According to the eSchool News, the Ohio Education Association warned its teachers against using social networking sites and recommended they remove themselves from these types of sites if they are currently members. Among the issues are the potential inappropriateness of remarks by teachers, inappropriate contact with students by teachers and impersonation of teachers by unscrupulous people.
Whether or not teachers use social networking sites will not prevent goofy teachers from doing dumb, wrong things with students and it will not prevent impostors from using these sites to try to discredit teachers they don’t like – just like it is with the rest of the world. It is also a fact that teachers are not the only victims of liars and imposters; recently an evil adult pretended to be a boy liking a girl on MySpace. The female victim of the prank committed suicide, a result so bad that something in the criminal code must cover it. As sad and horrible as that is, we cannot disband social networking sites because some bad people abuse them. People abuse alcohol, and drive recklessly and gossip slanderously…but we don’t see a move to prohibition or banning cars or banning speech. Instead, we punish wrongdoers.
Restricting teachers from social networking or blogging or twittering is not the answer. Teachers need to be capable of acting with the same internet-savvy wisdom we should be training students to use. The suggestion that teachers cannot behave responsibly online is paternalistic and demeaning. That some teachers will behave inappropriately is as unfortunately inevitable in our profession as it is in any other. Banning an entire profession from an emerging media literacy makes no sense. It takes away educators’ seat at the table to discuss how all people should navigate these spaces.
Most importantly, social networking sites owe it to their users to police the activities on their sites and they owe it to their users to improve security.
I am very glad to see that NCTE, in a blog on this topic, linked to a Wired editorial supporting teacher participation in the real world. NCTE also proudly listed the blogs that wrote about its recent convention (apologies if that is behind a membership wall.)
For the last two years, I have learned an immense amount and made great friends while blogging and twittering and flying my avatar around Second Life. In that time, I have yet to extend myself inappropriately to a student or do something I wouldn’t do in 3D.
I just can’t imagine what about my keyboard would make me lose my mind like that. It definitely is not going to happen because I will wake up and go in to teach Hamlet tomorrow.