Twittering Teacher Trouble

May 23, 2009 in Thoughts and Rants | Comments (0)

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I was half way through a day delivering a course on how to use Web 2.0 in the classroom when I saw a headline on the BBC news website that stopped me in my tracks for a second: Probe into Teacher Twitter Posts. I was gobsmacked when I read it.

Now I will agree that a teacher does need to realise that their twitter feed can be read by more than just their close group of friends (unless you protect your updates I guess) and so as such it’s not really professional to complain about students in a way that they could be identified.

I am being followed by a few of my PGCE students. I may have tweeted in the past that I am trying to muster the energy to mark their stack of assignments, but I wouldn’t be tweeting about how many failed etc (if any) since that’s unfair on the students to hear that way.

Now the article does say

“The teacher in question is not facing disciplinary action, although the council is looking into the matter.”

Which makes you wonder what the story really is here. And how it ended up on the BBC site? And I’m concerned that the BBC can see fit to just take a teachers tweets and use them out of context

It does seem to me that there’s a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to Twitter recently. A few months back there was a story about a magistrate who resigned after complaints that he was twittering about cases. Again the real story was that the council completely misunderstood how Twitter was being used. In fact it was being used to make the workings of the court more transparent, and no private info was being revealed.

So what do you think about this? If a teacher is twittering during a class then maybe there is an argument that they are not fully focussed on their teaching. How would the teacher react if students were twittering during the lesson? But to blast a teacher for using Twitter at all?

One sentence from the BBC article that amazed me was this one:

Argyll and Bute Council policy states that teachers may access professional blogs which have educational value but are not allowed to have their own blog.

Really?? They are not allowed to have a blog?

As one of my Twitter followers Kate pointed out – “who is writing these professional blogs that Bute teachers are allowed to read? Surely not other teacher then?” And that’s a good point.

Is this true? Can anyone who works for Argyll and Bute let me know if this is actual policy?

How can Argyll and Bute ban teachers from having their own blogs? That’s totally unreasonable and goes against much of the guidance being offered on the Learning and Teaching Scotland’s own advice site, who says things like:

Edublogs

A key use for blogs in the education world is the keeping of a Teacher Learning Log, or an Edublog. This is not about filing away CPD courses you’ve done, but reflecting on the day-to-day work done in the classroom and how it might be done differently, better or in collaboration with someone else ‘out there’. Normally, you’ll quickly make contacts with like-minded souls – but only if you have already contributed something to the bigger picture by writing about your experiences regularly.

Sharing ideas with others

The edublogging world is a compassionate place where people are always willing to help out with advice, tips or just reassurance that you’re doing it correctly. They will even share resources and good links. But it works both ways – share and share alike and you will feel your teaching changing as real-time reflection and deep thinking take place away from the hubbub of school.

So Learning and Teaching Scotland is encouraging teachers to set up blogs, but individual councils are then banning teachers from doing this? There’s some mixed messages going on here.

I seem to get the impression that they don’t really understand blogging and twittering, and so they’d rather just block and ban it.

I have seen some excellent teacher blogs. Many of them share good practise and examples of the excellent work their students are doing. Many of them share lots of good ideas with the education community.

I will agree that teacher blogs should not really be making negative comments about students, that is unprofessional. And if the teacher is doing that, then a quiet word in their ear from their line manager may be appropriate to stop them making comments about the school or pupils.

It does lead to some interesting discussions – and there was a lot of shock about the story on the twittering teaching community yesterday afternoon when it came out.

What is becoming more evident is for school management to get themselves up to speed on these new ways of communication and to understand them, before they start issuing disciplinary action. I’m hoping that the full story comes out soon and I’m also hoping that there’s been some serious misreporting here and that maybe this has been sensationalised a little. Let’s see what happens…


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