Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Digital Life, Minimal Privacy

Last Friday, as the snow cancelled school for the fourth day in a week, and our website hosts went down, our Principal, Mark Steed, set up a school Facebook group.

Within a day it had over 900 members and what started was a quite polarised debate, initiated by students, regarding the degree to which teachers were invading their privacy. They also found it hard to conceptualise the fact we were using Facebook to communicate with them in a formal capacity - leaving messages about cancelled sports fixtures, and more controversially for the students, setting work to make up for the four days lost. 

This debate, which we have embraced, was timely. The Principal and I had been talking for some weeks about ways to cover European Internet Safety Week, which began on February 9th. Now we had our opportunity.

Interestingly, many students couldn't get their heads round the fact we ought not to be on first name terms, that TXT SPK isn't student-teacher speak, or that it's wrong to post inappropriate language on an official school group.

And so it came to pass that on Sunday I put together a presentation, ready to deliver this week to the various sections of our school. So far, we've spoken to the Sixth form and the girls' senior school. On Thursday we'll be chatting to the boys. 

I've turned the presentation I made into an online booklet, courtesy of issuu.com. It can be read either like a digital book, with animated turning pages (my favourite option), or as full screen slides. I've left out the opening animation for reasons of privacy, but let me tell you about it. 

Since so many students had made me a friend, I had access to much of their personal information. The idea of using privacy settings seemed alien to them. So, I helped myself to dozens of mobile phone numbers, and turned them into an animated opening sequence. As you can imagine, a fair few sixth formers were perturbed to see their phone numbers flashing up on the big screen. It certainly drove the message home.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the presentation and do let me know your thoughts.


Dudd0 said...

What is interesting to me is how the pupils seem to use the fact that they are not face to face with the teacher to bring out what they really think and say whatever they like to them to some degree.

What does bother me is the teacher - student confidentiality. This is what happened to a few friends of mine: they joined a school group - went about their facebook routine posting party photos of themselves etc. When all of a sudden the next day or so, they are thrown into detentions and parents being rang for some of the photos they have published on the site eg them drinking alcohol / smoking or whatever.
Some of the teachers are their "friends" and went through the students' profiles and photos - looking for demeaning pictures of them. For something that they did outside of school.
Parents where outraged speaking of invasion of privacy whilst the school where saying that the students where still "representing the school and damaging it's reputation."
This reminds me of the story you told of the bloke who worked for a company- posted something negative about it and consequently got fired.

My question is - are acts such as these suppressing the freedom of the person involved? Will it get to the extent that even if your not in school or not at your job you still can't say / show what you REALLY think / do?

Judith Buendgens-Kosten said...

The question is: Is facebook the right place for formal interactions? It's a bit like a teacher showing up at a private party and being shocked at the informality of the place :-) Did your school group set 'house rules' to make clear that a different standard was expected there than was usually the case for Facebook groups?

Also, I myself wouldn't have been shocked by the fact that a person marked 'friend' was having access to my telephone number, I would be shocked, though, by his abuse of my private information in a presentation...

What I totally agree with is using this debate as a teaching opportunity. And, certainly, both sides in this debate will learn a lot from it :D I liked the booklet :-)