January 02, 2012

The annual social network lynching mob arrives

Follow your dreams
It seems customary that on the slow news days of the New Year, teaching unions seek the high profile that will always come from bashing social networks, deeming them dangerous for teachers and threatening teaching professionals with losing their job should they slip up.

After "a number" of social network-related cases brought before the General Teaching Council this year (how many?) the SSTA, the union for Scittish Secondary School Teachers [sic], "believes teachers can reveal too much personal information on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The union also fears they could become overly familiar with pupils."

There's nothing in there that isn't true of teachers who don't use social networks. What about the teachers in my former schools, pre-social-networks, who went for beers with sixth year students of an evening, who undertook privately paid study lessons with them to top up what wasn't happening in class, who revealed their first names and how many kids they have, and what they get up to in the evening...

Saying that I'm popping out to Asda for some frozen pizza on Twitter, or sighing digitally in a status update that I'd had a particularly hard day teaching the 'weans', is nothing new. Sure, the audience is wider. Sure, the potential for being misunderstood is there.

But so is the potential that many more thousands of teachers in Scotland (and millions elsewhere) exploit positively through social networks to develop professional ties where peer-to-peer professional learning can happen. Threatening the vast sensible majority on the basis of a few under-educated teachers is short-sighted.

So, instead of "drawing up new guidelines" (which I'm choosing to misinterpret as quashing the rights of teachers to use social networks at all to talk about work) or making the disproportionate link between a social media slip up and getting fired, whyu don't teaching unions and the GTCS provide more reiteration of the excellent guidance that I helped the EIS, Scotland's biggest teaching union, draw up five years ago, or follow the existing most up-to-date guidance from ACAS? They still make sense, as they have nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with the attitudes and comportment of teachers in their public lives.

Update: Louise Jones has just highlighted the Highland Council joint-produced set of guidelines, released in December. We're hardly short of excellent exemplars, are we?

Photo: Chris Devers

 

Comments

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There are stupid people in every profession, just as there are many different ways of manifesting stupidity. Jim Docherty has been around for too long and expresses the kind of view that my generation, sadly, is all too prone to hold. It's fear of people finding out about the stupidity. Instead of rushing to shut the stable door long after the digital horse has bolted, they should try better screening of applicants to the profession and then educate them properly.

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Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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