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Legal and Ethical Issues Surrounding Social Media and Technology

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Keenan Anderton

on 8 February 2013

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Transcript of Legal and Ethical Issues Surrounding Social Media and Technology

Legal and Ethical Issues Surrounding Social Media and Technology Executive Summary

The pace of technological change is faster now than ever before. According to the Centre for Public Education, in just half a decade after their introduction, cell phones and the Internet both overthrew the second most indispensable technology in 2002—the television. Moreover, between 2002 and 2007, cell phones displaced landline telephones as the technology Americans say would be hardest to give up (Craig, 2009). Technology has led to a greater sense of globalization where the entire world is connected around the clock seven days per week.

At the center of this technological revolution is social media, which Burnett and Merchant broadly define as “technologies that enable communication, collaboration, participation and sharing” (Hughes, 2009, p. 5 in Burnett and Merchant 2011, p. 43). These trends have prompted the need for educational reforms. Such reforms were pointed out by the Alberta Government in its document entitled Inspiring Education which stated, “The importance of relevant education increases as technologies develop and societal institutions experience the strain of rapid change” (Alberta Education, 2010, p.11).

During this time of change, teachers must be more aware than ever of how their actions beyond the classroom, namely in the digital world, affect their practice. Although social media is predominantly looked upon as being beneficial in student learning, there have been an inexhaustible number of cases in which educators have found themselves in legal predicaments as a result of social media misuse.

Throughout the course of their duties, teachers in Alberta are expected to abide by legislation and policies set forth by governing bodies such as Alberta Education, the Alberta Teacher’s Association, local school boards and individual schools. As for how social media pertains to professional practice is yet to be determined as the governing bodies continue to develop acceptable use policies and guidelines for social media usage.

As teachers attempt to navigate the murky waters of ethical social media usage, policy makers are faced with not only the task of drafting policies, but upkeeping them to coincide with the ever-changing pace of technology. Until then, it is up to teachers to conduct their online behavior in a manner that adheres to the professional expectations that are currently in place. Statement of Ethical Perspective Why We Chose This Topic We chose to explore legal and ethical issues surrounding social media and technology in schools for a variety of reasons. The foremost reason may indeed be our extensive study on the topic in last term’s issues and policies class. As we extensively researched both the collaborative nature of social media as well as the benefits of social media in the arena of professional development, it became clear to us that we had only scratched the surface of the issue of social media. To further delve into the legal and ethical issues was an exciting opportunity to further our learning around social media usage in schools. Is the topic new or emerging, or has it been one which present for a long time? While some people may answer this question by noting that the internet was built upon social tendencies (and they are correct, as the internet was conceived for the purpose of navigating and sharing information), the fact of the matter is that it is only within recent years that internet users have had the opportunity to become both active consumers and producers of information on the web (Graber & Mendoza, 2012).
Although the origin of social media cannot be pinpointed, a sensible example to look at is that of Facebook. Established in 2004, it was not until 2007 that its numbers made notable leaps and bounds. In five years since (2007), it has eclipsed the billion user mark (Associated Press, 2012). Nearly every other major online social media service was founded and grown in the shadow of Facebook. So while it can be argued that social media has been around for 10, 20, or even 40 years - it does stand to reason that it is only within the last 5 years that social media usage has become common practice in global society, and subsequently a major, controversial topic in the field of education. The History of Social Media (Graphic) Different Perspectives on This Topic There are two clear-cut perspectives on social media as it pertains to education:

1. Social media usage is ripe with inherent dangers and liabilities. It is impossible to contain and control these dangers, therefore social media should be entirely avoided.

2. Social media is the present and the future as far as communication is concerned. It is imperative that students and adults alike are well-versed in the navigation of social media in order to be effective citizens in a fast-changing society.

It should be noted that these two perspectives represent the extreme ends of the continuum. Most people with an informed opinion will find themselves somewhere in between these two stances. Social media in education is not a ‘yes or no’ question.

