An open letter to the Ontario College of Teachers re: Social Media, Part 2

I’ll start by saying, ‘Shame on The Canadian Press and shame on cbc.ca’, I thought this was a news source I could rely on. Next, I’ll say, ‘Shame on me’, since I reacted publicly, based on a single secondary source for information, and I did not go to the main source. As an educator who makes great efforts to use social media in appropriate ways, I feel embarrassed that I contributed in disseminating exaggerated and miss-informed hype! I will learn from this, hopefully others will too. 

But what was of greatest concern to me was the message to ‘not use’ social networks with students, and that is not the case!  

The Ontario College of Teachers DID NOT say teachers should avoid connecting with their students on Facebook or Twitter.

Here is a great video they have created: 

While I could nitpick and suggest some minor changes, I think that the advisory does an excellent job of saying three key things:

1. Interact with students appropriately 
2. Understand privacy concerns
3. Act professionally

And, they offer sound advice that will help teachers both think about, and understand, that their digital communication is public and therefore needs to be professional. 

Here is the actual advisory:

OCT_Prof_Adv_Soc_Media.pdf
Download this file

I will end in saying, ‘well done’ to the Ontario College of Teachers! 
And again, my apologies.
Kind regards,
David Truss

ps. Special thanks to Ontario teacher Lorna Costantini @lornacost for questioning the news article’s interpretation and for pointing me to the sources provided above. 

12 thoughts on “An open letter to the Ontario College of Teachers re: Social Media, Part 2

  1. Lorna Costantini

    Hi Dave thanks for taking a second look. I love you that embedded the advisory document using Scribed. It is wonderful to read that FINALLY Ontario teachers are being encouraged to use these tools in their classroom.To me it is like the heavens have opened. It has been a long hard struggle and the leadership that you show in your school and others in the blogosphere have played a great part in spreading the good news.One of the roadblocks to using these tools has been the sensational reporting by the press. Controvery- discord – all good things to sell papers.Thankfully we have our own grass roots communication tools to offset the negativity produced by less than accurate reporting.

  2. David

    David,I never disagreed with much of the advice of the Advisory. What I do disagree with is putting fear into teachers and creating a climate of “don’t do social media”. The advisory is just part of a professional culture that doesn’t support trust but prohibits carte blanche. I’d also like to know how many and which teachers from their constituency were consulted? You can guess my own answer and I would ask them to prove me wrong. I’ll refer to this news item from a teacher in Ont. “To hold such a standard/threat over the heads of teachers…gives a clear indication of why many teachers still shy away from social networking as a whole, and why there seems to be such a disconnect from those who sit in disbelief at why teachers (and public boards) are hamstrung in serving the needs of a student base that uses the web as a primary communication medium.”The pattern of behavior of the College (which teachers MUST pay dues to and belong to) vis a vis teacher policing is in my honest opinion, about creating a teaching culture that doesn’t support the use of technology, curiosity and all the possibility of online social connectivity. Teachers in Ontario walk on cut glass. This is just much more thrown on their classroom’s floor. David Deubelbeiss

  3. Lorna Costantini

    David DeubelbeissThere are some Ontario teachers who feel that they walk on glass. It is a result of the media over and over again featuring all the horror stories that they can muster about social media. When parents read – as we all do – the articles in the press- they hunker down – saying “not going to hurt my child”Once parents create the hue and cry – Principals, administrators, trustees shy away from innovation. There are bright stars using these tools Aviva Dunsiger, Zoe Pepe-Brannigan, Rodd Lucier, Royan Lee are just a few I can cite. Toronto DSB openly uses social media tools as a school board and Principals and teachers use them in the classroomI am positive that things are changing. Now if I could just get more Ontario teachers to send out press releases about how using web 2.0 tools in the classroom promotes student success………….

  4. Rodd Lucier

    Wouldn’t it be nice if newspapers took the time to craft headlines that were balanced and informed of all sides of an issue? Inflammatory headlines and isolated quotes can inspire reactions from an audience, but can they provoke necessary conversation rather than polarizing?There is still a need for educators to become aware of exemplary practices in using social media, and reading the advisory should only be the first step to an ongoing conversation. Thanks for making your contributions public… it has helped us to see different sides of a complicated and ever-changing cluster of issues.

