Tech Tip Tuesday … Protecting Yourself Online!

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog and specifically this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the my department or school district.

I will be honest – I have waffled back and forth about sharing today’s post with you for a few reasons. First, I’m not an expert in social media. Second, I don’t have the authority to make rules or policy for anyone. Thirdly, I don’t want to scare people from using these great tools – I completely support teachers who want to use blogs, podcasts, professional Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. to better communicate with their students, parents, and co-teachers.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much a “rule follower.” In my perfect world, there would be a simple, but direct list of Do’s and Don’ts regarding Social Media. Unfortunately, there really is no such thing. Daniel Schwartz (from Connecticut Employment Law Blog) recently told a group of high school and middle school teachers, “No guideline can be a substitute for using good judgement and common sense.” 
As much as some teachers and public school employees would like to believe that what they do “on their own time” doesn’t affect their professional lives, it just isn’t reality. 

In this oh-so-social world, one of the things we teach our students is to “be careful what you post”. This is a lesson that adults need to learn too. Stop and think before you post about a rough day with your students. Stop and think before posting about a co-worker that’s getting on your last nerve! Stop and think before posting complaints about parents. Remember the comments can be taken out of context and can come back to haunt you. You should also know that once it’s out there, it can never be taken back. Even if you delete it off of your page, there is a cached version somewhere.

Again, I’m not an expert, but I do want to warn everyone to use good judgement and common sense about what you post or what you allow to be posted/published online.

At the beginning of this school year, our district (and countless others) published Social Media Guidelines and a very helpful Policy Changes document in an effort to help our teachers and staff as they use different Social Media tools in their public and professional lives. I reviewed them today while preparing this post. I suggest all school district employees (especially EM-S ISD peeps) take a fresh look. If you work for another district, please contact your Communications Department or Instructional Technology Department to see if they have published suggestions or guidelines regarding Social Media.

I’m not trying to scare you, but here are a couple of recent newsmakers…

Natalie Munroe (high school teacher in Pennsylvania) created and maintained a personal casual blog about her life and occasionally about her job. It was not meant to be a professional blog, in fact she only used her first name and last initial to identify herself and she only had 9 followers (two of whom were her husband and herself!) She claims that the students she did occasionally mention were not specific students, but instead they were “caricatures of students that she’d had over the years.” Mrs. Munroe was suspended from her teaching position after referring to her students on her blog as  “rude, lazy, disengaged whiners,” among other things. 

Another recent newsmaker is Ashley Payne, a 24 year old teacher who lost her job after an anonymous email to the school complaining about vacation pictures she had posted on her (private) Facebook page of her holding alcoholic drinks as well as a post that included inappropriate language.  Ms. Payne actually resigned after she claims she was pressured by her principal to either resign immediately or face suspension.

I am not condemning nor condoning the actions of either of these teachers. However, I do believe these stories can be a wake-up call for many of us who use Social Media tools in our private lives. The bottom line is that we just need to think about the things we post online.

 As always, comments are welcome! If you have a specific question about Social Media use, please let me know. If I don’t know the answer, I will find out!

Resources for this week’s post:

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