Legal and ethical contexts in my digital practice
An ethical dilemma that I have come across in my teaching so far has been when a colleague of mine was friends with their current students on Facebook. With teachers active on social media, there is sometimes a cross over between personal and professional life. However, when we actively allow students to become our friends on these networks many issues can arise, for example:
- It blurs the lines between teacher and learner turning into a friend/friend type situation.
- It could lead to either favouritism on the teachers part, or the student can use the information they find out to their advantage, i.e. blackmail the teacher.
- Teaching friends on Facebook could have their information shared with the student even when they are trying to keep personal and professional seperate. Through sharing the circle of influence gets wider and wider.
- There is a blurring between the personal and professional life of the teacher, the wall between teacher persona and ‘real person’ is taken down.
- The student will be liking and sharing their Facebook posts with other students in the school as well, which could lead to interesting conversations in the playground.
- Parents could wonder why a teacher is interacting in a personal level with their child.
As teachers we try to control the way we are portrayed online, by allowing students access to our social media accounts we lose an element of that control.
The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers (Education Council, n.d) outline a clear checklist of actions we, as teachers, can adhere to to maintain the professional integrity of ourselves. In this case I feel the teacher broke a number of these criteria, which I have identified below:
Commitment to learners:
- develop and maintain professional relationships with learners based upon the best interests of those learners.
Commitment to Parents/Guardians and Family/Whanau:
- establish open, honest and respectful relationships
- respect their privacy
- respect their rights to information about their children
Commitment to society:
- teach and model those positive values which are widely accepted in society
Commitment to the profession:
- advance the interests of the teaching profession through responsible ethical practice
This issue was unable to be resolved as at the time the school did not have a Social Media policy. It was relying on the professionalism of the teachers to not interact with students online. I feel all schools should have an up to date Social Media/ Online Interaction policy, ‘Up to date’ because as technology changes so should any policy. However it could have been avoided by simply asking “What would happen if everyone did that?” (Hall, 2001 p. 7)
After reading Hall (2001) and reflecting on his questions to help guide ethical decision making, I feel that these would be beneficial to have in my tool belt when approaching an ethical dilemma. His anecdote in the opening paragraphs resonated with me especially considering in the environment I am now teaching in, we really need to think about the big picture rather than following strict guidelines. As Hall (2001) states “What ought I to do, all things considered?” (p. 3)
Disclaimer: The dilemma mentioned in the first paragraph did not occur at the school in which I am currently employed.
Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers
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