Acceptable Use Policies are effectively the gray area between the two extreme stances on social media usage. We have pointed out that the question of should social media be used in education(?) is on the brink of being obsolete. Instead, the question has evolved into how should social media be used(?) and it is each jurisdiction’s responsibility to determine this through its Acceptable Use Policy. What Legislation is Relevant to the Topic? In determining what legislation may be relevant to the topic of social media, a distinction should first be made between illegal online behavior and offensive online behavior (Pierlot, 2000). Illegal online behavior may be viewed as behavior which produces content that is in violation of established laws. In this way the content is judged on the basis of its objectivity to laws such as the Criminal Code and Human Rights Act (Pierlot, 2000). According to Canadian law, what is illegal offline is also illegal online. On the other hand, offensive online behavior is more subjective and may be judged on the basis of individual, community, employer, or culturally based standards which may include Teacher Quality Standards, ATA Code of Conduct etc. Here it is important to be aware of user choices and industry/employer practices (Pierlot, 2000).

Teachers must abide by both categories (illegal and offensive) of online behavior when posting content. More specifically in Alberta, the legislation and standards that teachers are subject to may include, but are not limited to: Codes, Standards, Policies: Teaching Quality Standard
Alberta Teacher’s Association Code of Professional Conduct
Individual School Board Policy
Individual School Policy Legislation: Explanation of why is topic is important As schools increasingly implement the use of technology to satisfy the demands of 21st century learners and provide them with the skills needed for the future in which they will live and work, teachers face questions about responsible ethical/appropriate behavior. Many of these questions center around issues such as privacy and the right to free speech as interactive technology tools become commonplace in the daily lives of students and educators. As teachers it is important to be able to choose the right course of action when faced with these types of issues. According to the literature, many teachers have been disciplined, suspended and even dismissed from their jobs as a result of not choosing the best or most appropriate course of action (Fulmer, E.H., 2010). Explanation Cont'd But how do teachers decide on what is right or wrong? How do they decide on the best way to act? One way is to consider the policies, codes of conduct, and laws etc., within which they carry out their professional responsibilities. More specifically, Alberta teachers are bound by the Alberta Teacher’s Association Code of Conduct, the Teaching Quality Standards, and the ATA’s Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities for Teachers. In addition, they are bound by local school and school Board policies, Criminal Code of Canada, School Act, etc. in the performance of their duties. Although these legislative and policy regulations list broad categories about teacher behaviour, they fail to be specific about the use of social media.

While it appears that there is no formal policy in place regarding social media usage in education in Alberta, it is evident that this issue is on the agenda. This is illustrated by documents about social media usage and social media policy development recently published by the ATA and Alberta Education respectively LINKS? LINKS http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2013/01/tenured_school_1.htm retrieved from http://www.webanalyticsworld.net/2010/11/history-of-social-media-infographic.html 1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks.

2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.

3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual tastes of the pupils.

4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to Church regularly.

5. After ten hours in school the teachers should spend their remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

6. Women teachers who marry or engage in uncomely conduct will be dismissed.

7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barbershop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity and honesty.

The teacher who performs his labours faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents per week in his pay providing the Board of Education approves. (Staton, P., & Light, B. as cited in Richter, 2006) Conclusion References Suggestions for Further Reading Keenan Anderton
Lisa Quirk January 31, 2013 Dr. Alan Cooper
EDPS 410 The graphic on the following slide displays an evolutionary timeline of social media. We invite you to pay special attention to the idea that social media has always existed within civilization, but it is only in the past decade that online social media networks have gained such prominence as a result of the growth and proliferation of personal technological devices. Criminal Code of Canada
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
School Act
Teaching Profession Act
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Some of the rules dating back to 1872 include the following: When developing acceptable use policies for social media in schools, consequentialists and non-consequentialists will need to establish a compromise. To have strict rules with pre-set consequences surrounding social media use may be as foolish as taking a lenient and situational approach to potential misuse. Although we know that consequentialist and non-consequentialist viewpoints are not mutually exclusive to one another, elements of a paradox are present here. This is most likely due to the fast-changing nature of social media - by the time a policy is set into motion, the specific issues it seeks to address may have already changed by any degree.

