This week, several people in my professional learning network have asked me to stream my demo lessons and share more photos of the work that I do inside of schools. Explaining why I can’t do that in 140 characters or less on Twitter is something of a challenge, so for what it’s worth, I’m sharing my thoughts about it here. The truth is, I wrestle with issues regarding transparency and boundaries quite a bit.
Sometimes, when I’m coaching teachers around the use of social networking tools and the establishment of professional learning networks, I’m asked how transparent educators are expected to be online. My answer is always pretty simple: each person gets to choose how much they reveal about themselves inside of their networks. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, although there are recommendations and etiquette to be sure. Those that I trust most are clear about who they are and what they think in ways that are both honest and respectful, but when it comes to sharing anything about ourselves or our work online, the choices are ours to make.
Unless someone does it for us, of course.
What are implications of this?
As a teacher, it was always important to me that the learners in my classroom felt safe. My students wrote around topics that interested them, and sometimes, their work was very personal. Some lacked confidence as writers, and others knew that their work was still in process and not ready for publication. It was never my place to decide for them what they would share. What an incredible violation that would have been.
As a literacy coach and service provider, the teachers that I visit are often engaged in learning and work that I find interesting. Some aren’t eager to share it with a wider audience for any number of reasons though, and often, focusing on the potential for sharing it gets in the way of the learning. It distracts me from listening or observing or engaging well, and it adds a level of pressure that isn’t at all productive.
Once in a while, I’ve posted several reflections about the work of teachers that I admire, with their permission. One of the unintended consequences? Teachers who were not mentioned on my blog felt overlooked. The same could also happen with students.
Over time, I’ve realized that perhaps it isn’t my place to showcase the work of others, unless they ask me to. I don’t stream our lessons or post pictures of our work together because I’m sensitive to this reality. More importantly, the work that students and teachers do belongs to them, regardless of how I might have been involved in it. If anyone is going to mention it online, I guess I think that they should….and often, they do…..without any help from me.
In this iPhone and Flip-friendly age, it’s tempting to want to shoot and share every memorable moment of my day. The students and teachers that I work with give me pause though. I’m realizing that in accepting my role as a consultant and coach, I must accept other responsibilities as well. It’s not enough to simply choose how transparent I prefer to be online. It’s critical that I’m respectful of the rights of others to choose how much of themselves and their work they want to share and where and when. It’s not my place to post photos or videos of anyone–especially the children I work with, unless I’ve asked permission first or those kids have invited me to do so. My own daughter didn’t begin blogging until she was old enough to understand what it meant to have an online presence and choose this for herself. I know that much of this gets rather sticky and hard to remain vigilant about, though–particularly when my learning is so closely connected to the learning that others do and we all share within these spaces in order to learn.
Am I the only one grappling with this?