Home > 21st Century Learning, Educational Leadership > The Little House on the Internet

The Little House on the Internet

“The simpler message for Ontario certified teachers is this: Represent yourself in social media the same way you would in person.”     Ontario College of Teachers

Teachers have always been held accountable for maintaining and modeling an exemplary standard of conduct in the community; this is something that has been a constant for as long as there have been teachers.  Nothing new here.  In fact  it’s not hard for me to conjure up images of the small, one-room school houses dotting the landscape and visualize the Ingalls children dashing across my TV screen from their little house to their little school.

Even now, many educators live and work in the same community; I do. I move about town engaged in the many mundane tasks of the modern husband and father mindful of the fact that my students and families are out there. I go to the rink and soccer pitch to watch my kids play, aware that  becoming  the ‘angry parent’ is just not an option for me. I knew this when I entered the profession, serving as a role model was one of the reasons I chose this profession.

This is why the recent release of the Ontario College of Teachers advisory on the use of social networks is not a big issue for me, personally. My life online is pretty much a reflection of my life offline. Alec Couros (@courosa) has helped me consolidate my thinking and learning a great deal in this area. The life we lead is the life we lead, in person and online, and we should ‘own’ both. Scary though that may be, it  is the reality of our connected world.

However, this is an issue for me professionally. As a school administrator, people will look to me to guide and support staff and students through this new reality. I’m responsible for communicating and monitoring the legal requirements, policies and procedures of my district.

Here’s the thing, though, nothing has really changed. We live in a global village, but it is still a village. The pathways and lanes that snaked through and between small communities 100 years ago still exist, as cables, wires and satellite dishes. We are still held to a high standard of conduct, we are still responsible for what we say, and how we say it and we still should feel free to be who we are, in person and online.

The great strength of our profession is our diversity and creativity. Effective teachers are also interesting people who lead real lives. We read, we write, we are artists, athletes, musicians, carpenters, some of us even tweet. When students see us in these roles, when we share our talents in the classroom, everyone benefits.

Social media, like it or not, is a vehicle for us to connect around our interests and talents and making these visible, appropriately, is not a bad thing. It might actually help build greater trust in public education amongst parents and other stakeholders.

  1. April 15, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Nicely put Brian. I agree. Nothing has changed, it may in face help bring the community concept to the forefront of people’s thinking and help them understand that the digital trail is the real life trail, and you need to consider them both in all you do.

    • April 15, 2011 at 11:05 am

      Thanks for the feedback. I hope we get there. The exciting thing for me is that we actually are part of the group that are making this a reality. It’s great to live during ‘interesting times.’

  2. April 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Brian, a really clear price. I agree with your analogy of the Little House on the Priarie. When I first started teaching in Australia I lived in the same little town ( 300 inhabitants was big for the towns that I lived in and around). Every one k
    New everyone and what everyone did and if they did not do it they made it up anyway! It is a bit the same with having and online community, as you say. There will be times when our humaneis obvious, when we unintentionally offend, or speak out too quickly. We have to be big enough to forgive ourselves and others. We cannot all agree and be sickly sweet all the time just because we are online. We should debate and why do we all have to agree. I love a good debate and I will tire quickly if my online PLN is all chocolates and roses…it just is not me. When I was the principal in those small towns, they saw me as the person, the teacher, the head teacher and the human who had the good with the not so good. I and they all survived the reality!
    Again, thanks for the time spent on this piece.
    Carmel ( i hope there are not too many typos etc, I cannot seem to be able to scrol back to reread!!)

    • April 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks for the reply- at the risk of sounding too agreeable 🙂 I think it’s a good thing that we can disagree in multiple forms; someone much wiser than I calls it expressing, responding, clarifying and justifying, I believe. As educators, perhaps we’ll become better at this online as it becomes a norm for us to do so face to face in our schools. As always, I appreciate your thoughts and am looking forward to your visit in a few weeks.


  3. April 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I agree Brian, however, I would also extend it to the fact that all parents, not just teacher parents are responsible as role models. So being the “angry Parent” at the soccer pitch or in the hockey arena is just not an option no matter who you are!

    Extending our behaviour to the online medium is not such a big leap if all parents model the behaviour they would expect from their children and from others.

    The statement from OCT is reassuring for folks who are unsure or not engaged in social media. For those of us who have decided to take control of our online life, it really is no big deal.

    BTW, who is the fellow OCT interviewed, Chris Vollum? I am disappointed that OCT didn’t seek information from a different source….#justsayin’

  4. April 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Hi Deb,

    Thanks for the feedback. Angie pointed that the reality of our online presence creates a climate where we must be careful and considerate in what we say and how we act; and this is a good thing. Privacy (how organizations/businesses mine SN sites for data) and conduct (the things we say and do online) are separate issues. We need to do a lot more thinking about these differences.
    BTW, Chris Vollum? http://bit.ly/gc67c3

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