Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media

Maintaining professional boundaries in all forms of communication, technology-related or not, is vital to maintaining the public trust and appropriate professional relationships with students. 

The following is an excerpt taken from the Ontario College of Teachers Professional Advisory dated April, 2011 which sets out the standards for members when using electronic communications and social media.

"Electronic communication and social media create new options for extending and enhancing education.  However, as the number of channels of communication in society increases rapidly, so does the rate of misuse.  Professional boundaries can blur.  Even the most experienced members may be susceptible to unintentional mistakes."

Members must be aware of the numerous challenges and the ramifications associated with the use of electronic communication and social media.

Electronic communication and social media can be effective when used cautiously and professionally.  They serve a range of purposes, from helping students and parents/guardians access assignments and resources related to classroom studies to connecting with classrooms in other communities and countries.
Members also use the Internet and social networking sites as instructional tools and for professional development, seeking information on lesson plans, new developments and methodologies.

However, the most popular social media applications were not created specifically for educational purposes and their use can expose members to risk when it comes to maintaining professionalism.  It is up to members to know and respect proper professional boundaries with students, even when students initiate electronic interaction.
Electronic messages are not anonymous.  They can be tracked, misdirected, manipulated and live forever on the Internet.  Social media sites create and archive copies of every piece of content posted, even when deleted from online profiles.  Once information is digitized, the author relinquishes all control. 
The use of the Internet and social media, despite best intentions, may cause members to forget their professional responsibilities and the unique position of trust and authority given to them by society.  The dynamic between a member and a student is forever changed when the two become "friends" in an online environment.
Members should never share information with students in any environment that they would not willingly and appropriately share in a school or school-related setting or in the community.

The College's disciplinary process is based on the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair hearing.  However, intentional or inadvertent misuse of social media and electronic communication could have serious disciplinary consequences professionally.
Inappropriate on-line, e-mail and telephone conversations between members and others, including students, colleagues, parents/guardians, employers, family and friends, expose members to the possibility of disciplinary action.

Generally ETFO supports the College's efforts to send the message to teachers that they must be careful about their use of electronic media, even during off duty conduct  if it impacts on the school community, since this can also attract College intervention.

Members should always remember that electronic media is a two way street: yes, it is a powerful tool for educational purposes but it is also subject to abuse.  We have seen an increased prevalence of cyberbullying by electronic media in the education community.  This bullying can be student to student, parents to teachers, student to teacher, colleague to colleague.  The law now recognizes that students can be disciplined for this even if it occurs off school grounds (Education Act amendments).   With new amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the law also recognizes that teachers have greater rights to safety at work from harassment.

Members should be able to answer this:  How does my online presence - that which I control and that which is posted by others - reflect my professionalism, and how does it reflect on the teaching profession?  It is up to members to know and respect proper professional boundaries with students, even when students initiate electronic interaction.  Teachers should check to make sure that they are utilizing the highest privacy settings for content and photos.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Countdown is On!

As Spring rolls around there are many requirements that need to be completed before the end of the school year.  The following is important information for you to remain on the list:
  • Pay your College of Teachers' fee by April 15th.  If you were in an LTO assignment on January first check on the Employee Portal that your fees were deducted by payroll. If you missed the deadline and wish to teach this year,  you will have to complete the OCT Membership Reinstatement form and pay a $130 reinstatement fee, in addition to the annual fee of $120.
  • Complete online Statement of Intent to Remain on the List by April 30th on the TVDSB Employee Portal. This begins a three step process in HRS Applications which also leads to your WHMIS review and Annual Offence Declaration.
  • Teach at least five (5) days (in total) in an elementary site
  • Complete the  22 mandatory online training modules by June 30th
  • Notify TVDSB of any changes to name, address and telephone number
With regards to the Mandatory On-Line training modules completed via the Employee Portal under Mandatory Training,  you have until June 30th to complete them.  June 30th is the day in which you will be paid.  A reminder to all RETIRED TEACHERS, you will have to reserve at least one day in June to meet restrictions set by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

On another note, we are receiving wonderful feedback from presenters and attendees regarding our April 8th, PD event at Althouse College.  The presenters enjoyed meeting and presenting to our members.  They appreciated your eagerness and willingness to participate in tasks and discussions. 

Best wishes to all for a wonderful Easter break!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

After the Designated Professional Development at Althouse College

In hectic preparation for the above-referenced Professional Development Event, last weeks' blog never made it to "post" so in a nutshell, here is what took place:

Almost 700 members participated in a full-day PD on April 8th.  Throughout the day, registrants found their way to participate in over 25 sessions.  The day started at 9:00am with greetings from the Board and a brief Q & A session.  Our keynote speaker was Rob Nickel, a retired Ontario Provincial Police officer who spent over half of his career working undercover online in the Child Pornography section of the OPP.  He is a world respected expert in his field and speaks internationally to audiences about keeping kids safe on the Internet.  Full- day sessions included Ultimate Strategies for the New Teacher with Wendy Hawcutt,  Arts in an Integrated Curriculum with Polly Stringle, and Power to Change with Mohini Athia and Charline Rowan.  After the morning break, the second half of the day offered over 22 other sessions.  We're still siphoning through the evaluation forms but for the most part, our members felt this was a very beneficial event and those who participated were most appreciative for the opportunity.

As a side note, we are the only local in the province to offer paid PD on this scale to our members- thanks to the vision and efficiency of our Executive!

On a similar note of professional advancement and improvement, we are constantly looking to improve and add to our resumes with various professional development.  Here are a couple of websites available to you to visit that offer free courses for you to take in the privacy of your own home, or on your time-schedule, 24 hours a day.
They are: 
  1. - which focuses on PD for grades kindergarten to Grade 12, including subjects such as the arts, foreign languages, history, literature, math and science to name a few.
  2. - which offers various basic computer courses, such as Microsoft office and facebook guidance.
As previously mentioned, this is your career.  With today's employment numbers for our profession, there are many teachers and few positions- you have to make the effort to be selected for the interview for that job!
A.Q.s will get you the interview -
P.D. will get you the job!