Teachers of the internet, this is our time to shine!

It is no secret that the internet and related technological innovations have brought many opportunities for educators worldwide to connect with each other share resources and learn in ways not seen or experienced before. The world has become our classroom. And what goes on in our classrooms no longer stays behind closed doors.

These developments have the potential of enriching our communal learning journeys. Many teachers in online communities, social media or interest groups have shared their thoughts, impressions and experiences in the classroom – a habit which goes toward inspiring and informing colleagues and interested parties. Sites like Pinterest have proven popular with educators, showcasing the ideas and work of educators and their students.  However, some teachers are using internet fora to talk about (unflattering) things students or colleagues have done. With this blog post, I’d like to address this topic and give a few tips for the new school year. These tips may also prove to be handy for students of all ages.

Posting student gaffes

The Golden Rule promotes empathy and walking-in-someone’s-shoes. By observing this simple rule, many unfortunate postings can be avoided. How would you feel if … ? How would you like it if a student publicly posted a test that you gave, perhaps to show off an embarrassing typo, or a screenshot of notes that you made on a report or described a less-than-flattering moment in the classroom? Would that be a no-go? Then think twice before posting screenshots of students’ homework, riddled with “humorous” mistakes or by venting on facebook how unruly your class was or how rude a child was to you. It is simply not OK and constitutes a violation of their privacy. Using an anonymous account is not an acceptable way to avoid backlash as the posting still remains what it is – student-bashing.

Posting bad behaviour

Or course, the way we represent ourselves and our work reflects on our schools in particular and on the profession in general. Some teachers who are active on social media seemingly forget that they are, in a  sense, public figures. If you choose to have a private account where you post about your drinking exploits or where you brag about treating someone badly or even perhaps sympathy for right-wing parties, then it goes without saying that students and parents may read it and draw their own conclusions. This also holds for irresponsible media habits. If you preach safe image use in your class and repost fakenews or use inappropriate images in your private feeds, then your students will rightfully think you do not follow your own advice. Think before you post.

Posting about colleagues

Then there is a phenomenon that can only be described as publicly venting about colleagues, their shortcomings, idiosyncrasies or attitudes. Do I really need to explain why this is not OK? It may feel really easy to tweet or post a reaction to something a colleague does or does not do but please, resist the temptation. The internet does not forget.

The alternative

Should you avoid the above by NOT being active on social media? Definitely NOT. There is a lot to gain by being a part of the active teaching community online. By participating in frank discussions online, by modelling good behaviour and habits and posting successes not failures, you can not only contribute to a collective foundation of knowledge and experience but create positive vibes about learning and teaching.

Why not actively maintain a class or teacher blog this year? Why not create a twitter or instagram account for the class? Why not create a facebook group to upload student work and materials? Blog frankly about your success and near-misses in the classroom. Share resources and materials with other educators. Ask for feedback. Reflect on your practice. Doing so will upbuild instead of denigrate, edify instead of break down, empower instead of disparage.

More on teacher blogs: https://www.godaddy.com/garage/industry/edu-govt-nonprofit/training/teacher-blogs-deepen-the-pool-of-knowledge/

How to start blogging https://startbloggingonline.com/get-started-classroom-blogging/

Kathy Schrock’s Twitter for teachers http://www.schrockguide.net/twitter-for-teachers.html

How to manage a class instagram http://teachoutsidethebox.com/2016/03/how-to-manage-a-class-instagram/

Using facebook for the classroom http://www.teachercast.net/2016/03/01/facebook-in-the-classroom/

Surviving social media as a teacher http://www.educationworld.com/tech/social_media_rules.shtml

Teacher Do’s and Don’ts for Social Media https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/social-media-teacher-infographic

More on the ethics of posting student work online: https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/publishing-student-work-while-respecting-privacy


***Disclaimer – I have purposefully avoided naming “bad examples”. A simple search engine query will satisfy those interested in finding out more.