The non-consequentialist camp has relevance here because, despite the vagueness of social media as a whole, clear guidelines need to be in place in order to inform practice by both students and professionals alike. Developing guidelines such as these is easier said than done, as was illustrated in 2011 when Missouri passed a state law barring teachers from using websites that allow “exclusive access” to students (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, email) only to have it repealed shortly after (Associated Press, 2011). Although many teachers are aware of the liabilities associated with online interactions with individual students, drafting legislation to outlaw that practice without infringing upon other rights is a challenge.
The consequentialist viewpoint tends to emerge as the ethical perspective of choice for professionals when discussing this topic. The reason for this, again, is likely attributed to the ever-changing landscape that social media is. Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, offers that “If you’re going to try to regulate or legislate a technology, you’re going to have to be constantly updating that law. While social networking is the technology of the moment, it may not be the technology of the moment in two years or five years or a decade” (Pierce, 2011). These ideas tie into that of Varela (as cited in Luce-Kapler, Sumara, Iftody, 2010), who notes that “[e]thical behavior does not arise from habit or obedience to patterns or rules but from intelligently guiding our actions in harmony with the texture of the situation.” In reiterating the need for school boards and superintendents to constantly monitor and update acceptable use policies, Krueger reminds us that “Missouri is a lesson in [what happens] when we don’t stay ahead of the curve and we’re reacting” (Pierce, 2011). http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201106/should-teachers-and-students-be-facebook-friends Should Teachers and
Students be Facebook
Friends? There is hardly a bigger issue to be found in modern education than that of technology and social media. While districts and policy makers attempt to write standards to effectively harness the educational power of social media and concurrently manage risks, the ethical and professional usage of social media boils down to only a handful of key considerations: 1. Don't Be Stupid
2. Be Professional
3. Picture (Piet's) face when you're on Facebook
4. Just Behave (P. Langstraat, personal communication, January 30, 2013) http://www.slideshare.net/caroljtaylor/teachertechethics1112 Teacher Tech Ethics
(Slideshow) http://ezproxy.ardc.talonline.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ955120 Class List
[not equal to]
Friend List http://ezproxy.ardc.talonline.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ957147 Teaching Students How to Network Using Social Media http://ezproxy.ardc.talonline.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ969976 Why All the Chatter
About #EdChat? http://education.alberta.ca/media/6735100/digital%20citizenship%20policy%20development%20guide.pdf Alberta Education Digital Citizenship Policy Development Guide http://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Teachers-as-Professionals/MS-88%20E-liability%20Brochure%202012%20for%20web.pdf E-Liability by
Alberta Teachers
Association http://www.qp.alberta.ca/1266.cfm?page=F25.cfm&leg_type=Acts&isbncln=9780779739462 Freedom of
Information and
Privacy Act http://canadianteachermagazine.com/pdf/CTM_May10-managing-students.pdf Cybertips for
Teachers http://suite101.com/article/moral-and-ethical-expectations-of-teachers-while-online-a229794 Moral and Ethical Expectations of Teachers While Online Alberta Education. (2010). Inspiring education: a dialogue with albertans. Edmonton: Alberta Education. Retrieved from: http://ideas.education.alberta.ca/media/14847/inspiring%20education%20steering%20committee%20report.pdf

Associated Press. (2011, November 2). Mo. repeals law limiting teacher-student messaging. Education Week. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.ardc.talonline.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2aae9770-a8e3-4ba3-8484-2d3e85701837%40sessionmgr104&vid=6&hid=104

Associated Press. (2012). Number of active users at Facebook over the years. Retrieved from
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/number-active-users-facebook-over-years-214600186--finance.html

Belch, H. (2012). Teachers beware! The dark side of social networking. Learning & Leading With Technology, 39(4), 15-19.

Berryman, J. (1998). Canada’s courts say teachers must be role models. Retrieved from: http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/june_1998/role.htm

Burnett, C., & Merchant, G. (2011). Is there a space for critical literacy in the context of social media? English Teaching: Practice & Critique, 10(1), 41-57.

