider this document Version 1.0. I hope you find it useful and that you feel moved to comment and share your insights for a future version. You are free to duplicate and share it according to the Creative Commons: Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike licensing.



Web 2.0 & Digital Divide

July 7, 2009

Recently I was teaching the use of delicious and similar tools during a educational technologies course. One of my pre-service teaching students asked me about the relevance for students  without access to social networking or internet technologies outside of school–especially since she was working in a support capacity in a school in socio-economically challenged area.

My reply at the time was to cite a comment my sister told me recently, that public school and high school in particular are one of society’s great equalizers.  Today I was reading “Tweeting Your Way to Better Grades” online @ US News & World Report by Zach Miners. Miners paraphrased then quoted Jim Burke, an English teacher @ Burlingame High in California:

the fact that some students might not have access to broadband Internet outside of school is the very reason why teachers should be focusing on bringing those technologies into school.

“If a kid doesn’t have the means to set up an account on one of these services and to learn how to use it, then he’s losing out on these emerging forms of literacy”

I think that he says it better than I did. I believe that there is a moral obligation to provide access to technology especially for those who can’t get it anywhere else.  In discussions with my students, I also suggested that schools start a technology club to allow students with an interest to meet before school, during lunch, breaks or after school to mutually support each other. In this way, students who are socio-economically challenged could be encouraged to join–much as other students–without any stigma attached to participation.

Your thoughts? Ideas?

Go2Web20: directory of Web 2.0 resources

June 23, 2009

go2web20_logo http://beta.go2web20.net/

A big shout out to TeacherTechBlog http://teachertechblog.com/ for turning me on to Go2Web20. This site provides a directory of web 2.0 & social networking applications searchable by keywords–like elearning, teacher, knowledge, community, etc. Here is a screen shot of a search on “elearning”.


When you mouse over each icon you get a brief descriptor. If that’s not enough info the little keypad looking icon at the top right of the search allows you to switch to an annotated list view like below:

annotated view

This is going to be one of my new favourites as I dig in to find gems like http://yacapaca.com/ Where I can create online activities & assessments for students.

yacapacaI sure hope this moves out of beta–try it yourself.

Professionalism & Web 2.0

June 22, 2009

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.


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.


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.