Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Internet Grapevine is still local!

Treat your colleagues as you want to be treated. Don't share information that might let others in your local area recognize them. Gather closely for I tell you a tale of poor choices, a tale of a young teacher whose pride overcame her ethics, a sad tale that must be told. I'm the online observer, and I share her tale.

It seems to me that many who use the internet still believe that they are anonymous....that's just not true. One of the teachers in my Professional Learning Network chose to share information about a colleague that was not appropriate, yet this teacher never did understand that sharing without permission is wrong. As far as I could tell, this teacher was spreading gossip.

In the fall of 2011, my Professinal Learning Network was discussing the merits of an individual teacher's form used to help guide student/teacher learning conferences for mathematics. The teacher who shared this form is highly regarded as a technology teacher in our group, yet readily admitted that math is not their strong suit. The negativism and bias of this teacher towards a local colleague seemed shocking to me. I think it may be difficult to trust someone who takes the work of others, downloads it online, and tears the content to pieces.

The teacher in our PLN decided that a colleague's conferencing sheet was not appropriate and shared a link for this conferencing sheet. The irony is that the teacher in our PLN had no problem stealing another teacher's work and sharing this information all over the internet. What was most amazing to me was the fact that they were colleagues in the same school.

Since I didn't know at first that the teacher in our PLN didn't have permission to share the conferencing sheet, I looked over the document. Other teachers also looked it over, since we all share information with everyone in our PLN. Those of us who like mathematics and teaching mathematics found the conferencing sheet to be appropriate tool for teacher use in monitoring student progress. We learned afterwards that the teacher who shared the document with us didn't have permission to do that. I was concerned and frustrated that someone in our Professional Learning Network would do that, yet there it was.

In my experience, teachers collaborate to make a good idea better, but that was impossible because the teachers' work had been displayed online without their permission. Most of those in our PLN believed that some simple changes to the conferencing sheet could help make this a helpful tool for the student. Others thought the form was not appropriate. I thought the form was a very useful teacher tool, yet it could be easily modified for effective student use.

I was shocked that our colleague would do this to a fellow teacher, especially as the teacher didn't know it was being shared among our online group. Without getting permission from the author, it would be unethical to show a copy of it online.

I think it would be a really great idea, if we could consider that the same ethics that guide us at school also guide us, as teachers, when we collaborate or teach online. Ask for permission before sharing a colleagues OFFLINE work. If the work is online and public, you must still attribute the work to the author. This would be a great lesson for all teachers to follow, so they can feel comfortable when teaching online ethics to their students. As the saying goes,
Don't tell me you will do the right thing, show me!