After reading the GTCS code regarding safe use of social media as a teacher, my initial thoughts are that everything stated in the guidelines are both fair and just. I feel that the quote at the start of the guidelines sum up perfectly the over arching issue of why it is important to take the use of social media seriously; ‘Maintaining the public’s trust in the individual teacher and in teaching as a profession sits at the heart of being fit to teach, and this can be undermined not only by behaviour occurring in a teacher’s professional life, but also within their private life, including activity online.’
I’ve come to learn that how one presents themselves online is vitally important. I think it’s easy to forget how quickly others can judge your identity solely down to what they see on the Internet. For example, when working for a local company in my hometown, it was brought to my attention that the employers first looked through the Facebook of each and every prospective employee before even inviting them to interview for a post. It was at this point that I registered how important it is to keep my online persona as real and true to myself as possible and I started to evaluate everything I did online with a new vigilance.
It’s through understanding the weight and importance of maintaining a professional online appearance that leads me to believe I, at least initially, won’t be marrying my professional and private presence on social media. I am of course without doubt that social media and resources found on the Internet have a well-deserved place in the classroom when used appropriately, but I am yet to see the benefit of merging your personal and professional image online.
Where in some situations it might be appropriate e.g. using one’s Twitter account to share information related to their work etc, I feel that generally speaking merging your professional and personal activity online unnecessarily exposes you to a number of challenges as a professional that you might not be faced with otherwise. Through experience, I am very aware of how easy it is to be misinterpreted online and to have your intentions completely lost in a muddle of misconceptions. I would imagine that for this to happen in a professional environment- and as a result to have you fitness to teach queried- could potentially be extremely damaging to both your professional and your self image.
However regardless of what I believe in terms of using my private social media for professional use, I am fully aware that social media will be used in the classroom. And I believe that it should be! With social media playing such a massive part in the lives of pupils, parents and in our social culture, I believe it would be catastrophic for educators to ignore the movement online and not to embrace the developments. Therefore, I think it is vitally important to have an understanding of how to be a professional online so that both qualified and perspective teachers know exactly where they stand in this new and advancing online world. In fact, this is absolutely necessary when it comes to equipping not only ourselves, but our children, to navigate this potential mind field. I feel that the fact that GTCS have outlined specific guidelines for this issue sufficiently highlights the relevance of understanding how to have a professional presence in the online world and that the penultimate section in particular, ‘how can teachers minimise risk when using electronic communication and social networking?’ helps to make it clear how to avoid having issues in this area.
I look forward to the challenges ahead regarding my role as a teacher. However, I believe there is vast importance in equipping oneself to be able to avoid unnecessary battles, and being well versed in how to maintain a professional image online seems like the perfect place to start.