Permission Does Not Mean Obligation

I would like to start by giving credit to Dr. Paul Clarke for the title. Not that EDL 819 hasn’t stuck with me, but this phrase that he used has been applicable so many times since hearing it.

What comes to mind when you think of ethics? For me, the first choice is the culminating event of Billy Madison’s academic decathlon where he must outperform is nemesis Eric for control of Madison Hotels.

Billy Madison - YouTube
Picture from

Obviously, and not just in part to the awesome work done by Amanpreet, Lovepreet, Shirsty, and Dylan, as an educator I need to be well aware of moral, legal, and ethical elements (and consequences) in many different components of the job. With the evolution and inclusion of technology and the use of digital media in the classroom, the world of morals, ethics, and legalities in has become more complex. Sharing student work used to be hanging on the bulletin boards in the school and maybe a picture in the local newspaper. Now, student work can be shared as far as the internet can reach. This accessibility to work and products is not just applicable to students either, and that is what I will focus on here for the next little bit.

Professional v. Personal

My digital footprint in the social media world is limited to Twitter. Yes, there is Instagram and Facebook, and more recently a limited TikTok presence, but Twitter has been there for me for about ten years. What started for me as a personal tool, meant to inform and entertain myself and my “legion” of followers, has had the occasional work/education related content sprinkled in. From a personal standpoint, followers and follows include friends, colleagues, sports, entertainment, news, and personal interest items. From a professional position, I have educators and administrators making regular appearances on my feed. I guess I have focused my professional Twitter feed on areas of interest to me from education – incorporation of ed tech into my brand as a teacher, and leadership. What I see on my feed is there because I have allowed it to be there. I have used my evolving digital and media literacy skills to filter what I allow myself to see.

What am I putting out there though? What does anyone gain by following me though? I think that what I do is filter what I consume and what I retweet or quote gives a perspective of what I am as a person and a professional. My values and beliefs (morals) are reflected in what I create or share via Twitter. EC&I 832 has really gotten me to consider what I am sharing professionally though. A great example of this comes from the article that Dylan posted, Chapter 2: Beware: Be Aware – The Ethical Implications of Teachers Who Use Social Networking Sites (SNSs) to Communicate. When I am using my personal twitter account to share professional related material, specifically student content, have I considered the ethical use of my social networking site? Have I done what I need to do regarding full disclosure, privacy and consent, minimizing risk of students and self, and have I been careful in what I craft when it comes to shaping my own and protecting the students’ online identity? Upon further consideration, I definitely need to be more careful.

Ethical implications of using social networking sites from Open Education Alberta.

As you can see in some samples of my own postings on Twitter, I have tried to cover faces of students, but left the faces of presenters visible. I had cleared this with my presenters, but am well aware that I had not gone through the proper steps with parents. EEEK!

The Real Question – Why?

This question is not raised in response to how to go about ethically and legally using social media to communicate with parents and the public though. I ask this question of myself – why am I using social media to communicate with parents? In my pursuit of career gains, I asked many of those above me, what can I do to be on the radar of those who are in the decision making positions? 17 years in one division, career objectives known, yet why can I not even get in front of those who make the decisions? I was surprised when one common theme kept coming back… “Promote yourself on social media. Share what you’re doing on Twitter.” I won’t say that this floored me, but it definitely made reflect on what I do in schools, how I do it, and perhaps most importantly why I do it.

Don’t violate your own code of values and ethics, but don’t waste energy trying to make other people violate theirs.

Melody Beattie

Students. They shape the how and why when it comes to the classroom. Right up there with the curriculum. It is not for me, and it never has been. There is a crossover between my teaching and coaching philosophies, and that is that students and athletes are at the centre. As a coach, I am not in it for personal accolades or achievements, it is getting the student-athletes to perform at a level where success as individuals and a team are attainable. As a teacher, I am not for using students and their work or efforts to make personal gains. I may be in the minority with this mindset, but I do not lose sight of who is important. Van Struen adds that, “just because you have the ability, doesn’t mean you should use it. By continually reflecting on the goal and ethical implications, teachers will have a strong foundation for the use of SNSs for communication.” Anne Lutz Fernandez speaks even louder to me.

