Antisocial Media

Following yet another incident where a teacher’s online behavior has been highlighted in the national press it seems appropriate to return to one the key themes of my work with schools, and adults who work with young people.

I follow and engage with hundreds of teachers on Twitter and I think I’ve identified 3 key types of tweeter;

The Earnest One

The Enthusiastic One

The One With the Opinions

Ofourse there are many others, sub sets, splinter groups etc. but for the benefit of this piece, these three types will suffice.

I don’t think these are mutually exclusive and many of us will probably feel we have the freedom to adopt whichever appropriate at the time.

The Earnest Tweeter is the person who tweets stark messages about news, research, learning tools etc. ‘New study shows boys’ literacy levels.. http://www.shorturl’ . We gain little insight into the person’s character or personal life although we will assume that they care about and are interested in teaching and learning.

The Enthusiastic Tweeter has a contagious Joie de Vivre and posts tweets about their learners. their school, edtech tools etc. and usually include passionate language including;  ‘Awesome’, ‘Proud’, ‘Fantastic’ etc.

Both these types are what makes Twitter such a rewarding and engaging teaching and learning resource for educators. My time line is always full of enthusiasm, news and resources relating to our area of work. It is The One with the Opinions that continues to cause concern.

There are many teachers in my timeline who post strong, emotive and sometimes personal comments about F1 drivers, footballers, TV celebrities and politicians, and this is ofcourse their prerogative. I don’t see myself as the Mary Whitehouse of social media, here to chastise and take a moral high ground. It is important to note that whilst as an individual we may feel our posts, tweets and blogs are our own, our actions will have ramifications for our colleagues, our school and the wider teacher profession. Each time there is a negative story about a teacher in the press it diminishes our moral standing in our community.

We need to help wider society develop a greater reasoned tolerance of our right to be ‘normal’ but until that happens let’s be careful out there. It’s a jungle.

I made a video on this subject so if you have around 9 minutes to spare you may like to watch and then leave an earnest, enthusiastic and heartfelt comment below.


15 Responses to Antisocial Media

  1. Just an off the cuff remark on twitter transcribed here. Not really given it much thought – as will probably become apparent as I’m torn apart in subsequent responses – but my first reaction upon reading this blog post is:

    Perhaps it is people’s prerogative – whether they are plumbers, estate agents or teachers – to say what they like. Otherwise, aren’t we, by curtailing our own use of social media, pandering to those who misinterpret and misunderstand it?

  2. simfin says:

    Absolutely. It is tedious, soul destroying and depressing to see the tabloids, for example, publishing tittle tattle about people, and often ruining careers, with the aim of selling their product. It is equally disheartening to see that many, many people want to read such stuff.

    Making a stand is a fair point yet with each media story, it makes our mission to embed social media and effective communication between schools, pupils, teachers, parents and carers even harder. Each time I feel we are close to meaningful edtech policies in schools and LAs, an incident occurs and we have to go back and argue our case again.

  3. Dan bowen says:

    A good reflection on these of social media. I think there are also those who retweet others ..I,suppose you could call them ‘chirpers’ and those who take time to add content and views linked to blogs and their own commentary could call them ‘value adders’.

    I do agree with your points and it is so easy to get caught up in the social network in any capacity a teacher or am employee in industry in general.

  4. dughall says:

    Excellent post and presentation, Simon! Really, really sound advice.

    I haven’t consciously modelled myself on you but I do find myself using three distinct social media channels – a (professional) WordPress blog, a (personal) Posterous blog and of course, Twitter. I would also offer the same advice as you do with regard to the various ‘voices’ one should adopt.

    I, like everyone else, have opinions, am political, get angry, object to others views etc. However, this side of me is something that you will rarely, if ever, hear via my online voice. As someone who enjoys the football, I like to visualise my Twitter followers as sitting in a football stand in front of me. I am weilding a megaphone. Amongst those people are my boss, my ex-boss, my possible future boss, the leader of my local council, children I have taught, colleagues, the lot. To some extent, this helps me to ensure that I don’t make myself vulnerable. Your point about posting as if your enemies are watching is a very good one. You may not know who there are or if they exist, but if they want to come and get you, they will do what they can with anything you might have ‘said’. Ever.

