Walking the Fuzzy Boundaries – Ethical, Moral, & Legal (ECI 832)

Every spring when the thaw comes, I like to go out and hike in the woods. As I slog through the muddy sections in my rainboots, I am reminded of how difficult it can be to find a clear and easy path through any exploration – be it through a forest or through educational aspects of internet and social media use. These muddy paths in the real world exist in many areas of life and ways of understanding. For myself, one of the ways that I personally develop understanding is by relating what I am learning to other areas of knowledge. The commonalities help me to build definitions and create structural concept maps for complex knowledge. In this manner, I have taken my muddy walks in the forest and applied this to digital citizenship and other ways of knowing.

In my Chemistry 30 class, we discussed fuzzy boundaries in developing an understanding of electrons. It is impossible to know exactly where an electron is located, because everything is changing and moving constantly. In the world of internet and social media, what we know and understand are constantly changing as well. The changes that we experience underscore the importance of building digital literacy throughout a student’s life. I believe that schools and educators have a duty to provide a strong foundational base for students that encourages growth and respect in all aspects of life, including digital citizenship.

Amanpreet shared in her blog post, “Technology advances are speeding up faster than adults can understand the ethical implications of their use, according to the Alliance for Childhood. Children learn ethics more thoroughly in face-to-face interactions, especially at developmental ages, which is becoming increasingly rare due to screen time distractions.” She also raised relevant points about how we provide education for students on the regulations surrounding driving, drinking, and voting. Key parts of enhancing and encouraging student self-efficacy are raising awareness and teaching respect for the laws and regulations surrounding proper use of technology and copyright laws.

As Bart pointed out in his blog post, educators need to consciously consider the purpose behind what they are choosing to post and reflect upon their online behaviours. This was reiterated in the article shared by Shristy, “Ethical Issues with Using Technology in the Classroom.” In the article by Study.com, it discussed the importance of educators establishing clear boundaries in their communications with students. There are many implications surrounding privacy, confidentiality, and ethical behaviour. It can be difficult to know where the boundaries are at times.

As I stated in my previous post, “Rise and Tweet,” I have strived to be over-conscientious out of respect for students’ privacy, respect for personal right to information, respect for my employer, and respect for myself.

Ethically and morally, I believe that educators should behave in a manner that upholds the profession. In our professional and personal lives, we should be aware that we are role models and act accordingly. We can and should still enjoy our lives, but in a way that respects the laws and promotes responsible actions. If I have disagreements with others, there are diverse and legal channels to pursue civil actions. If I make mistakes, I behave responsibly and take steps to make amends. In my classroom, I am more aligned with a restitution model that promotes the understanding that we all make mistakes and get the opportunity to do differently.

Legally, I am aware of and follow the regulations that my employers and the law have in place to protect the rights of students, families, and teachers. Privacy and confidentiality are at the forefront of my mind when I post anything for or about students. Even within a closed framework, I am aware that others are able to view my online interactions. If a student is texting personal information that they may not wish for others to know about, I will remind them that the counsellor is available at the school for face-to-face conversations. When other students ask me about a student’s absences, I gently remind them that I will not discuss personal information for any students. The items that I have posted are with my adult students’ permission, but even then I try to not show faces or give names. I strive to be better at following copyright law. In my first years of teaching, I did not have access to many copies of textbooks. So, I photocopied more than I should have done. Over the years, I have learned more about fair use and what is allowable. This knowledge has helped me to improve exponentially! With students, I frequently share my thought processes surrounding ethics and legality of online information. Using a think-a-loud process is a great way to model digital citizenship during informal moments.

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11 Responses to Walking the Fuzzy Boundaries – Ethical, Moral, & Legal (ECI 832)

  1. Gunpreesh . says:

    I agree with your thoughts, Patricia. Being an educator it’s important to become a role model for our students and also to guide and help them with moral, ethical, and legal issues that can occur due to the rise of the digital world. When preparing pupils for the world of work, digital literacy is essential. Digital literacy is necessary to become digital citizens: individuals responsible for how they use technology to interact with the world around them.

    • Patricia Ives says:

      Thank you, Gunpreesh. You raise an important point that it is up to us an individuals to take responsibility for our actions and not to blame others when situations arise.

  2. Kelly says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this one. Things are real fuzzy when it comes to online etiquette between a teacher’s professional and personal lives. Even though we may want to conduct ourselves in one way, we really need to think of the implications that may have. Being good digital citizens and role models is important to showcase to our students, especially when these topics aren’t explicit in our curriculums. Being good digital citizens is important, and understanding the consequences of our actions is important for people to learn early on to be proactive rather than reactive.

    • Patricia Ives says:

      Yes, it is much easier to be proactive! I find that when I have made mistakes though that it is much better to own up to them right away and take steps to fixing the misunderstandings. Again, something that students need to learn how to do as well in life.

  3. Patricia, I always love getting immersed into your world with your posts. I can hear you reading it to me! You raised an important point that we can’t keep up with the changing technology, so it becomes even more important that we set clear boundaries with privacy that can be applied in many circumstances. It is important that we are at all times professionals. In the past I know it has been an issue of personal vs. private for teachers specifically, but I think we are seeing this in all professions now where your private life does affect your professional life. In recent events, I’m curious how last night’s events with Will Smith will affect his career, and should it (yes).

    • Patricia Ives says:

      Thank you for your comments! Yes, I don’t think his actions were appropriate. I am certain that there will be ripple effect on his career. How do you think we learn how to behave professionally? Can it be taught in schools? Is it through witnessing the actions of others? Or is it learned from the growth gained after making some mistakes? (Maybe it is a combination of all of these. :D)

  4. Christine Bruce says:

    Those boundaries can be so fuzzy! I think of when teachers give their personal cell phone numbers out to students or accept student or parent requests on social media. It just does not sit right with me ethically. I also think about the balance between being a teacher and then remembering family and personal time. I am guilty of replying to those emails at night and then having parents think I will respond at any given time during the nights or even on weekends. This year it was happening so often that I had to set office hours on Remind so parents would be notified that they were sending a message outside of my office hours, this slowed it down but I still have many who still hit send, and the way it is worded they want an immediate response.
    I feel ethically and morally I need to respond right away but the truth is we as teachers need to turn it off and not feel guilty about it.

    • Patricia Ives says:

      Yes, I agree. I tend not to reply unless there is an emergency that I need to respond to quickly. At least with a text, I can quickly glance at it and decide on my course of action. The same goes with marking. I am timely in handing back assignments. However, I do tell students that I take every second night off from that as a dedicated me evening.

  5. Electrons and social media, an excellent comparison! I do think that the consistent use of technology makes it difficult for students to differentiate between information they want to know and information they need to know. Sometimes, my students talk as if it is their right to know why a classmate is away. Similarly, they act as if it is their right to have access to teacher help 24/7. What did everyone do before cellphones, emails, and REMIND?!

    • Patricia Ives says:

      I like your comments regarding students asking me for help. Lol. Sometimes I ask them, “Did you watch the video I made for this topic?” Usually all the information they want is right in there! It can be frustrating if they didn’t check it first.

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