What drives your use of social media as a communication tool?

11 thoughts on “Permission Does Not Mean Obligation

  1. I appreciated your reflections regarding the “why” of sharing on social media. I think this is an important question to be asking ourselves as we navigate the world of SNS. Our purpose may not always be student-focused. It may be for self-promotion, to connect with other educators, to model inspirational ideas, or to share with students and families. At all times though, we should be consciously focusing on the underlying purposes for our sharing and act responsibly with what we do. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to grow.

    1. I’m right there with you Patricia! I had an uncomfortable feeling when realizing that I probably did not have as many bases covered as I thought when I have chosen to use a SNS to share what is happening at the school or in the classroom!

  2. First off, great reference to Billy Madison. So many great takeaways from that movie. Anyways, it’s interesting to me that you talk about the professional versus personal online presence. So many times, I shy away from the personal side of things reflecting on those that may be watching, or more so judging me based on my professional career. Teaching is really one of those rare professions that you can’t turn off at the end of the day, and in my opinion, society holds us to a different standard than others. You raised a good point though, that we as teachers need to do a better job of understanding the moral, ethical and legal issues that arise in our line of work.

    1. Thanks Kelly. I thought that our classmates did a good job of bringing forward those basic understanding that you refer to. I really think that keeping up with advancements in technology and its applications in education will continually have educators in that grey area – using it, but just trying to keep up (or catch up) to the legal, moral, and ethical issues. I am finding that through this class I am able to give consideration to those issues more frequently!

  3. Bart as someone who has told you multiple times to post the amazing stuff you do in your classroom on Twitter, I appreciate your reflection on it! I think it is very true to you that you are centering your students. On the flip side, I think sharing the amazing things you are doing will inspire others to follow in your footsteps. The question you posed at the end, I know I am guilty of! I have definitely used my social media to promote myself! I try to stay away from including my students in the images I share, so I take a completely different approach to you. I enjoy having these discussions with you since we have such different perspectives to try and expand my viewpoint.

  4. Hey Bart, thanks for sharing. I also think posting your successes and experiences is a great way to celebrate the great stuff happening in your class and not about how super a teacher might be. Do you take the time required to make sure all students in your post have their media release? I guess it would be easier if you have 25 for the year and not 100 like me each semester. It would take me far too much time to do my due diligence.

    1. You raise a good point Cymone. I do have a homeroom of 25 that I am conscious of when (if) posting photos or work, but at times it feels more safe to just emoji everyone’s face – it means that I won’t make a mistake. On the other hand, if all of the faces are visible except of one, am I isolating an individual, and would that have an effect on that student’s self-esteem? It is such a delicate situation to navigate.

  5. Hi Bart, great post. I read it this weekend and realized the depth and information you shared were helpful. I liked your point about why we use social media to communicate with our families. The ‘why’ prevented me from entering the Twitter world for the first 12 years of my career. I began using it three years ago, and I still wonder why. You’re thoughts really resonated with me, and moving forward, knowing the legalities behind these platforms, I will be more hesitant to post items. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I agree with so many of your points, Bart. Everyone always talks about promoting through social media, but I find that I am often too engaged with students to remember to take pictures. Since taking this class, I am trying to do a better job of taking pictures and sharing what I am doing in my classroom. Even though I really enjoy learning about what other teachers are doing in their classrooms, I don’t find that I enjoy posting about what I am doing. It almost feels like bragging which, to me, feels like I am minimizing the students’ work. I have never seen other teachers’ posts as bragging, but I think it goes back to my values and students also being the core of my work.

  7. Bart, you make some incredible points. I admire your courage when it comes to use of social media. I myself is on a step learning curve and when I read your blog it reminds me that we need to be our due diligence. It reminds me of the Goldilocks principle not too much, not too little…. just right. I guess how you promote in the right way really is influenced on what is motivating us at that time. I very good point you made is that we need to always ground ourselves by asking the question “what is the whole purpose of sharing and what is your objective.”

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