Saturday, 21 November 2015

Activity 8 - Legal Contexts and Digital Identities

My school, Elm Park School (EPS) has been an online school for a number of years.  We began eportfolios approximately 8 years through the KnowledgeNet platform, and after we rolled out Google Apps for Education 3 years ago in the school, we changed to online blogs as a platform for our eportfolios.  We have also trialled BYOD in our school for the first time this year and have decided to roll this out to all Y4-6 students next year.  All these initiatives have implications in terms of ethics and accountability of all the parties involved ie. school staff, students and whanau etc.


Every students in our school from Year 0 has their own blog which they use to show their learning and reflections.  The blogs are open to the world, unless otherwise requested by a parent or guardian that a student’s blog be made private.  This is in line with the requirements under the Education Council Code of Ethics which states that teachers must “respect their privacy.”  Also in line with the requirement under the Code of Ethics that teachers “protect the confidentiality of information about learners obtained in the course of professional service, consistent with legal requirements”, only first names are used in the blogs and all assessment information and reporting, which is also done online, is kept on a separate site which only the teacher, student and parent/caregiver has access to.  The Education Council states that we must keep “parents/guardians updated and involved in what’s being shared on blogs and on-line spaces created for teaching and learning” and we encourage our parents to check their child’s blog regularly and make comments on their learning.


All our students have their own Google accounts which includes their own email and youtube accounts.  Being such a connected school has many advantages and is fantastic but has also meant that we have had to be very careful in terms of ensuring that our staff, teachers, students and parents understand how to be cybersafe and responsible users of the internet.  As such we have established a very clear set of guidelines around cybersafety and cybersafety forms that all parents/caregivers sign when their child enrols in our school.        


An ethical dilemma that I, and other teachers everywhere, have is the interactions with students and parents on email and social media, especially Facebook.  I have had many friend requests from parents and current and ex-students on Facebook.  As the Code of Ethics on Social Media states, it is important to “consider ethical risks” when engaging with students and/or parents on social media.  I have ignored friend request from current students and students’ parents, however some of my students’ parents were personal friends of mine before their children became my students.  In this instance I have remained friends with them on Facebook but I am very aware of the content I upload and discuss.  I have discussed this dilemma with other colleagues, especially about friending ex-students on Facebook.  Some are of the opinion that is is OK after they have left school, although personally I still don’t feel very comfortable doing this.  Some students follow me on Twitter and this is not something I can really control, other than blocking them and because I predominantly use Twitter as a PLN, I am not uncomfortable about students or parents following me in this forum.     


References


Education Council (nd). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certficated Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers-0

New Zealand Teachers Council. (2015). Teachers & Social Media . Retrieved from http://www.teachersandsocialmedia.co.nz

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