Thursday, 2 December 2010

and so i must challenge my own blog

After my last post on the Facebook-Students-Educators policy triangle, I have had many discussions with teachers, students, and administrators. It wouldn't be fair if I didn't come back and challenge my own blog post.

I consider myself a change agent, a proponent of educational reform, and a liberal compared to most in terms of technology's role in education. To note, I still believe Facebook has its place in connecting teachers and students, but I am humbled by the concept of ethics and professionalism when it comes to students and teachers "friending." 

I initially created my Facebook page as a 29-year-old varsity volleyball coach to communicate more efficiently with my players, and it worked g-r-e-a-t. As a high school English teacher, I began receiving friend requests from students. I pondered, at that time the door I was opening, but moved forward cautiously because I liked the idea of building relationships with students to enhance my educational influence... although, I will admit, I had wished Facebook would create another term for "friending" because I didn't view the relationship between myself and my students that way - and neither did they. It was a way for me to reach out, communicate, and offer a slice of my personal life.

I drew the line within my personal/professional Facebook page: When I began adding my own personal friends and family, I sent each person a message explaining that my presence was as an educator and role model, and that all posts, pictures, and any other reflection of me would be as that educator and employee of the school district. When accepting requests from students, I reminded them of my responsibility as a mandatory reporter and that anything that came across my newsfeed that was questionable would be reported. Later, due to saturation of student "discussions," I changed my settings so that I would not receive student posts. At that time, I felt I was headed in the right digital-direction professionally and ethically.

However, what I just realized was that even though I kept my persona professional and role model-like, I was still putting myself in a risky position - it was my "ACCESS" that made me liable.

Here is the scenario that was presented to me... the scenario that changed my view: School employee goes to a student's page to leave him/her a message (school-related or not) or "likes" a student's post or comments on a student's picture - all of which could be positive gestures. Sometime later (anytime really), student posts something that hints or blatantly spells out suicide. Student commits suicide. The parents raise questions as to why the employee did not come forward. Whether the employee saw the post or not is not the argument. When the employee makes the choice to extend school walls to Facebook, the employee is, in an ethical and professional sense, responsible for monitoring that digital extension of school grounds. To zoom in even further on this incident, maybe the employee had never commented on that particular student's page but HAD on different student's page. The employee could still be questioned because of the simple concept of access. And with access comes professional and ethical

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