  5. David

    Lorna,Your point that many educators do succeed and do exemplary things with technology is well taken. However, I’ve been around the world and can assure you that Ontario is falling far and fast behind the pack. For many reasons and that’s a wider topic/debate. As Rodd and you mention – yes, sensationalist media don’t help But neither does an unsupportive, patriarchial and top down moralistic approach – all represented over many years by the College of Teachers. I need only mention the name Dewees. An advisory such as this is a horrible approach. It doesn’t support teachers at all when they are talked to like little children. Sorry but got to call it as it is. We need more emphasis on community and less on policing. If you read the advisory it is full of between the lines “we’ll catch you, don’t you dare post a thing”. Sorry, got to call a spade a spade. Our former PM said govts should stay out of the bedroom. I think you see where I’m going…. These “values” can’t be imposed top down. What happens is teachers just say – “I won’t go there.” It really is a ridiculous teaching culture when a teacher can’t be sure if sending a student a photo of their class outing is professional or personal? This one like most of the above “edicts” are just that – generalized statements with no specific context that are meant to impart fear and to my mind, not good practices but barriers to education – for education is all about sharing ideas and how we communicate with each other. David

  6. David Truss

    Lorna & Rodd,I agree completely about the negative press, and sensationalism is an evil that promotes bad news over good in the name of catchy headlines and the ability to draw readership. It’s sad. And David D. you are correct about the ‘Reporting out’ of the College of Teachers, it happens in BC as well where the back page of the monthly magazine is a morose calling-out list of teachers gone down a shady path. That information needs to be shared with people who hire teachers, not upstanding members who receive the newsletter. Further to your points David, I am at a loss for how to move forward? On the one hand, I see the video and Advisory and a good step towards being more open or at least recognizing the value of openness. On the other hand, you raise a great point about representation and what that does vs what that should mean. But I wonder if calling an ‘advisory’ and ‘edict’ is not in its’ own way sensationalism? How do we shift the ‘teaching culture’ of not just ourselves but our teaching colleges as well? Maybe it’s necessary to demonstrate the disdain… just as both of us have done… me in my original post and you in your comments. Maybe there is a better way? Is an unsupportive, patriarchal and top down moralistic approach something we can work with or do we have to fight from the outside-in? I’m really not sure?

  7. Rodd Lucier

    In Ontario, we have the ‘blue pages’ in our OCT publication. The warnings are loud and clear that too many teachers are acting inappropriately. Like the teacher in the classroom, there is a time to share warnings with individuals or groups, and there is a time to broadcast a message to the entire class. Occasionally, the teacher might need the principal to come in and give a command performance to make sure the students realize the importance of the message. This last situation, is how I view the OCT’s advisory. But like the student on the playground who is acting appropriately, I don’t want to be scolded or frightened by the messages from supervisors.As new tools emerge and compelling educational experiments are attempted, I think it’s up to teachers to tell the stories that might lead to changes in our professional practice. I don’t really think it’s the OCTs job to do that for us, maybe that’s something we need to take on ourselves. The odd coincidence, is that it is through the after hours use of social media that we are most effectively able to broadcast such stories.

  8. Lorna Costantini

    I agree Rodd. I have to say we are making progress. 3 years ago teachers were not using blogs, wikis, skype in Ontario classrooms and now they are and the numbers are increasing. I now it is a snail’s pace but at least things are moving – hopefully in a positive forward direction.

