Sunday, March 16, 2008

B.C. Teacher Regulator Warns About Facebook

Should school teachers friend their students on Facebook?

The British Columbia College of Teachers tackles this question in a statement, Facing Facebook, that warns the Province's teaching professionals of "fairly significant risk" to professional boundaries posed by teacher participation on Facebook:

...Blurring the boundaries

While there is nothing wrong with teachers using Facebook in their personal lives, Facebook does expose both teachers and students to fairly significant risk when it comes to respecting the boundaries between educator and student.

...Breaking down the walls between a teacher’s personal and professional life can undermine a teacher’s authority and create a significant danger zone for both teacher and student. An educator’s ability to maintain boundaries within the professional relationship ensures a safe connection based on the student’s needs. A safe relationship is threatened when the boundaries become blurred or ambiguous, particularly when dual relationships are created. In these cases, the teacher moves beyond a professional relationship into the personal realm.

Facebook makes it much easier for dual relationships to thrive. Teachers that would never take a child to lunch or offer to drive a student home (other types of potential boundary violations) may not even hesitate to add a student as a “friend” on Facebook, exposing the student to personal information that the teacher would never consider sharing in a classroom setting. As an educator, you need to be aware that this is happening with increasing regularity, placing students and educators at risk.

... Of course, Facebook itself isn’t the problem. It is simply one of many web applications that are transforming how we communicate. Larger philosophical debates – about privacy expectations, the line between the personal and the professional, and the coming generational change that will affect the way we work and interact with each other – need to occur in both the profession and the society at large. What will never change, however, is the responsibility of an educator to ensure the safety of students is protected – both in the classroom and online.

The British Columbia College of Teachers is the professional self-regulatory body for more than 67,000 licensed educators in British Columbia. It sets standards for professional educators, issues teaching certificates, and where necessary, reviews conduct and competence matters.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto


Is Facebook Fading?

It’s an ongoing topic on our blog, and I still frequently hear people referring to it regularly, but is the craze of Facebook beginning to fade? reports:

Statistics showing a decline in U.K. Facebook use have led to predictions the social networking site's golden age may soon come to a close. But don't believe the hype, say industry experts, the Facebook frenzy is still going strong -- especially in Canada.

The United Kingdom experienced its first drop in Facebook users in January after a 17-month uphill climb, according to research firm Nielsen Online. Its study showed unique users were down to 8.5 million from 8.9 million in December.

About 20,000 fewer Canadians visited the site during the same period, but that doesn't mean they've had enough networking, experts say.

…January 2008 was the first month in the past year that Facebook did not increase its Canadian user base significantly. Back in January 2007, the site had 3.3 million users, compared to a whopping 15.3 million users a year later.

It is long-term statistics like these that really show trends, said Lipsman, noting that while Canadian stats for February have not been tallied yet, U.S. figures are showing a continued increase in users per day.

It makes sense that after a year of strong, increasing popularity, Facebook use was bound to eventually decline.

That certainly doesn’t mean the Facebook frenzy is over.

With ongoing controversies, new site developments in the works, and a sticky user loyalty to the site that has reinvented social networking, I believe Facebook will continue to maintain its popularity- at least until something bigger and better comes along.

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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