Slowly however teachers and schools are getting much-needed support from organisations such as Netsafe and New Zealand’s Education Council who recognise that teachers and students need explicit and up-to-date support, guidance and resourcing. In this light, I really like the following from Education Council regarding the revised code of ethics for teachers:
"This Code has been developed with our profession for our profession. It reflects the expectations of conduct and integrity that our profession share; what we expect of each other and what our learners, their families/whānau and the public can expect of us." (n.d)
The reason this statement resonates so much with this educator is that it highlights that a teacher’s responsibilities extend beyond the classroom and beyond the school. It also highlights teachers are not, and cannot be isolated from/by trends and expectations in existence beyond the school gates. Likewise I believe it is awesome that Netsafe has worked with the government to proactively support the New Zealand digital community; “Under The Harmful Digital Communications Act, Netsafe has been chosen to offer a free service for people in New Zealand to help with the online bullying, harassment and abuse.” (2017). Such ventures can only ensure that there are more ambulances at the top of the legal and ethical cliffs and less so at the bottom.
"Less than two weeks ago, it was estimated that 7.5 million Facebook users are below the minimum age. To make matters even more worrying, more than 5 million were 10-years-old or younger." (2017)
I therefore believe that we doing the best we can in terms of our Facebook practice in both the legal and ethical contexts. Our aim is to educate our community as fast,as much and as regularly as possible to ensure that we do not have to restrict access or return to a static online presence.. To meet what I see as our ethical obligations, all students at Aorere College are given cybersafety education and from 2017, all Year 9 students have a one-term rotation of Digital Thinking & Processes. We want our students to online users, adventurous ones yes but safe nevertheless.
In one recent case, a Year 9 student inadvertently posted inappropriate material that shone our school in a less than favourable light. In all honesty, my initial and emotional reaction was to initiate formal disciplinary procedures against the student and ban the student’s online access within Aorere College. However after a period of considered and informed reflection, I decided to educate over confiscate. This decision was made not just for the student’s physical safety but also for their future as a digital citizen. Subsequent to this decision, I talked to the student and the mother concerned, and was enlightened by not only their honesty but also their apology and now-recognition of the impact of the student’s action. Although the student’s post was shared a number of times before I intervened, I’d argue that any damage to the school was only temporary and minimal while the student concerned, emerged educated and respected. What’s that saying “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chips’ paper”. One silver lining of the Year 9 student’s indiscretion was that a number of students immediately notified us via our Facebook page. In my opinion, such peer tracking and intervention only serves to highlights how teenagers can and do know what is right in life and online.
After all, when we it comes to the law and ethics and in this increasingly digitized world, we are all most certainly in this together.
Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved 10th March 2017 from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers
Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved 10th March 2017 from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Developing-leaders/What-Ought-I-to-Do-All-Things-Considered-An-Approach-to-the-Exploration-of-Ethical-Problems-by-Teachers
Netsafe (2017). Get Help with Online Bullying, Abuse and Harassment. Retrieved 12th March 2017 from https://www.netsafe.org.nz/hdc/
Protalinski, E (2017). Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook minimum age limit should be removed. Retrieved 12th March 2017 from http://www.zdnet.com/article/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-minimum-age-limit-should-be-removed/