Registrar’s Report

Timely advice on the use of social media

Advances in technology bring new opportunities for teaching and learning within the context of the profession’s ethical standards and standards of practice.

by Michael Salvatori, OCT

As reflective practitioners, teachers are in the groove when their work and judgment are informed by the profession’s ethical standards and standards of practice.

And it’s in strict keeping with the standards that the College has issued a new professional advisory that calls on teachers to act wisely and exercise good professional judgment when using electronic communication and social media.

It’s the College’s responsibility as a professional regulator to provide advice to our members from time to time on emerging issues or in response to member questions on aspects of teaching that will continue to advance the profession and the public’s confidence in it.

What topic could be timelier? In the current education milieu, e-communication and social media continue to offer engaging and exciting teaching and learning experiences for students and teachers. Their use should be encouraged. But here’s our proviso: Members should exercise the same care and caution in the digital world - with respect to teaching/learning and their professional image - as they do in their daily face-to-face interactions.

Electronic communication should mirror the care and respect that members have in every other method of communicating with students.

The joy - and the difficulty - with social media is informality. Brevity and immediacy in communication make social media attractive. There are rewards and risks. Careless or improper use can easily blur the lines of appropriate communication between teachers and others, including students, colleagues and parents.

The personal and professional lives of members of the teaching profession are intertwined.

The medium in teaching is the message, and many of us chose teaching as a career for the very reason that we can infuse our teaching with our personalities and personal experiences to make learning come alive for students. We need to exercise care to ensure that we are exemplary models (and we are!), and we need to apply this same care to electronic communications.

The College’s Professional Advisory on the Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media identifies potential pitfalls and offers suggestions about how to avoid them. It is rooted in and supports the tenets of the College’s Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession and Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession. It recognizes the new frontiers in teaching and learning and the wide range of education and communication purposes that electronic and social media serve.

It also recognizes that teachers are professionals with private lives but notes that off-duty conduct matters. It is up to members to maintain a sense of professionalism at all times – in their personal and professional lives.

To quote the document: "Electronic messages are not anonymous. They can be tracked, misdirected, manipulated and live forever on the Internet." Copies are archived. Once information is digitized and posted, the author relinquishes control.

It all comes down to respect.

The bottom line is this: Members should never share information with students in any environment that they would not willingly and appropriately share in a school or school-related setting or in the community. The criminal, civil law and disciplinary implications of misuse, even unintended, are all too real.

The professional advisory suggests that members interact appropriately, understand privacy concerns and, above all, act professionally.

It all comes down to respect. Respect for ourselves. Respect for each other. Respect for the power and influence of the medium. Respect for our students’ care and learning. And respect for the profession.

Ask yourself: How does my online presence - the elements I control and what is posted by others - reflect my professionalism, and how does it reflect on the teaching profession?

Let’s be clear about our intentions before we hit “Send.”

Michael Salvatori, OCT