Just be careful

Teachers, like many other professionals, are busy people. They care about what they do and they want to improve, but their network consists of a limited number of people (typically friends and colleagues) who they turn to for ideas and suggestions of how to do so*. Consequently the smaller the network, the smaller the potential scope for improvement.

Until Tim Berners-Lee created the internet.

The internet breaks down barriers and can provide a fantastic way for teachers (and other professionals) to communicate with each other and increase the size of their network. The internet as a whole, together with blogs and social media, provide a platform for reflection, discussion and the sharing of good practice. Questions can be asked to, and answered by, thousands of people. Instantly, the size of the network is increased and the potential for improvement is magnified.

However, the internet is a public domain and, as such, must be treated with respect. Anyone has access to the information that is published and it is very difficult to permanently remove comments that have been made in error or otherwise. It is also easy for information to be misinterpreted if not expressed clearly enough, which can be further hindered by the lack of feedback from the ‘audience’.

People are becoming increasingly aware of this, so the following recent warning from the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) would appear to restrict the improvement of good practice (see article here):

First thing is don’t bother telling anybody else about your social life. Nobody is interested about your social life and it doesn’t help.
Secondly, never make any comment about your work, about your employer, about teaching issues in general.
There is always a possibility it will be misinterpreted.

The article here dissects the specifics of the comments, but some common sense and careful thought should ensure that nothing inappropriate is published. For all intents and purposes, Twitter and blogging are public. Similarly, Facebook changes so often that it is very difficult to stay on top of privacy settings so, to avoid complications and potential difficulties, may as well be treated as if its information were public.

If everyone took this stance, maybe the SSTA and other professions (see similar discussions regarding footballers here and here) would realise the potential benefits that these improvements in communication can offer. People should be encouraged to use the internet responsibly (and educated accordingly, if necessary), rather than prevented from using it to its potential.

As a form of insurance, my pages state that views and opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect the organisations that I belong to, but I am not naïve enough to assume this absolves me of any responsibility. I do, however, hope that the organisations that I belong to would not disapprove of anything that I publish**.

*other limiting factors exist such as time, money and imagination; to a degree, the internet generally overcomes all of these.

** I would like to apologise to anyone who may be offended by anything I have written or whose future I may have jeopardised by writing this article. Just in case.

Trapped within a closed loop

Technical issues at work today meant that anyone trying to access education sites was confronted with a message stating “The page has been blocked because the content has been deemed unsuitable by the administrator” under the category of “Education and Reference”.

I work in a school; how can a website categorised as ‘Education and Reference’ possibly be unsuitable?

These same technical issues meant that the internet was down for all schools across the County.

Subsequently, when network managers telephoned through to the central server, after navigating a series of computer generated questions, they were left with an automated message advising them to log onto the website and follow a series of instructions.

I can just picture the flowchart…