Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Applied Practice - Week 29 - Legal and ethical contexts in my digital practice - (Activity 5)

For this post I am identifying a particular ethical dilemma in my own practice that is linked to digital or online access and activity. 

There are a few dilemmas that I'm currently facing:

  1. BYOD Policy (or lack thereof)
  2. Agreement (or lack of consenting agreement) by students and whanau about photography being used of students in social media accounts, in the foyer of our school office, in the newspaper or school yearbook
  3. Equity of access to devices 
  4. Professionalism on social media

1. BYOD Policy or lack thereof
At present we don't have a solid BYOD policy. We have one that has been used by another school and we have changed it to suit our purposes as a school. At the moment there is a blurring of the lines between the two extremes - NO DEVICES AT SCHOOL to BYOD. For me this causes a lot of issues around acceptable use and lack of digital citizenship. Students and staff are breaking rules while we sort this policy out and ensure that it not only safeguards the students and the school, but the community too. 

We have had trial BYOD sessions throughout the school and these trial students have signed a trial BYOD policy agreement. This is good. But it lasts only for the duration of the trial. What we need to do next is a schoolwide signing - by each student and their whanau. We also need to be actively teaching digital citizenship. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. THE. DEVICES. ARE. USED. 

I've spoken a lot before about the work that Creative Commons NZ, Common Sense Media and Netsafe NZ have done in ensuring a safe and ethical environment for students, staff and schools in using BYOD. There are MULTIPLE tools available for schools to use on the Netsafe website and some really cool digital citizenship tools on the Common Sense Media site too. What needs to happen now - is a space where staff and students can go to to learn more about these skills. A portal. Something I've been working on for a while now - to ensure a quick and easy way to access information relative to digital citizenship and use of technology. 

2. Agreement (or lack of consenting agreement) by students and whanau about photography being used of students in social media accounts, in the foyer of our school office, in the newspaper or school yearbook
My issue with this is relatively obvious. At present we do not have anything in any of our school documentation around use of photography. I have looked many many times over the last few years to see if it is in there. Apparently it was a few years ago. It should not ever be an assumption that as a school we will take photos and share them. It is only with informed consent that this is able to occur. 

 A few weeks ago I was watching two young gentlemen create what would have been a beautiful timelapse of students walking to and from their classes. I purposefully walked into the shot and talked with them about the appropriateness of what they were doing. I felt incredibly awful about screwing up their work - however, I feel even more passionate about ensuring that students have their say about where their photos and faces or bodies are put in our world. Students - kaore - everyone has the right to know WHERE the photos are being stored, sent or uploaded to where. We should be teaching this just as we should be teaching the importance of a strong handshake. Because without clear guidelines around what is acceptable - the lines are too blurred and it becomes unsafe territory. 

I have suggested time and time again about the need to add in a photography clause in our enrolment form. I'm often listened to - but it still hasn't happened which is sad. It is for this one reason why I don't share any of the photos I take. I always ask students whether I can take a photo of them or their work. Often I get them to hold their work up in front of their face. It usually goes nowhere other than my Dropbox account, excepting when I purposefully ask a student or group of students if it can go on Twitter based on their interest in the topic we are doing and to gain more impact from the world around us. I give photos to the school yearbook, grudgingly, but always with the students in mind. But more importantly - I think this discussion is one that needs to happen more often within our role as teachers of teenagers who feel they can take photos or videos of anyone without their consent. 

3. Equity of access to devices 
Lastly, and this is a big deal - equity of access. In our community, once we have BYOD and the photography clause amended in our enrolment forms, we will need to address the elephant in the room. Something I've been thinking about A LOT. Something that plagues me and my practice as a teacher because I really want to be an inspirational, innovative, interesting and fabulously techy teacher - but at the end of the day I can only work with what I have. I blend my lessons again and again to have a mixture of both 21st century learning and 'traditional' styles of learning with 21st century skills embedded throughout. 

The problem that I keep coming back to though is the simple fact that 1) we are still getting our infrastructure sorted throughout the school (nearly finished!!!!) and within Rotorua and 2) a vast majority of students either don't know how to learn with digital technologies as they are learning from scratch as they've never had devices at home or access to them at school OR if they do have devices they still don't know how to use them effectively to improve their learning. 

One of the ideas that is floating around in my head at the moment is creating an equity fund - produced by those old boys and old girls from Heights - who have finished school, have careers and are now in a position to give back. Someone once said to me that Heights doesn't have the same ability as RBHS to create a fund like that. Every school has success. Every school has a beautiful and sometimes awful history. Every school has people that think back to their days of glory at school and want to give back in some way. Why not create a funding network where current students and their whanau can apply for scholarships or grants? It seems the most obvious thing in the world to me. 

As well as this issue, is the need to have sets of SOMETHING in each class. Not per department. It needs to be across the school, ready when needed. Ubiquitous at all times. For all students, no matter their background. 

4. Professionalism on social media

I just finished watching this:
It is beyond awkward. Obviously created to make the discussion happen like any good piece of media, however it got me thinking about the kinds of reasons why I choose to use Twitter professionally. I don't talk about anything other than Twitter. One of my good friends and colleagues (not a teacher) uses Twitter as her space away from Facebook where her friends and family are. We talk on Twitter often - not in detail but sometimes referencing what's happened during the day. I'm nervous about those tweets - because while they're professional in a way - they're still not focussed on the kaupapa. 

Alternatively, my use of Facebook is for my friends and whanau. I don't accept students as 'friends' until they're finished high school - because by that time they're not interested in keeping in touch on social media anymore and almost certainly don't want their favourite teacher being disappointed in them when they post inappropriate stuff online. 

On Facebook I'm relatively political, I discuss big issues happening in the world today - my issues as a teacher in terms of having to deal with these things that come up - everyday poverty, learned helplessness, homelessness, racism, loss and grief. I hardly ever mention stuff that happens at school - preferring to keep that offloading korero to phone calls to whanau and friends who don't live in Rotorua. 

The issue I have is again related to use of students and their photos - I have long time friends and colleagues who share photos of their students online or tag them in pictures. I'm just way too scared to do that. Issues around child kidnapping, CYFs children, custody battles, etc etc etc all spring to mind. It worries me when I see my friends posting this kind of stuff. It's just not on. For me the difficult thing is always finding the right words to say something in a confrontation or disagreement because I revert to that little nervous, scared girl and I so strongly want to stand up in defence of those who have not chosen to put their pictures up in a shared space. 

Heoi ano - it also comes back to digital citizenship and knowing where the line is. For some teachers it's easy to see that line, for others it becomes blurred beyond belief. For some teachers who are a lot older than me, they seem to add students as friends, I tell my students that they'd hate being my friend on Facebook because I post too much. I try to make it into a joke. Likewise with my Twitter account. They ask if they can follow me - I say sure, but I can't follow you back. And anyway, I say, you will not want to follow me too long on Twitter, particularly when there's a conference on!

Finding the ethics and legality in everyday life is an interesting one. Even more so when it comes to being a teacher, a role model, a person that looks after and cares for young people. 
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Further Reading:
Education Council. (nd). Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers-0
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