    Something I have wrestled with is whether or not to intervene. This dilemma was brought to light most starkly in relation to the recent case you cite in yor video. I had been following the account in question and had cringed at some of the tweets that were posted. I had a growing, ominous feeling that there was an accident waiting to happen somehow. I seriously considered sending a DM expressing my concerns. However, I didn’t. I think I was cowardly; I think I expected an “I’ll say what I like!” response. Then disaster struck and I was left feeling remorse for not having said something. But what can you do? You can’t prance around Twitter telling people how to do it and where do you draw the line? Someone slagging off a referee? A #goveout hashtag? Someone suffering a hangover.

    I think probably the best thing is a succinct blogpost and an excellent presentation shared amongst followers.

    Hang on…

    • simfin says:

      Excellent comment Dughall, thankyou. On a personal level I’m not concerned about people’s language or commentary – I just don’t need it when so much of my work is about persuading cynics to adopt and embrace SM for learning.

  5. Really enjoyed your presentation and the sound advice. I think it’s important to manage your online identity / self just as you would your real self. Basically if it’s something that you wouldn’t want your children, your mother or your colleagues to know, then don’t put it online at all. There are enough opportunities to be accidentally foolish without doing it deliberately 🙂

  6. That is a great vid Simon,. It amazes me that even with the hundreds of us out there preaching the art of e-safety to professionals, many are still not thinking about the image they are presenting of themselves online. I agree, we should not be censored in our private use of social media, however, if you don’t post inappropriate things in the first place, this is not an issue! I have to confess, I am very guilty of admonishing my family and friends when they post things which I believe could be detrimental to them. Talk about #takingyourworkhomewithyou

  7. Nice piece Simon, thanks. As you know, with the This Is Me learning materials, we try to get people to think through the issues – who might be watching, how long might the things you say stay visible, if that channel really private (well, ‘no’ is the answer to that – but degrees of privacy vary between different channels).

    I’ve often had the dilemma Dughall describes – and I’ve tended to send a DM. It often doesn’t always alter the behaviours (although I seem to have managed to defuse a row between two politicians once), but then I *don’t actually think it should*.
    [Parts of what follows /may/ be me playing Devil’s Advocate. Or the bits you think are like that may just be me being radical. You choose :-)]

    Why? Because as long as people are consciously choosing to behave the way they do on social media, it is up to them. Now, I know some people will argue that you shouldn’t swear in front of the kids (I don’t, in person, and seldom online). And you can be seen as having a responsibility to your ‘profession’ to present a good example. But much as we may dislike it, social norms change, and at some point, modelling the polite, upstanding behaviours we would like to see actually produces a disengagement between the learners and the teachers. As so many people point out to me when I bemoan various systems and cultures (and I bemoan a lot of things!), you often (generally?) have to be within the system to change it. Think of the interventions which are really seen to make a difference to disadvantaged, disengaged, and even excluded kids .

    Yes, you *absolutely* should think of the possible outcomes when you tweet. I can be quite rude about politicians of a certain political hue (OK, actually, all of them) – and i doubt it really achieves much (except, as it happens, increasing my audience substantially every time I do it and it gets re-tweeted). I do it for effect (and to vent frustrations), and to some extent it works. It may come back to bite my on the bum one day – some potential employer might think I look far too much like a trouble-maker. And you know what? Good. Good because the impression they are getting is probably spot on. But also Good because if they care that much about something stupid I wrote in a Tweet a few years ago, I am strongly in agreement with the students I chat to who tell me “They are the wrong type of employer”.

    I think there is an argument to be made that people (and, despite some people’s natural biases, that includes teachers!) should not have to be second guessing every possible future timeline, every possible way they might be upsetting someone. You know, almost anything you say or write will be offensive to someone – and that cannot be *your* problem. How you handle it if you give offence is much more important. Having an individual voice – not being a faceless drone repeating the ‘party’ (institution) line, engaging and talking with people on their own level makes a *real* difference.

