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Social Media and the public school teacher

So, I signed up to attend a workshop on social media at the NYSUT leadership conference. I thought we would be talking about how to use social media to promote advocacy and political action. How wrong I was! To be fair, the presenters represent the legal arm of the union, so I suppose it was fair to expect that they would be talking about raising consciousness about the consequences of inappropriate uses of social media. We have all heard stories of teachers losing their jobs because of their Facebook postings, tweets, and blog posts.  Fair enough. And we heard many, many examples of workers of all types being disciplined or fired due to inappropriate emails, etc.  I did learn quite a bit in terms of “management” rights. (The laptop I use as my classroom computer is district-issued; although the district encourages me to take it home, I know that my district then has a right to review and even own any keystrokes I make and any work I produce on that computer.) I definitely came home more aware–and more paranoid. (Anyone could be reading this, after all!)

The frustrating thing for me, though, was hearing union representatives insist that I should discourage my members from using social media. Period.   I pointed out that the Common Core emphasizes 21st c. literacy, my district promotes it, and I am supposed to be using social media in the classroom. My own union has a twitter feed and a Facebook. I’m the VP for Political Action. I feel I need to use every means possible to reach the largest numbers of members possible. (After learning how to create a closed caption video last week, I recorded one for my members to contribute to VOTE/COPE; I’ll send links to all members when I’m ready for the campaign drive. I’ll post it on Facebook.)

But I’ve been warned that everything I do creates a digital footprint, and so I should be very wary. I realize that technology is changing very rapidly, and we are not adequately writing contract language, articulating policies, and most of all educating our members and our students about how to behave responsibly in a digital age. And whose responsibility is that? The institutions that train teachers? The district? The administration? The union? The law? Moreover, I do not want my enthusiasm for free speech rights to be darkened by fear of reprisals.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts!


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