I am not your friend

13 11 2009

One of the best farewells that was written on my end-of-prac card was “you r now mi friend”. I had told this student earlier that day when he was not cooperating that today was the last day he had to make me his friend.

But is it okay to be friends with students? Particularly where everyone’s friends are now, Facebook.

During my last week, Education Queensland updated their code of conduct for employees to clearly stipulate that teachers “must not use internet social networks such as Face Book, My Space or YouTube to contact or access present students enrolled in any school or institute” and “If you use internet social networks in your personal time you must ensure that the content is appropriate and private, and that you restrict access to specific people who are not students” (Section 2.2.2 (b) Interactions with Students).

Teachers (along with probably everybody else) have been needing to be increasingly careful about what sort of material they make available online (for example). Thankfully a lot of social media websites have been updating features to make it easier to control how you are viewed online. At the start of previous school year Facebook blogged specifically to teachers about the benefits of making friends lists to control what is viewable by “students” (or non-teachers may like to create a similar group for “Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents”).

The private education sector in Queensland has yet to install a blanket ban on social media interactions with students (and last I heard they were not intending to go that far, but were considering available options). While I understand where EQ is coming from on this, it is a bit disappointing that there appears no room for leeway or principal-appointed exemptions (which are included on clauses regarding camera usage and other points). This means a whole range of Web 2.0 based activities and learning environments (Second Life, class blogging) are excluded from Queensland state school classrooms at all age levels (and I think it may also apply to TAFE classes too).

The Queensland Curriculum embraces technology on most levels, to me it just seems disappointing that it is not being flexible on this one. Perhaps their strategy is to ban it while they work out a more appropriate strategy to monitor student-teacher interactions on the world-wide-web.

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