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Walking the Plank


Andy Carvin of learning.now has mixed feelings about a university's decision to deny a student her teaching degree after she reportedly encouraged youngsters in her student-teaching class to view her MySpace page, which contained a picture of her titled "Drunken Pirate":

When the story first broke, I must admit I had my own knee-jerk reaction. What were they thinking? Denying a talented young woman her degree because of one stupid photo was crazy! But now that more information is coming out from both sides, I’m beginning to feel very torn about the situation. ... [I]t gets more complex when you put that photo on a website used by your students and you repeatedly show your online profile from that website to your students.

In any case, for a tech-enthusiast like Carvin, the episode has larger ramifications:

What’s sad about all of this is that it adds more fuel to the fire for those who argue (arrrrgh-ue?) that social networking sites have no place in the classroom. I still see a role for educators to use MySpace and other sites, even if it’s just to have a presence there. That way, students realize that they don’t have the run of the place, and that their teachers aren’t as technologically clueless as they might otherwise think. But when the teacher uses those platforms to post images that might be acceptable for adults but set a bad example for her students, it raises questions.

I feel as though a large reason social networking sites have become so popular is that they offer an escape from the predominantly adult-centric world teenagers normally live in. By suggesting that teachers should have a presence on sites like MySpace and Facebook to show students that they "done have the run of the place," Carvin is only playing into the conception most teenagers hold of adults proactively invading into their personal lives.

This isn't about how technologically savvy students vs. teachers are - it's about trying to extend the powers educators have over students (an important and essential power, I won't deny) to the home front, which I'd always thought was widely looked down upon in the teaching community. Let parents monitor their children's social lives outside of school - a teacher intervening in such matters is entirely inappropriate.

I feel as if this whole myspace world is beginning to get out of hand. I worry about the college students who think they are just posting drinking/partying pictures for their friends. I don't think students/young adults understand the concern around posting images to a site like myspace. Graduating college students, for example, could potentially lose out on a professional opportunity because of material that they have innocently posted to their myspace account. The problem with myspace is that anyone can view it. There are other sites available that only allow invited friends to see the material. I truly don't think some people think before they post!

We have intervened when students brought My Space comments about other students to our notice. We also advise papernts that students may hurt their chances for attending colleges if My Space pages have inappropriate content.
The teacher who has pictures of inappropriate behavour has more than a problem with poor judgement she is trying too hard to be a friend of the student rather than a mentor and role model. This could cause problems and should be considered when hiring.

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