April 24, 2011

Caution for Teachers Who Blog

Words of caution for teachers that Blog and Facebook about their classrooms and student’s, there should be serious consideration on how words are perceived and interpreted. The ability to communicate between teachers and parents is complicated by the limiting of physical access that teachers have with parents, students and the community. Many variables come into play during the school day when sharing information, resources and data from the teacher to the parent. Using technology has changed from an occasional use to an absolute necessity in the Web 2.0 and soon Web 3.0 environments.

The downside of the use of technology is the inappropriate and unprofessional comments from teachers using electronic messaging like Blogs, Facebook and other technologies. Teachers have implemented the use of online social resources (Social Media/Social Networks) that allow for connections outside of the traditional school hours. Two resources are Blogging and Facebook: A blog is defined as an online presence or website, updated by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, opinions, and discussions on various topics. Facebook is a social network for connecting with multiple people. The key component is the ability to share content.

Blogging allows for teachers to use a web based resource to share the expectations, curriculum guidelines and other elements that parents can follow so they know what is going on in the classroom and follow their child’s academic progress. There are professional and unprofessional aspects of information sharing and just as with any type of technology common sense is imperative. Examples of unprofessional Blogging and FB entries are evident when teachers discuss students and share potentially embarrassing incites. The question arises, should teachers blog about school? When this question is posed teachers are measured with stricter standards than people in other professions because of their direct interaction with children. This is why professional behavior should be exhibited at all times; teachers are “called to a higher sense of responsibility” stated by a North Carolina teacher where several teachers have been fired because of their blogging and Facebook entries about students. A teacher in Pennsylvania made headlines when she was suspended for criticizing students on her FB page, calling her students “ghettofied”. Care should be taken in the “content’ of writing and what comes in question when there is reference to the student’s ability to perform in the classroom, color of the student, culture and academic ability. Teachers need to remember that all content online is a matter of interpretation and what is posted never goes away. There is a First Amendment Right addressing freedom of speech, but how is this presented in the responsibility to be professional, compassionate and sensitive to the feelings of students and parents.

The Internet has created major changes in the availability of information, the speed of exchange of information. When educators put themselves on display by writing something and putting it online they are responsible and accountable for the content and motives. Teachers must be reminded that when blogging about school they should take into account the fairness of information posted, if this will motivate kids or demoralize them, and privacy issues may arise. Common sense issues are interconnected, teachers should not post things that are private and confidential about a student. Even if blowing off steam a wrong wording or a TMI (to much information) can lead to privacy issues of students and families. Words of wisdom when blogging about the classroom think; if you feel comfortable saying it to parents and in public then you should be able to say it in a Blog or on FB.

Teachers are in guardianship positions during the workday second only to the actual parents and guardians (Teachers; Facebook and Blog Privacy).Technology
serves as a tool for learning, academic growth and communication, Internet can closely bind the teacher and parent when used properly. Technology breaks down walls and allows opportunities for collaboration, particularly with parents. Teachers should always be cautious about their online content especially if it relates to their work with students.

As I have learned from other teacher’s experiences, and mistakes, everything in your personal life does not relate to your professional life in school. If you have certain opinions about students and parents it is best not to post them online or write about them. When teachers were fired for their Facebook comments and blogging about school in North Carolina, Tom Hutton an attorney for the National School Boards Association stated, “this is a new frontier in education, where technological and social norms are outpacing law and policy.”

Teachers should not be their student’s nor parents Facebook friends, share Twitter tweets nor should students be mentioned in personal blogs that may embarrass or demean. The potential is just too dangerous professionally. Many school districts do not have a policy on Blogging and using Social Media; if something is interpreted wrong the teacher is left out and may be fired or disciplined. From my experience as a Blogger and user of Social Media/Social Networks, if you put something out on the Internet someone will see it, if it is misunderstood or seen as inappropriate eventually someone will report it. Be smart, be professional, be compassionate and always be a teacher. Teachers carry power, our words can educate, inspire or they can damage/destroy hopes, dreams and feelings. It is up to individual teachers to choose how they want to be remembered.

William Jackson, M.Edu
Duval County Public Schools
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