Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Online Ethical Dilemma in Schools

Mind lab Post 8/10

The Task:
Create a blog post where you identify an ethical dilemma in your own practice linked to digital or online access or activity. Explain the dilemma and discuss either:
how you would address the potential issue if it occurred in your own practice
or (if relevant)
an actual situation that you have knowledge of, and how it was resolved.

Teaching and leading in  small rural school has amazing rewards, but also comes with its challenges. Not only do you live closely together but in some cases many of your staff and students are related. Blanket policies about not being friends with students on social media are impossible when for some staff students are also nieces, nephews sisters and brothers.

This became a real ethical dilemma for me when leading my previous school. There was no way I was going to tell staff they couldn’t be friends with students on social media, especially their own relatives. So this posed its own dilemna. How did we keep the school safe? How did we keep staff safe? How did we keep students safe?

The basic solution was conversations about appropriateness and around common sense and then using initiative. Coming to see me if they were unsure whether something crosse the boundary lines or not. It was good that I was in a position that most staff also trusted me as Principal and most were happy to have me be friends with them on their pages. This meant if I saw something that I thought overstepped the bounds I could also initiate a conversation about it. (I actually only had to do that twice in five years.)

I witnessed on many occasions the fact that teachers presence as  ‘friend’ on Facebook led to situations where teachers developed an awareness of developing situations outside of school that could have tremendous social and emotional impact in school and for learning. Because of their awareness of issues they are able to address those issues as they were developing ratchet than coming in to try and mop up a situation after it had happened- as often happens when social incidents outside of school bubble over into school.

In another context it may be totally inappropriate for teachers to be friends wiht students on Facebook. But once again, I don’t think we can make blanket decisions and statements about this. It is contextual and dependent on so much more than a a guidebook. What is most important is both that we all keep safe and that we find every opportunity to help our young people deal with something that will always be in their lives.

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