  9. David

    David,I agree with you that the best way forward is dialog and working with all parties. Perhaps there are some reasonable people who are active in social media and well informed about the research and teaching possibilities that it opens up. My own response is from the backdrop of what the OCT actually is and shows itself to be – a policing agency. I agree with Rod – it should be teachers and principals leading the charge in this area – not the OCT. I did a survey last night of a girl’s H.S. volleyball team that I was chaperoning. Incredibly dismal – not one iota of social networking in education in their school. Not a drop. A complete iron curtain and it is irresponsible policing by outside groups with such power as the OCT (who can kill a teachers career very easily) that are making such a reality. Finally, read the comments on this fine post about Facebook and teaching. Excellent and we should be where the students are. If not, it is all a ruse, this schooling stuff. http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/02/10-ways-students-feel-faceb…David

  10. David Truss

    Thanks for the insights into what it really is like in Ontario with respect to the ‘fear mentality’ that seems to hinder teachers from connecting to students online. I was reminded of this from Bud Hunt: http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2009/10/05/intruding-in-public/“I want educators online and paying attention when a student exploring the public voice begins to share some things that are too often left unshared. I want those educators and students to trust each other to handle those opportunities with respect and care. I want growth to happen. I want it to be good. I want positive and supportive models for students to light the way. “And, yes, I do want to intrude. Each and every kid is worth the intrusion to keep them safe and vibrant and engaged and with us.”The post reads like a poem, both beautiful and poignant… and something it would seem the OCT needs to consider. I appreciate the continued conversation!~Dave.

  11. Ann Feather

    It is like the pot calling the fry pan black. The College of Teachers is hated by Ontario Teachers. Over 90% of teachers refuse to vote in their election…. For good reason, they are the least of any so called professional organization in Canada. Their record speaks loads. Evil Lurks in Ontario. MacDonald: Why Ontario’s ombudsman needs to go to schoolhttp://www.torontosun.com/2011/05/03/macdonald-why-ontarios-ombudsman-needs-t…40 years and school adminsitartor admist forcing sex on children, no accountabilityhttp://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3080359Busing, Student safety low priorityhttp://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/christina_blizzard/2011/04/12/17….htmlStudent sends written statment to teacher describing future suicide. Teacher does not intervene to safe the young man. http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2011/2011onsc869/2011onsc869.html#_ftn1Paul Fortin, OCT,Teacher allowed to re-enter teaching after ???????? with childhttp://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/march_2011/go/dispute_resolution.aspxhttp://www.oct.ca/PublicRegister/memberDetails.aspx?memberID=530290Tracy Burns Strip Searchhttp://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2010/11/25/ottawa-bonds-video-115….Principal knows about questionable “sexual behaviour” of Teacher and does not Report Teacher to Collegehttp://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2121249Student Killed while school adminsitartion does nothing about violence. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/429189Let him out of jail to Teach.http://www.oct.ca/investigations_hearings/decision_summaries/sept_03/sept_abd…Female Sex Offender allowed to Teach. http://www.oct.ca/investigations_hearings/decision_summaries/dec_05/dec05_web…$880,000 Taken from School Board and no one notices. http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2011/01/27/17058051.htmlCatholic Repeat Sex Offender allowed to remain as a tecaher during years of Appealshttp://www.windsorstar.com/news/Baggio+appeal+dismissed/4168144/story.htmlYoung girl begged for help.http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2011/01/15/16903291.html

  12. David Truss

    Hi Ann,As I mentioned just now on my previous post… which you just commented on, I’m sorry that I hadn’t responded earlier. The fact is, that given the ‘evidence’ you provide, I’m not sure what value I can add in a comment?As David said, before my last comment:”…the best way forward is dialog and working with all parties.”So, I’m not sure of a path forward? I’m not a member of the OCT, (I’m a BC, Canada educator), and so finger-wagging from the outside is difficult… as I seem to repeatedly get the facts behind this story wrong. What I do know is that an ‘advisory’ that says, ‘Hey, go ahead and use these tools, but here are some guidelines to help you use them appropriately when communicating with students’… is actually a good thing. Is this message soiled by other things the OCT does or has done? I don’t know? But how do we move forward? How do we make things better? I’m not sure I have an answer, but I’m also not sure that bringing out the worst decisions of the OCT is a way forward either. You say, “Over 90% of teachers refuse to vote in their election”, and so the issues run deep. What do you think needs to happen? What is the way forward for the OCT to become a truly representative organization? And here I am thinking the same questions I asked in my first comment above. Is it best to fight the OCT every step of the way, even when they are making moves in the ‘positive direction’? What is a workable course of action?

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