08 December 2010

Space: The Final Frontier

I sat in on a horrifying webinar last week---more details will be forthcoming, but I wanted to share one piece and put out some food for thought to see if anyone wants to nibble.

We could sit here and poke holes in all of these, but I really want to raise some issues around Item 4. I realize that the words "should not" leave the door open a bit. My hunch, based on listening to the tech director from Duval County Public Schools, is that he really means "must not."

If so, I have a problem with this. My beef is that the district (and many others like it) are making an assumption that an online space should have different rules from meatspace. In other words, there is likely no Board Policy that a teacher and student shouldn't have a "social" connection through church, civic organizations, summer jobs (how many of us have hired students to babysit?), and so forth. What's the real difference if I remind a student via Facebook that there's a test next week vs. bumping into her at the grocery store and reminding her? How does a district that maintains its own social media presence (Duval has Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts) regulate ethical use of the same tools for individuals?

Sure, there's a risk of the Creepy Treehouse effect in the online environment...but I can think of plenty of teachers who have been a little on the eager side of being "friends" with students in the real world. I grew up in a town so small you could hardly swing a proverbial cat without having an interaction with a teacher outside of school. I might mention that this was long before Teh Interwebs were around---and I can think of several instances where the...relationships...between teachers and students would be considered inappropriate. My point is simply that you don't need the web to be social or have a questionable interaction. If you have a Code of Professional Conduct, why does an online space need a separate policy at all?


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Good question. My only thought this morning is that the web's greatest liabilities for social interaction is that it never forgets and often masks interactions. (Am I smiling or frowning as I type this, or am I crossing my eyes and jumping up and down?)

Teachers should always maintain an appropriate social distance from students in any medium, real or virtual.

Scary thought: What if IT regulators extended their restrictions into "meatspace"?

Hugh O'Donnell said...

"My only thought this morning is that the web's greatest liabilities for social interaction are that it never forgets and often masks interactions."

Gotta be careful to get that subject/verb agreement after revising!