October 25, 2007

Misquote and innuendo

  Herald on Sunday : Cyberbullying 
  Originally uploaded by cx1uk

Newspaper stories like this one always have a way of condensing information to the bare essentials, occasionally condensing the sense out of complex situations. Simplistication instead of simplification if you will. I let it lie, but it's cropped up in conversations a few times this past week, and so I want to put across the full and far more complex backstory to this.

A few weeks ago, while in New Zealand, this story was published in the Sunday Herald where I was a) given an unexpected promotion (I'm not Head of Technology) and b) it was implied that all teachers were being urged by me and Learning and Teaching Scotland to sign up for Facebook and Bebo, becoming friends with their students to 'spy' or see what they are up to.

That's not quite what I was saying, and Adam amongst others has picked up on this. While one teacher in the story did indeed see what his students were up to by coming across their Bebo profiles, and spotted bullying taking place in the 'virtual classroom', it's not something that I would condone. As I was saying this morning in the Urban Learning Space, it's not about getting into their space so much as learning from it. I've not really got an interest in "being friends" with a fifteen year old, and wonder how much I would learn that I wouldn't pick up on in a healthy in-class relationship. Rather, I'd be asking questions about what it is that makes it tick, and what it is that makes it occasionally a dangerous or at least uncomfortable place to be. To do this we have to be educated in these spaces ourselves and, yes, this means signing up for the spaces, exploring them, making friends with others in the same game (my Bebo profile reads like a who's who of virtual teaching and learning, with a few school mates thrown in). Or, it could mean that we get our education through some secondary research, by attending a seminar like the ones Ollie has started to roll out in Musselburgh.

The answers to these questions do not lie online, though, and becoming friends with your students on Facebook is not the answer to finding out what they are up to. The answer lies in the non-virtual, face-to-face world of our schools and communities, where most if not all of our students' Bebo friends reside (few have 'stranger danger' friends they've never met) and where the problems, as well as the friendships, begin to brew.

I'll be keeping an interested eye on the General Teaching Council for Scotland's website in three weeks' time as their Consultation on the Draft Code of Professionalism and Conduct begins. I'll be putting my tuppence worth in on the complexity of online-offline friendship and where we, as educators, live in that grey space. Will you be joining me?


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hi Ewan,
interestingly this was a good conversation starter in our staffroom the other day, not often we talk about web 2.
I did suggest you were misquoted, as I used your explanation of facebook (as I recalled it) when I blogged about it Neil's flickr pic is well blogged now, I used it too.

I go with John's comment and even though I blogged about the article I felt there must have been much more that was missed out. But thsi is why blogs are great, you are quickly able to put your own version out to the world...probably more will read this than read the original article!!!

Hi Ewan
I fully support what you are saying. I have both a bebo and a facebook account which are both private. Sometimes kids have found me and have tried to add me and I have declined this. As you point out, it is helpful for us to know what technology is out there that appeal to the pupils and how we can use it, but I do not think it is helpful to become 'friends' with pupils at all.

I don't think that the Department of Ed here in Arizona will be urging teachers to join social networking sites after the news report this week.

The commercials made it seem a whole lot worse than it was after I saw the actual video of the report. I expected everyone to not have clothes on and injecting drugs after the commercials.

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About Ewan

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.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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