Cohen-Lyons, J. & Morley, H. (2011). A legal pespective on off-duty social media use. Public Sector Digest.com, November, 1-4. Retrieved from: http://www.publicsectordigest.com/

Fulmer, E. H. (2010). Pivacy expectations and protections for teachers in the internet age. Duke Law & Technology Review, No. 014, 1-30. Retrieved from: http://web.law.duke.edu/ip/dltr References continued Graber, D. (2012). New media literacy education (NMLE): a developmental approach. Journal Of Media Literacy Education,4(1), 82-92. Retrieved from http://www.jmle.org/index.php/JMLE/article/view/188

Jasra, M. (2011). The history of social media [image]. Retrieved from http://www.webanalyticsworld.net/2010/11/history-of-social-media-infographic.html

Jerald, Craig. (2009). Defining a 21st century education. Report prepared for the Center for Public Education. Retrieved from:
http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Learn-About/21st-Century/Defining-a-21st-Century-Education-Full-Report-PDF.pdf

Luce-Kapler, R., Sumara, D., & Iftody, T. (2010). Teaching ethical know-how in new literary spaces. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy[serial online]. April 1, 2010;53(7):536-541. Retrieved from: ERIC, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 30, 2013.

Pierce, M. (2012). Equal Measure: Shielding Students and Enabling Access. T.H.E. Journal, 39(2), 36-38.

Pierlot, P. (2000). Self-regulation of internet content: a canadian perspective. Retrieved from: http://www.isoc.org/inet2000/cdproceedings/8k/8k_2.htm

Richter, B. (2006). It’s elementary: a brief history of ontario’s public elementary teachers and their federations. etfo voice, October, 1-8. Retrieved from: http://etfovoice.ca/

Yuen, Steve Chi-Yin, Yaoyuneyong, G., & Yuen, P. K. (2011). Perceptions, interest, and use: teachers and web 2.0 tools in education. International Journal Of Technology In Teaching & Learning, 7(2), 109-123. *Alan - You can zoom
into any area on this
graphic for a closer look. When teachers are hired they are expected to perform their duties in accordance with certain constraints. These constraints include laws, acts, standards and policies outlining the rights, responsibilities, legal liabilities, and appropriate behaviors expected of teachers. Throughout Canada, or particularly in Alberta, some of these include Criminal Code of Canada, ATA Code of Conduct, Education Act, Teaching Quality Standard, etc. Many of these set forth the expectations for conduct of teachers in both the public and private spheres of their lives. Not only are teachers held to appropriate behavioral expectations while on duty, but it is also believed that a "teacher's off-duty expression may affect his or her ability to effectively perform as an employee... because teachers, as educators of children, occupy positions of trust and confidence and have considerable influence over their students" (Cohen-Lyons, J. & Morley, H. 2011). This is not new and the idea of holding teachers to a greater standard has been present since the early days of teaching... The idea of holding teachers to a higher standard was affirmed in 1996,in relation to the case of Attis versus New Brunswick District No. 15 Board of Education, where the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling stating that:

"By their conduct, teachers as ‘medium’ must be perceived to uphold the values, beliefs, and knowledge sought to be transmitted by the school system. The conduct of a teacher is evaluated on the basis of his or her position, rather than whether the conduct occurs within the classroom or beyond. Teachers are seen by the community to be the medium for the educational message and, because of the community position they occupy, they are not able to ‘choose which hat they will wear on what occasion’... teachers do not necessarily check their teaching hats at the school yard gate and may be perceived to be wearing their teaching hats even off duty" (Berryman, 1998).

"It is on the basis of the position of trust and influence that we hold the teacher to high standards both on and off duty, and it is an erosion of these standards that may lead to a loss in the community of confidence in the public school system." (Berryman, 1998)


Whether right or wrong, since they are held to a higher behavioral standard, the professional conduct of teachers must be appropriate and conform to the expectations of not only their employer, but to those of members of the greater community.
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