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Twitter in the Classroom and the Teacher

Jacqui Murray

 

Recently, CNN ran a news story about social media in schools that made me stand up and react with some alarm. Basically the news article revolves around a classroom confrontation that spurred discussions in school administrative offices around the world. Here’s CNN’s synopsis of what went down:

After a student made obscene social media comments about a high school teacher in northern Mexico, the teacher in question taught a lesson with an online post of her own: A video showing her confronting the girl in class about the student’s post. Now the teacher is on administrative leave. The student has been suspended. The video has gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube (follow the link above to view the view the video, which is in Spanish).

In the balance of the article, you find out that a student in the teacher's class posted defamatory comments about her on Twitter, and the teacher confronted the student in front of the class as part of a discussion on the power/potency of social media in schools and in people's lives.

The teacher admittedly crosses a line when she sinks to the student's level and says to her (in front of the class), "Listen to me well: I will not allow anyone to call me that, especially a young brat like you and you."

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A couple of questions came to mind as I watched and read:

  • Did the students get the point that the Internet might make them feel anonymous and lost in the vastness of humanity?
  • Do teachers have to submit to derogatory insults, or are we allowed to defend ourselves, albeit in a professional way?
  • Do students think teachers don't go on social media or use Twitter in the classroom? Why would these students think they'd get away with their tweets?
  • What are the social and ethical boundaries of social media, especially social media in schools?
  • Did the students really feel sorry for what they did or were they frightened?
  • Why were students taping the class?
  • Did the teacher go too far?
  • How do you effectively use Twitter in the classroom?

As much sympathy as I have for this teacher’s situation, this is the world we now reside in. Personal space and privacy exist only where no one has active digital devices. Everyone feels entitled to record and share with the world (under the mantra “the People have the right to know”). Videographers can edit their work to say what they want and most people won't know the difference -- worse, they will assume it's true. A camera in every hand has decided some cases in American law enforcement. A good rule of thumb is to assume you're always being recorded by people who don't necessarily respect you or what you do.

As teachers, this notion is taken one step further. We are entrusted with a family's crown jewel(s) -- their children. We must always take the high ground, refuse to allow emotions to run our lessons, and at a moment's notice, take the student's perspective. When a teacher accepts that mantle, s/he becomes bigger than life and accountable for everything. Consider these hats a teacher wears:

  • S/he is a moral compass for students. No teacher ever swears, cries, or watches X-rated movies.
  • S/he is a public figure. When teacher and student meet at a store or movie, the teacher retains her cape.
  • S/he is a mandated reporter. If a teacher suspects abuse, s/he must report it. This falls only to a select group -- those that work with children. 

Teachers are accessible 24/7. They have no personal life, no private time, no evenings off. That's a responsibility and an honor -- and at times, a burden.

But the power of this particular lesson in digital citizenship is unmatched. Whether you agree with the teacher's actions or not, she transcends a simple black-and-white judgment by making herself a person with a family who loves her, and who was hurt by the student's actions.

What do you think? Was this an authentic lesson in social media, spiced by the fact that the students had to face the repercussions of their social media actions? Or should the teacher have handled this in private? If so, how?

 


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for Examiner.com, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Follow Jacqui on Twitter.