Digital Citizenship Shouldn’t Stop at the Door

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of teachers, administrators, parents and students over the last 12 months. I’ve worked both as an ‘Itinerant Teacher’ (a type of consultant) and as a teacher during this time, seeing a side of education that I had never seen before. It was during my time as an Itinerant Teacher than I began to realise that Digital Citizenship needs to go further, and then over the last few months I have seen more and more evidence. Here are some highlights:

  • I sat in a meeting where a PR company representative said it was OK to take copyrighted images from Google, alter them and then publish them on Facebook as a Meme – just so you know… this isn’t okay, it’s stealing, plagiarizing…
  • I went to a workshop where someone turned up with so much adware and malware on their machine they couldn’t actually take part in the workshop. They had been using this machine like this for months– the scary part here is how much data could have been collected not just about the user but about the students that the user had been working with on that machine.
  • A number of users gave out their usernames and passwords after receiving Phishing emails or Social Engineering emails. The message that they got sent then got forwarded to everyone else in their contacts list after the person stealing their info logged into their account – this happens everyday all around the world, and thankfully Google picked up on it and locked the person’s accounts.
  • A colleague asked me to help with their class computer, it turned out it was full of online gaming downloads that their child had downloaded. It was easy to remove but affected some of the other programs on the machine. – shouldn’t we be keeping work and personal life separate?
  • Some Grade 11’s told me that one of their teachers is ‘friends’ with them on Snapchat -fundamentally I don’t have an issue with this, it’s their personal business, but you’re opening a whole load of doors (see below)
  • Someone posted an obvious scam post in a Facebook community, as it told them to share it with a set of communities to get free stuff – things are rarely free, and if they are usually the domain name isn’t something incomprehensible. 

This all got me thinking, we spend all this time talking about Digital Citizenship with our students, showing them how to cite sources, identify scams, understand how to find good information from bad information, but we never do this with our teachers. The students are growing up in the ‘information age’ but a lot of our teachers did not, they went to school when you had to look up information on a Microfiche (if you don’t know what one of these is you can find out here) or in a database before finding the book or journal that you required on a shelf. When hanging out meant that you got together in person, not that you opened up Chrome and started up a hangout. When Facebook didn’t exist and you kept in touch with people by sending them a postcard.

Teachers are generally older than the average workforce in Canada [“In fact, the average age of these teachers is considerably higher than in the work force as a whole” – Service Canada] and this means that we need to educate them, we have a responsibility to ensure that teachers understand that:

  • Keeping your Social Media profile private is important, and being friends with students is often not a good idea. The TES in the UK have some good pointers and point out the pitfalls of not securing your Social Media profile.
  • Handing out your phone number to students so they can text you is a massive opening for accusations. Using a service such as Remind can allow you to have the same functionality whilst protecting yourself.
  • Keeping your work life online and your personal life online separate are important. Your employer has the right to look at what you do online on a work computer, if you’re taking that computer home and your children are visiting dubious sites then again you’re exposing yourself to trouble. George Couros talks about this in depth and looks at personal vs private in this blog post.
  • Appropriate use of technology is vital if we’re to embrace technology.

At the same time as thinking about this, we also need to ensure that our teachers understand the things that we are teaching our students, such as:

  • Stealing copyrighted material from the internet and using it for our own work is not cool… especially if you then repost that for others to use. Use Google Image search to find images which are free for anyone to use and/or alter.
  • Using a filing system is far more efficient than saving everything as ‘Untitled Document’
  • Secure passwords are important (I use and love LastPass) and enabling Multi Factor Authentication is a must, not an option (I use a YubiKey NEO and couldn’t live without it), it keeps our data and accounts secure and safe.
  • Don’t EVER give anyone your password, don’t EVER type it into a site which you don’t recognise, and don’t EVER do it after clicking a link in an e-mail.
  • Your employer can and will look at what you’re doing online. This article about a new law in Europe emphasises how important protecting yourself from this is.

Essentially employers have a responsibility to educate employees the same way as teachers educate students in Digital Citizenship. Guidelines are great for teachers who have no experience, but they can stop innovation and create hazy lines as to what is and is not acceptable, sometimes without being obvious as to why something is the case. The Ontario College of Teachers has a set of such guidelines.

What do you think? Do employers have a responsibility to educate, or is it the responsibility of the teacher to get with the times and to read up on how to use technology?

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