As I write these words, a few days following the debate covering the following affirmation: “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids”, I still can’t decide on what position to take. During the debate, I kept flip flopping between agreeing and disagreeing with the statement. Although both teams provided compelling arguments for both perspectives, taking a position is proving to be more difficult than I initially thought. In my own practice as a teacher, I occasionally tweet statements or pictures of special accomplishments my students have achieved. Although my use of social media in my professional life is very infrequent, I always hesitate before hitting the “post” button. A flurry of questions consumes my mind in those few seconds or even minutes between my composing my tweet and publishing it.
- Is this post appropriate for the public at large?
- Are there any typos or grammatical mistakes?
- Will this post hurt anyone?
- Is this post beneficial to my students?
- Can I live with this post being on the internet permanently?
- Is this post even necessary?
- Do I want to pollute my personal twitter stream with work related posts?
- Do I really want to post this thing, or should I wait to reflect on this?
- Can there potentially be any unintentional consequences to my posting this thing?
As one can clearly see, caution and prudence are at the center of my mind when using social media of any kind. From the perspective of a teacher, I want what is best for my students. We cannot deny that over the past few years, it has never been easier to open up the classroom to the rest of the world. With the use of blogs, microblogs, social media, video sharing sites, image sharing sites and education specific tool like Seesaw, teachers, students and parents have resources that in many cases, didn’t exist only a few years ago. Like any new technology, it is often hard to predict the impact these technologies will have on the world of education. My analysis of the suggested readings has led me to categorize teachers in two general categories:
- Risk adverse teachers who fear the repercussions of opening up their controlled and calculated classroom with the fear of introducing negative effects for their students and themselves.
- Risk tolerant teachers who embrace opening up their classrooms with the objective of finding potential benefits for themselves and their students.
New technologies and new methods seem to favour risk tolerant teachers in that they don’t have to wait for technologies to mature or be the subject of scrutiny before trying new things. Only once technologies have been proven to be effective and scrutinized, do risk adverse teachers seem to jump onto new approaches. Although I find myself leaning towards being a risk adverse teacher, I find myself being more and more positive to the idea of opening my classroom and using some of the tools I mentioned earlier to make my offering as a teacher more diverse.
Many papers extol the benefits of using new technologies including social media in the classroom. Rdouan Faizi et al. notes these benefits in the following categories:
- Social Media as Communications Channels
- Social Media as Engagements Tools
- Social Media as Collaborative Platforms
In each of these categories, Farzi explores the benefits of using social media to open the classroom to the outside world by enabling more efficient communication channels and integrating new engagement tools between parents, teachers and students. In addition, by utilizing collaborative platforms, a larger part of the community can contribute to the holistic molding of students. Most teachers wouldn’t argue the findings of a paper like this particular one. However, the success of opening the classroom using tools as social media rests, as always on the method of delivery and the approach taken by teachers.
With the prevalence of social media and modern online collaboration tools, I have no other option but to embrace these technologies and minimize risk for my students by helping them become responsible digital citizens. This can be accomplished by having discussions with the students regarding safe and proper use of information technology all the while explicitly showing them how to use these technologies by modeling correct online behaviour myself.
In her paper, Diane Forbes details many of the risks and issues that must be taken into consideration when educating people with regards to the ethical use of Social Media. She provides excellent leads that might be the source of many answers for the Risk adverse teachers that enter the world of more open education. Although there is still much to learn regarding the use of these tools, I think it’s well worth the risks to dive into the world of openness and sharing using online tools.
One must be vigilant make sure to stay current on the latest and proper practices for using these tools by staying informed on the potential issues that could surface. Although mostly reactive, school division policies regarding the use of these tools might be a great place to start. Although I’m relatively scared to take the next steps in using these tools as a Risk adverse teacher, I feel it is my duty to explore them as I’m depriving my student of important skills and knowledge if I don’t. Here we go!