Law and Ethics Influence on Professional Practice

Me, my learners, the school and social media

As a teacher I follow a Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers. The education council website explains that my interactions as a professional are governed by four fundamental principles:

  • Autonomy to treat people with rights that are to be honoured and defended
  • Justice to share power and prevent the abuse of power
  • Responsible care to do good and minimise harm to others
  • Truth to be honest with others and self.

First and foremost is our commitment to learners; to base our professional practice on continuous professional learning, the best knowledge available about curriculum content and pedagogy, and the best knowledge available about curriculum content and pedagogy. 

For me a big part of my developing pedagogy for a future-focused classroom is that our learners are connected. By this I mean that we provide as many opportunities as available to flatten the walls of the classroom so our learners can learn with others on a local, national, and global level. This constructivist approach allows our learners to build understanding and knowledge with others whom they may not have had the opportunity to connect with otherwise. It also provides opportunities for our learners to experience different perspectives and viewpoints which they may not ordinarily be exposed to. In doing so we encourage our learners to think critically.

The dilemma I face is explaining HOW and justifying WHY we use a variety of social media in the classroom as an integrated and valuable part of our programme; and also HOW and WHY we are wanting other social media platforms ‘unblocked’ so we can experiment with their use in a classroom as a learning tool.

Possible concerns from parents and colleagues could be that content on social media is discoverable, platforms we use are largely public, and are accessible 24/7 from a plethora of devices. I think there is also the concern that learners are wasting time  or using it inappropriately. However, the positive outcomes of using social media platforms outweigh these possible concerns which I see as opportunities. Our learners can now create, share, adapt and reuse content and engage in digital dialogue and collaboration. Our learners can interact with peers and experts and in this process they learn to understand globalisation and the fact they are part of something bigger than them alone.

Following the questions Hall (2001) suggests when working through ethical issues, I see my priority stakeholders as my learners. The Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers states; “The primary professional obligation of registered teachers is to those they teach. Teachers nurture the capacities of all learners to think and act with developing independence, and strive to encourage an informed appreciation of the fundamental values of a democratic society”.

One restriction I face is the ‘blocking’ of social media platforms because they could be used inappropriately at school. The course of action I would like to see adopted is let’s use the situation as an opportunity to teach aspects of digital citizenship as well as how these platforms can be used for learning. If our young people are engaged through using Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetime to name a few we should find ways we can use these as part of our programme to engage them in learning rather than blocking them and making out they can not be part of our classroom practice. Our classrooms need to be more like the real world. Blocking platforms our kids are using as a natural part of their culture is not allowing this to happen.

The other ethical issue I am faced with is that our school enrolment form has this clause included: I agree to the use of my child’s photo and/or classroom work to be included in School Publications ie newsletters/websites. However there is no mention of specific social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and real time chat platforms such as Google Hangouts and Appearin.com. I wonder if our enrolment form needs to be updated to include this aspect. I also wonder if our school should develop some social media guidelines for learners and staff?

Henderson (2014) raises a number of important ethical issues which I must consider if I am to continue to use social media in the classroom. Gaining consent from our learners at regular intervals is something I need to remember to do. There is also the issue of how well my learners understand “how their private information and interactions can be transformed into public data” (pg. 3). This is something I will need to discuss with them. Although we have been discussing digital citizenship since the start of the term, I need to ensure my learners understand that what they tweet, post, blog or share is building up an online digital footprint  (we have expressed this as a digital tattoo) of their conversations and interactions. All of this is creating an “archive of profile that persists over time” (Henderson, pg. 4). 

 

 

Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-et…

Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Developing-leaders/What-Ought-I-to-Do-All-Things-Considered-An-Approach-to-the-Exploration-of-Ethical-Problems-by-Teachers

Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of Teaching with Social Media. Paper presented at the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014, Adelaide, SA. Retrieved from http://acec2014.acce.edu.au/sites/2014/files/attachments/HendersonAuldJohnson_EthicalDilemmas_ACEC_2014_0.pdf

 

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One thought on “Law and Ethics Influence on Professional Practice

  1. Janene Maloney says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such an honest and open way Kerri. Your posts are always thoughtful and robust, and I really appreciate hearing your reflections and perspective on things that we all face as educators. I agree that we need to use social media for opportunities to teach our children about digital citizenship as well as showing our students how these platforms can be used to support our learning, as connected people. A question that comes to mind is how do we manage the age restrictions for these platforms that some of our children are already using. Having a Gmail account under our school domain is fine however I’m not sure what exists for other platforms. Another question is that of inclusivity, with some parents being more strict with their children’s use of social media.

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