Tuesday, October 12, 2010

School Teachers, Morality, and Social Networking: A Reflection on “Moral Spaces in MySpace”

School Teachers, Morality, and Social Networking: A Reflection on “Moral Spaces in MySpace”

In response to:
Foulger et al. (2009). Moral spaces in MySpace: Preservice teaches’ perspectives about ethical issues in social networking. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(1), 1-28.

The topic discussed in this journal article is particularly relevant in terms of the confluence of ethical issues, new social media, and professional expectations. This is an issue that I have a strong opinion about, and my opinion is rooted in the perspective that a teacher (especially a public school teacher) is a professional and therefore subject to a somewhat higher set of expectations than might be in place for the general public.

As an initial comment on the research design of this article, I am a little bit concerned about the sample ratio of female:male – 44:6 – (p. 7). While indeed it is a general trend in higher education in the US to have a majority female student population, the ratio of the sample in this study seems a little too one-sided. As such, it may be more realistic to confine the results of this discussion to the (primarily) 18-25 female undergraduate demographic.

In regards to the general issue of teacher-professional's (pre-service or otherwise) use of social media and the issue of privacy, it needs to be noted that traditional understandings of privacy do not apply in a digital world designed around an architecture that by its very nature is intended to support the wide distribution of information (text, images, video, etc.). Also, as we are all aware of from stories of media piracy over the Internet, within the digital realm, nothing “stays put”. The basic ability to make perfect 1-for-1 copies of any digital information (text, images, video, etc.) means that once someone places something “out there” in the digital realm, it is practically impossible to know who will create their own copy of it, where they will place that copy, and what other things they might do with it. [If you're not convinced, log into your Facebook account and find the most embarrassing photo of a friend that you can locate. Then Right-click and “Save-As” that image. It is now yours and you can do with it as you wish.]

The notion of teacher-as-professional is a broader issue than cannot be fully discussed here, but if one accepts that a teacher is a professional and therefore subject to a different, stricter set of standards (including moral standards), then the preceding paragraph should offer a substantial body of reasoning for why teacher-professionals should be especially careful in the digital realm (including, but not limited to, social networking services).

As for myself, I recently abandoned and deactivated my personal Facebook account. Although – given what has been said above – I was always very careful as to what I posted, it eventually became more trouble than it was worth, and I decided to walk away from it. I do, however, use Twitter as a primarily professional (and partially personal) tool to communicate and interact with others. The difference with Twitter, from my perspective, is that whereas with Facebook and MySpace there is a sense of privacy (false, in my opinion), with Twitter, everything is available publicly to anyone, even those who do not have a Twitter account.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Additional reflection:

Even if one is cautious enough to not post anything potentially damning one's self, with tools like Facebook, you also have to police what other people post (e.g. on your "Wall," photo comments, etc.) and tag (e.g. you in embarrassing photos they have taken). In my opinion, from a professional standpoint, the cost-benefit analysis just doesn't add up -- too much time policing things.

Given that we are often judged by the company we keep, it's not just a matter of our own cautious, responsible use of social media; our "Friends" have to be on-board with this perspective as well.