Week 5-How vigilant should educators be when using social media and electronic communication?

I learned a valuable lesson this week at work.  A co-worker sent angry e-mails to many members of the staff.  My principal spoke with her about her inappropriate behavior, but instead of acknowledging her mistake and apologizing, she became defensive and insubordinate to my principal.  She was asked to leave the office for the day and was later laid off because this wasn’t the first time such behavior had been displayed.

People have a responsibility to behave in an appropriate manner at work-this is professionalism.  The Harte article depicts how sending inappropriate e-mails in anger can undo years of professionalism.  It takes years to build a reputation, yet it can take only moments to destroy it.  Professionalism must include e-professionalism.  According to Evans & Gerwitz (2008), “…e-professionalism involves behavior related to professional standards and ethics when using electronic communication” (Harte, 2011, p. 3).  Sending inappropriate e-mails, such as my co-worker and Miss Christine in the Harte article can greatly influence public perception of the teaching profession.  This affects everyone in the profession, so teachers need to pause and think about their actions before sending inappropriate messages in electronic form.

E-mails can go viral within seconds, and once they have been sent, they can’t be retracted (Carter, Foulger, & Ewbank, 2008).  This is why educators need to make sure the e-mails they send are professional, error free and that they go to the intended recipients (Harte, 2011).

Educators also need to be vigilant when using other forms of electronic communication such as social networking sites.  If Alberta teachers follow the recommendations from Gordon Thomas at the ATA, educators can comfortably participate in an online community of learning without worrying about violating their Professional Code of Ethics or risking damaging personal or company reputations (Thomas, 2009).  It comes down to finding the right balance between the benefits of social networking and the disadvantages (Harte, 2011).  Social networking encourages active learning leading to a more student-centered learning environment (Ferdig, 2007); however, when people engage in social networking, a loss of privacy and professionalism can occur (Teclehaimanot & Hickman, 2011).

I have learned this week that educators need to be extremely vigilant when using social networking and other forms of electronic communication.  After watching the videos and reading the articles for this week, I realize I need to spend some time improving my virtual identify on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Finding the time to do so is the challenge since maintaining a positive virtual reputation can be demanding, but it is important to do so.


Carter, H. L., Foulger, T.S., & Ewbank, A.D. (2008).  Have you Googled your teacher lately?  Teachers use of social networking sites. Phi Delta Kappan, 681-685.

Evans, T., & Gerwitz, A.E.  (2008).  E-Professionalism dos and don’ts.  NALP Bulletin.  Retrieved from http://www.tourolaw.edu/cso/docs/eprofessionalism.pdf

Ferdig, R. E. (2007).  Editorial:  Examining social software in teacher education.  Journal of Technology & Teacher Education, 15(1), 5-10.

Harte, H.  (2011).  E-Professionalism for Early Care and Education Providers.  Dimensions Of Early Childhood, 39(3), 3-10.

Teclehaimanot, B., & Hickman, T.  (2011).  Student-teacher interaction on facebook:  what students find appropriate.  Techtrends:  Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(3),19-30.  Retrieved from: http:// ezpoxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=59742738&site=ehost-live


Thomas, Gordon.  (2009, May 5).  Teachers and Facebook, ATA News, 43(17).  Retrieved from http://www.teachers.ab.ca/Publications/ATA%20News/Volume%2043/Number17/Pages/QA.aspx.


3 thoughts on “Week 5-How vigilant should educators be when using social media and electronic communication?

  1. Skye says:

    I absolutely agree that e-professionalism is essential as an exercise in responsible, ethical behaviours but I still question whether social media sites should factor in to our level of professional lives. You mentioned that “If Alberta teachers follow the recommendations from Gordon Thomas at the ATA, educators can comfortably participate in an online community of learning without worrying about violating their Professional Code of Ethics or risking damaging personal or company reputations” (Thomas, 2009) however you go on to say that you need to start “improving my virtual identify on Facebook and LinkedIn.” What are some improvements you plan to make? How will these changes impact your profile creativity? What message are we sending our students if we alter our digital self-expression due to professional policies? What are your thoughts on Ashely Payne being terminated for posting an image of her holding a glass of Guiness? Could this be considered intolerance?

    Please don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is a standard to uphold as digital individuals and I adhere to setting good, strong morals with positive, self-empowering messages/images to human-kind but I must ask and be aware of whether others’ expectations may begin to confine our ability to grow and develop as digital citizens, if we are changing the very nature of our expressions to accommodate intolerance?



    Thomas, Gordon. (2009, May 5). Teachers and Facebook, ATA News, 43(17). Retrieved from http://www.teachers.ab.ca/Publications/ATA%20News/Volume%2043/Number17/Pages/QA.aspx

    • Hi Skye,

      Thanks for your feedback. I think that the way I modify my profile depends on the social site I am using. For example, when modifying my LinkedIn account, I want to make sure I am sending a professional message-one that is more serious and appropriate. However, when using Facebook, I can relax more and show more of my personality. However, I have been advised by our employment developer at Bredin to open a second Facebook account so that I can keep my personal and private accounts separate. Thus, in a way, I am creating a different virtual identity when it comes to my professional life.

      I think that Ashley Payne’s case is suspicious. It does seem that she was treated unfairly. I do worry that society is becoming intolerant to the point where we have to watch everything we say and do. At what point are we restricting our rights of expression and speech! This question will continue to be explored as technology blurs our professional and personal lives.

  2. kamal punit says:

    Aloha Marilyn,
    I think you raise some very interesting points. Sometimes things just seem obvious but the implementation is that really makes all the difference. Professionalism is not a new concept. From dress code to behavior, everything comes as a package deal and there is no real need to challenge a protocol that makes work ethos much more viable. E professionalism however goes a step further. You point out that, “I realize I need to spend some time improving my virtual identify on Facebook and LinkedIn.” Why is it so important? Is it the privacy settings that you are concerned about or how do you come across as a professional or both? I do understand the importance of updating and the progressive need to maintain virtual identity. The part that truly concerns me is the emerging importance of virtual identity because that is eventually what everyone cares about, especially from a professional perspective. Teclehaimanot & Hickman (2011) “…teachers must understand how to interact with their students in a way that promotes the improved positive perception of the teacher and classroom environment…” (p. 21). There is a lot that goes into setting a positive teaching environment in a classroom. A teacher has a connection with very student and that is really what builds the ethos and makes teaching as a profession so much more humane. The incident of the teacher losing her job, to me signifies an act that was put on a higher pedestal than everything else that she had invested as a teacher. Professionalism should never be compromised but can virtual identity signify everything about a person?

    Teclehaimanot, B., & Hickman, T. (2011). Student-teacher interaction on facebook: what students find appropriate. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(3),19-30.

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