blurring the lines between professionalism and a personal life
posted by: jdzurisin
I just had an interesting conversation with Tom Loughran via Facebook concerning this article, and I’d like to share it here (I don’t think he’ll mind).
I do see some value in using social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook in the classroom, though there are several concerns that I have. I think right now I would prefer students set up blogs, even casual “mini-blogs” such as tumblr, as a trial run. There are professional sites and there are personal sites, and we don’t know where the lines are yet. As Tom pointed out, I don’t hang out on the professional sites, and who would want to?
Who indeed would want to “hang out” on those professional sites? I like Facebook for the social aspect. Do I want to “friend” my students? Not really. Not anymore than I’d like to “friend” my parents on Facebook. I don’t think many people would condone parent-child relationships where the parent is more of a friend than an elder, so why should we think that’s an appropriate model for the student-teacher relationship? It’s perfectly normal for me to have friendships and engage in activities that would in inappropriate for me to discuss with or include students in, though it’s an automatic given that I should consider adding them to my Facebook or Twitter network?
All that being said, I do see the value in using these social networking sites in the classroom. It’s great to get students discussing their education in the casual, immediate gratification way that is so Web 2.0. I think it’s wonderful to help kids set up those accounts at school and encourage their use. We, as educators, can also use it as a teaching tool, to give students a better idea of what’s appropriate and what’s not (ie, all this latest news about ‘sexting’ is due to kids having access to technology when they don’t fully understand the consequences). We can help kids set up Twitter accounts, eg, and teach them how to use them and enhance the learning process. Although, what about the poor kid that doesn’t have internet access at home? He can’t tweet about the assignment to his friends, and they’ll all know that he can’t participate and why. Or what about the Latina that doesn’t really understand English or slang terms very well? She’ll miss out on the power of the tweets, if she’s not able to fully communicate with her peers.
And another point: what about “down time?” Some companies have banned BlackBerrys due to the fact that they don’t want their employees to constantly feel connected to work. ABC’s employees demanded overtime pay because they were expected to check their work email on their BlackBerrys after the work day was over. So, in addition to blurring the lines that may have people see us in a less than professional context, we’re also blurring the line between work and play. Is that a good thing? I’m super connected; I have a BlackBerry and I love it. But boy, I’m looking forward to going to Costa Rica, where I’ll turn my phone off and not have to feel guilty about not responding right away to emails.
Me: I’m all for using these social networking sites in classrooms as much as possible, but we have to be very careful to not blur the lines between personal and professional relationships. I didn’t friend any students that I taught this year in my adviser’s class, for example, because I don’t want to let them into my personal life. Now if we can have separate accounts, one for personal and one for professional, great. But Google wants to change all that by having one central login and online identity. I’m not sure I like that.
Tom: I don’t know what I think about this point. In some respects I think we ought to blur the lines. That’s what place-based education gets near to…people ought to learn in the context of working along side people who are passionate about what they do; that’s fairly personal. Of course there must be appropriate personal boundaries, wherever we draw or redraw them. Perhaps facebook, twitter, etc, ought to be professional space, or better, public space. There are still one-on-one and one-on-very small number communication options: email, private groups in broader social networks, etc. “Friending” someone today is a lot more like making their acquaintance than becoming their confidant. So why not do facebook, twitter, etc, with students, but behave professionally, or publicly, there? (How you roll your toilet paper is probably never a subject for a broad public conversation, and perhaps an emerging set of online manners will affirm this, someday.)
Me: I agree that we should all behave in a ‘public’ manner. But when I go out to Corby’s with friends, or singing karaoke on Thursdays, I’m behaving what I feel is in a perfectly appropriate, public manner. I still don’t want my students to see pictures of me doing those activities, though, although I’m happy to share those photos with my friends. Tailgates, halloween parties, and plenty of ‘college’ activities exist that students probably don’t want to share w/their profs. Move beyond that, though. Many of my friends from high school and college use their facebook accounts to keep in contact with old friends and they post pics and info about their personal lives, such as having children. That’s also something I’d like to keep out of the work environment. I ‘friend’ people on facebook, for the most part, when I know them and want to stay in contact with them, not when I want to make a business acquaintance (that’s what LinkedIN is for )
Tom: That’s a nice distinction (LinkedIn vs Facebook). But I’m not sure it will hold. On the other hand, I’ve joined but not really hung out in those professional sites. (Who would want to?)