Safe and ethical practices when teaching online (OneChannel QCT Webinar)

These are notes from the QCT Webinar on Safe and Ethical Practices when Teaching Online. The presentation was made by @Anna (Anna Kinnane, QCT) and Beth Houston (QCT) but all notes are my own (I am an independent academic, not a member of QCT):

  • You can download the whole recording of the seminar

  • The theme speaks to APST 4.5 which is Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically where the details are: “Incorporate strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching” (proficient level)

  • More details about safe and ethical practices can be found in Professional Boundaries: A Guideline (document by QCT and a webinar all about it)

Four questions to ask when wondering if a practice is safe and ethical:

  1. Is it necessary?
  2. Is it legitimate?
  3. Is it of educational relevance?
  4. Are there alternative means?

Scenarion One to Consider:

In relation to this scenario:

What are the negative consequences for the student and student’s family?

  • Teacher should be referring Bob to professional support (by not doing this student is missing out)
  • Bob has to deal with perception of favouritism from peers
  • Bob might come to expect this kind of treatment (which is unrealistic: teachers are not available outside school hours; or for personal relationships)
  • Bob may develop a special attachment to Mr Corvey and depend on him for emotional support
  • By talking directly to Bob the parents are not involved, and they miss out on potentially being collaborators
  • This is a breach of the parent’s trust

What are the negative consequences for the teacher?

  • By giving out his phone number Mr Corvey is most likely in breach of employer policies (code of conduct)
  • His number might now be shared among other students leading to more interactions
  • Bob can now contact Mr Corvey any time, even after requirement for learning ends. Mr Corvey now needs to deal with this.
  • Mr Corvey will need to deal with claims of special treatment
  • A risky situation that might lead to sharing of personal information–Mr Corvey is exposed in many ways
  • There is no record of what was said in these phone calls–if this situation was reported, the investigation would come down to Bob’s word against Mr Corvey’s.
  • There are past instances of these kind of situations becoming sexualised–what may have begun as an innocent attempt to help a student can be seen as “grooming”

What are the negative consequences for the school and teaching profession?

  • There is a lot of media attention on teacher-student relationships
  • This could result in stories that are damaging to the profession

Scenario 2 to consider

What are the negative consequences for the student and student’s family?

  • Peter’s parents aren’t aware of the video chat and the circumstances surrounding it
  • Many issues are the same as Scenario 1
  • Normalisation of unacceptable behaviour
  • Perception of favoritism
  • Student becoming confused about role’s
  • Potential behavioural issues for Peter
  • Potential attachment and emotional dependency
  • This is not educational any more–in this situation Peter should have been referred to the school counsellor
  • A coordinated approach between school and parents would be far more appropriate. Peter may receive more harm through this action than if Ms Samson had done nothing.
  • Peter’s parents’ trust in Ms Samson has been breached

What are the negative consequences for the teacher?

  • Other students might feel excluded and this may lead to behavioural problems
  • Risk of severe professional boundary breach–this is not a legitimate part of Ms Samson’s role as a teacher
  • Risk of breach of code of conduct
  • Can be perceived as a first step on a path to more serious breach of conduct (grooming)

What are the negative consequences for the school and teaching profession?

  • The media will report on this, detracting from the profession
  • Changes community perception
  • Any problems around the switch to learning from home (and potential for misuse) will be targeted by the media
  • Can damage school’s reputation and morale
  • Can create professional challenges between staff within the school

Further advice on Guidelines for Safe Social Media Use from a Rachel Drew, a lawyer, specifically about Queensland.

Live video tips published by the QCT recently in their eNews:

(Please do just hit reply and ask any questions to continue the conversation. Representatives from the QCT are in here and can help you with an official response)

Question from teacher: Are there circumstances where a teacher-student video conference might be permitted, such as if parents are nearby?

Answer (my interpretation, not official): It’s different in different contexts. There is no universal answers. Sometimes a video lesson is appropriate. If in doubt then you should take steps to protect yourself. Think about it objectively, think about what you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Talk to other colleagues if in doubt, talk to your supervisor for further support and assistance.

Question from teacher: I have a student who cannot get access to youtube with the school-hired device. His parent asks if I can download the video for his child. Is it illegal to download youtube videos and/or convert the videos into mp4?

Answer (my interpretation, not official): You should talk to your employer to have the conversation about what exactly is being downloaded and whether there might be alternative means to get that content to students. (It may be possible to embed YouTube in OneNote as a possible workaround in some contexts…)

Question from teacher: What are the legalities of students recording Zoom lessons?

Answer (my interpretation, not official): It’s complicated. Probably talk to your employer. One consideration is that everybody who is in a zoom session needs to give their permission to be recorded (so probably not appropriate).

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A link to the recording of the webinar is at: