Another dot in the blogosphere?

Do not slack

Posted on: July 2, 2016

Something kept appearing in my feeds earlier this week. It was the news [1] [2] [3] that a few teachers got fired after they complained about and insulted students while using Slack, a private messaging platform.

Private became public when 18 pages of exchanges were leaked to students and teachers of that school.

You can imagine the damage control measures that both the service company and school might have taken. Like most news cycles involving “educational” technology faux pas, this pattern ensues: Exposé, investigation, judgement, commentary and witch hunt, communiqués, lull. Repeat.

No one would condone the behaviour of the teachers. No one other than criminal lawyers perhaps.

However, the teachers were communicating amongst themselves in private (or at least as private as Slack claims to be). Someone or some party managed to get transcripts of their chat and then leaked them. Is this not an invasion of privacy?

This was not a case of “see something, say something” or something worthy of surveillance. If it was, then teacher chat in WhatsApp, email, or over coffee should be monitored.

In absolute terms, there is nothing truly private if it is expressed in some form. The larger issue is about being savvy. Not being technologically savvy, mind you, because that is not going to stop a persistent and savvier snooper.

No, the issue is whether teachers are socially and ethically savvy as they embrace technology. Using an online tool does not make you invisible or invincible. It does not make you totally anonymous or grant you greater rights.

Being online amplifies who you are, what you say, and what you are perceived to be. This is how professional development (PD) that focuses only on technical savvy and not social savvy misses the point. The teachers who lost their jobs are a perfect case to deconstruct, reconstruct, and reflect on. If we fail to do this sort of PD, we fail our teachers.

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