    • simfin says:

      I suspect you and I are similar Pat. I manage Simfin and make a decision about my content. I’m of an age where I can make decisions about what is acceptable to me. I am, as my mother used to so eloquently say, big and ugly enough to make my own decisions. However part of my message is; regardless of how we may feel about our behaviour, do we have the right to tarnish our colleagues and organisation with the same brush?

  8. Excellent post and video, Simon — I’ll share on #edchatie. I’m discussing these issues with IT students at the moment, and there is some overlap, but this specific emphasis on (teaching) professionals is well-needed. I agree with you and most of the commenters above; I enjoy connecting and collaborating online — and Twitter is a fantastic tool for this — but I tweet as a professional only. I often say that I’d only tweet things that I’d post up in the village square, but I do like @dughall’s more imaginative metaphor!

    Anyway, thanks for the great video and the thoughtful post and comments.

  9. Great post, essentially common sense but as we all have seen, many people don’t see it this way. In my current profession, a London cabbie, I’ve seen some truly awful examples of inconsiderate abuse by allegedly London’s finest.

    Thanks again, I’m making them journey to primary QTS, so have followed and look forward to your tweets 🙂

  10. I’m a totally indie consultant on the very fringes of innovation in ICT education and sometimes that enables me to say things that other people cannot for fear of reprisals. I cherish that right and take any consequences that may come from my views which are sometimes quite forthright or challenging and disruptive to the accepted nostrums in education.

    The important thing, here, is that I will take responsibility for anything I put out and if because of them an organisation that doesn’t want to hire or work with me then I’m willing for that to be a tradeoff – not that I’ve noticed having worked with a lot fo major orgs in and out of education. However I don’t think this is what you are talking about here but it is definitely a flip side to it.

    I’ve been on the web since 1993/4 and the maxim that you shouldn’t post anything you don’t want anyone else to take and use against you seemed pretty obvious then. Having said that – if I am involved in a project in a school I will lock down all my social media and I will not engage in any discussion about the school I am working in or any views on that school. Personal comments that years ago would be ad hoc off the cuff statements that vanished into the ether immediately become persistently published online – the problem here is awareness and digital literacy in general – because people see it as “normalcy” when it isn’t – it is a social publishing medium and newspaper and other mainstream media and parents and others can use it for their own agendas. Ultimately it is down to perceived mores on the part of society and they will definitely change over time they always do…

  11. Bill Lord says:

    A great presentation and also string of comments from those above. I have tried to mediate my public utterances and although I do from time to time comment on saturday TV I would be happy to say anything I tweet to people publicly.
    I suspect that I am less circumspect than I think I am or intend to be but am comfortable with my commments.
    Where I do struggle on Twitter and at times in my blog is commenting in such a way which is unambiguous – this is not due to a lack of eloquence but more the nature of the medium. In Twitter the restricted number of characters can rob full meaning and this is something which I know could cause problems when discussing issues of controversy or national policy.
    Speed of work can also be an issue – I do try to write a blog post and leave it for a while to re-visit and read before sending into the ether.
    The presentation has made me think again about my online presence and reminded me of a time when I had to Leon to remove a clip of me presenting at a Teachmeet due to a “hilarious” joke about my impending redundancy which was perhaps suitable for a small group in a school hall but not for any wider consumption.

    At the same I do moderate a forum for football fans and the comments made on there (particularly the non football forum) sometimes border on the inflammatory or running contrary to libel laws. I have at times considered my position in case one of the messages misses our amendments or deletions and this presentation has further underlined the need for deeper thought.

    Thanks Simon

  12. damoward says:

    Thx for reporting the link to this on Twitter as I missed it first time around. My online self acts as a persona for educational blogging rather than ‘true’ self only partially based on my own name or even photo. Although teaching for 20 years, I do not engage with parents or pupils online and reserve micro blogging via Twitter for helping others, retweeting links or sharing-on ideas via the retweet. Perturbed by the self promotion I experience and recent comments like: ‘don’t retweet me unless you’re following me’, I am backing off Twitter more and more and looking to the next media outlet.

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