From the Chair

Maintaining boundaries online is vital to the public trust

The College is providing an advisory on the use of electronic communication and social media.

by Liz Papadopoulos, OCT

There’s a lot of talk these days about electronic communication and social media in the classroom. From e-mail to wikis, Facebook to YouTube, teachers and educators across the province have questions, concerns and ideas about these ever-present and ever-growing media.

That’s why the College is offering you advice with the Professional Advisory on the Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media – which we included in your copy of this magazine.

First off: We are not saying not to use social media.

The College recognizes that electronic communication and social media offer exciting new opportunities for reaching students.

What we’re saying is to use social media responsibly and effectively. Establish suitable virtual boundaries. Keep our ethical standards – care, trust, respect and integrity – in line of sight.

The College has a duty to inform its members on the numerous challenges and ramifications associated with the use of electronic communication and social media. Maintaining professional boundaries in all forms of communication is vital to keeping the public trust and appropriate professional relationships.

Use social media responsibly and effectively.

The advisory clarifies members’ responsibilities – whether they are teachers, principals, supervisory officers or directors of education – when using electronic communication and social media, so they can govern their conduct and understand what conduct does not meet professional standards. As teachers and educators, we model professionalism and responsibility for our students in both the real world and the virtual world.

Electronic communication and social media are often conducted in public forums, which create attention-to-privacy issues, professional vulnerability and legal implications. The advisory provides clear advice for these issues, including:

In recent years, the College has been dealing with cases where teachers misuse social media and electronic communication and end up facing disciplinary measures. The behaviours behind these disciplinary consequences include inappropriate e-communication, sending graphic sexual materials, misusing school computers, and grooming and luring via the Internet.

Why an advisory now?

Because the use of e-communication is a fact in Ontario schools. And it can only increase. Students are spending an enormous amount of time using social media. So too are College members. For many students, social media represent the single most commonly used avenues for communication and community. Soon, if not already, students will be way ahead of most of us in the use of social media. This is something we simply cannot ignore in the classroom.

Many teachers in Ontario understand that the use of social media is more than a passing trend.

That’s why they are finding innovative ways to integrate social media into the school day, from the use of YouTube as a reference to the development of blogs for information sharing and class projects.

We applaud their leadership, curiosity and creativity.

With new media come not only new opportunities but also new responsibilities. By paying close attention to professional boundaries and understanding potential ramifications, we can make social media appropriate, useful and powerful.

by Liz Papadopoulos, OCT