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No Tweets for Scottish Teachers

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A Scottish teacher known for introducing technology into the classroom has gotten into trouble over posts she placed on Twitter, according to this story in The Guardian newspaper.

The teacher was reprimanded by the school council in Argyll and Bute, on the west coast of Scotland, for tweets suggesting that teaching certain students, including three boys with Asperger's Syndrome, is hard work and "interesting."

The council has since banned teachers in the district from posting messages on Twitter and Web blogs. The article doesn't suggest that the students were identified, or that her comments criticized the students in any way.

Other teachers have come to her defense and protested the council's censorship. "Is there a teacher out there who doesn't find it hard work? And if they don't, are they really doing it right?" one anonymous teacher wrote on this blog in response.

But a parent took issue with the teacher's tweets, suggesting that her characterization of her work as "hard" was inappropriate, given that "she is paid a lot of money to do her job."

The article raises the issue of free speech for teachers, and whether it is appropriate for them to express their opinion or blog or tweet about their work and students. This debate is not a new one, but may be more difficult to resolve when there are so many venues available for teachers to share their experiences and express their views.

Is it reasonable to put limits on teachers' contributions to such discussions?

2 Comments






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.


BOTTOM LINE

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.





It is my belief that indivduals from all professions have the right to personal opinions and private discussions. Teachers, in particular, have demanding and often times, stressful careers. It is not unusual for an educator to express his or her emotions or feelings about students. However, those personal feelings become public when expressed on social medias such as Facebook, blogs, MySpace, and in this case, Twitter. This individual decided to openly express his or her feelings toward children and their medical issues on the Internet. Thus, if a teacher is not supporting students and enhancing learning with technology, he or she should be punished accordingly.

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