Openness and Sharing in Schools: My Thoughts

I have a homeroom class of grade 9 students this year and we talk often about what ‘digital footprint’ means along with the pros and cons of social media. I really like this video to prompt further conversations.

I have my own personal opinion when it comes to the idea of sharing personal or student’s work/information on social media, and I acknowledge that my personal opinion is neither right nor wrong (this is a very controversial topic). The past three debate topics in EC&I 830 have all been intriguing, but this week’s topic (educators sharing information online) frustrated me! I found myself frustrated because I agree with both sides of the conversation. I agree with Shelly, Esther and Kari,  that sharing online increases connectivity with parents and the community and that it can help shape appropriate use of the internet creating smart digital citizens. However, I also agreed with Amy, Joe and Dani that ethically, posting and sharing things online can be dangerous, unsafe, and unfair to our students and families.

On one hand, we are encouraged as educators to incorporate, introduce, role model and guide the use of technology but on the other, fear is instilled in us regarding what is ethically appropriate and what is not. I am a rule follower (especially in professional environments) and without clear guidelines or policy indicating to me what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, I am not a risk taker. Although there are measures put in place to protect student’s privacy (such as parental consent forms for release of images), I have heard too many stories of teachers being reprimanded for posting something online that is deemed inappropriate by someone else. Also, there have been many active conversations surrounding privacy this year within school divisions. Collectively, myself and fellow colleagues have been told to delete any information that even hosts a child’s name off of our Google accounts and to have no paper or online documentation. How then can I convince myself to create an online presence that in return creates a digital footprint for my students? The debate topic this week definitely frustrated me because of this internal battle I am having.

 

I agree that fostering appropriate use of social media sites at school should definitely be discussed but also, what responsibility are we placing on parents? Right now, cell phones are being placed in the hands of children and adolescents who do not have the capacity, understanding or awareness of what is appropriate versus inappropriate. Social media sites and online games are open on almost every student’s phone, and many are continually searching for some sort of instant gratification whether it is a snap chat from a friend, a like on Instagram or a gold coin rewarded for winning a game.

 

To be honest, I try to stay current with advancements in technology but I struggle with it. Like Kristen mentioned in her blog, I am also hesitant and often times resistant to change. Because of my role within the high school I teach at, it is hard to implement and use technology in “cool and engaging ways” because I am not implementing curriculum and don’t have the flexibility to create new and exciting projects. Therefore, I found myself thinking “How does sharing students work promote growth for the student? To what extent are we exposing our students and creating a digital footprint for them in order to promote ourselves as teachers/professionals? Is this fair?”

When your intentions are good..               giphy.comgiphy1

I realise this could be another controversial topic but unfortunately, sometimes we may be exposing our students for our own personal gain – to showcase what we are doing in our classrooms, how we are implementing inquiry based practices and so forth.

After reading the Forbes article in this week’s suggested readings, things were clarified for me. Dianne Forbes discusses in her paper that “teacher educators must look to make professional use of social media, before turning their attention to social media for student learning.” She also touches on learning communities and the benefit of engaging in a community of professionals where one can trade information, share resources, ask and answer questions and discuss educational issues. That being said, these online communities can benefit and impact TEACHERS and STUDENTS. Specifically, students can learn to become independent learners. Students can also learn to create positive digital footprints by shadowing an educator’s positive behaviour online. There is no doubt that education must remain future forward, and preparing and modelling positive sharing to student’s is essential.

There were many great ideas presented in this week’s debate and it was nice to hear of different tools teachers are using the connect with families (i.e- Seesaw, Remind). These are tools I see myself using in my classroom because of the ability to connect with a specific audience. If I were a parent of a young child in school, I think I would love to be connected and to see photos and work of my child. Although this class is opening me up and creating a more comfortable relationship between technology and I, I will remain hesitant when using social media forums and when sharing photos or work of students until policy becomes clearer.

One last thing…

Although teachers are professionals and should know what is right and wrong, I think the Common Sense Education website does a good job outlining the do’s and dont’s of posting and sharing student information, work and photos online.

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6 thoughts on “Openness and Sharing in Schools: My Thoughts

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  1. I value your opinion in this blog and I too found this week very difficult to figure out where I stand. Through writing my blog, I began to see that I was on the agree side but you make some excellent points and often I think teachers hold a majority of the responsibility when it comes to sharing things online about students. It’s always congratulations on this or why would you do that? I really liked your point: “sometimes we may be exposing our students for our own personal gain – to showcase what we are doing in our classrooms, how we are implementing inquiry based practices and so forth.” This is so true and I think the online world has created a kind of competition between teachers. Who can do it better becomes the goal instead of truly focusing on the student’s needs and development. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Although it is weird to say, I am glad to hear we caused some frustration. I think those are signs of good debates. I also share your feelings about how we were told to delete everything. It is almost like we were told if we didn’t delete horrible things would happen. It is very hard to embrace something that could be harming to our careers, or our students futures. I also struggle between putting everything online, and nothing.

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    1. It was a great debate! I like the way you worded that – “hard to embrace something that could be harmful to ours careers”.

      Again, I would love to utilise all of the wonderful tools available to us as educators. Sometimes, a little more direction would be helpful. I am appreciative to this class because I feel as though I am getting some of the direction I need (thus, speaking to the importance of connecting with a community via technology) 🙂

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  3. Thanks for the points your raise! I very much agree with your confused tone and remarking on a kind of mixed messaging when it comes to using online technology for educational aims.

    “On one hand, we are encouraged as educators to incorporate, introduce, role model and guide the use of technology but on the other, fear is instilled in us regarding what is ethically appropriate and what is not.”

    It certainly feels that way, doesn’t it? For hot button topics like this one, that are inevitably going to create the kind of frustration that you describe, emotions run high. Our school division’s direction with google is a good example. It feels like an attempt to instill fear when we are told to wipe out our google drives of anything with identifying information. I certainly felt that way when I first heard it in August.

    My work for another of Alec’s Edtech classes had me talking to some of Regina Public Schools technology consultants, and they actually did a good job of clarifying the drive behind that directive:

    – Google Docs were never meant to be used for record keeping purposes. Our board has Sossier, Powerschool and Clevr for this.
    – Google Educational Suite was intended to be used for improving student learning. Every time a student logs in, they are in fact revealing their identity, but they are in control of this. (building their own digital identity?)
    – Not as much of a concern, but they both mentioned it, is the fact that google’s databsaes are in the United States.

    In the end, to me anyway, it seems like its more an issue of appropriate use. It’s not the tool that is bad (Google) but it’s how we were using it that might be. I was a lot more comfortable with what initially seemed like a ridiculous overreaction.

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