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Social networking scenarios

As some of you may know, I love using scenarios to generate discussion about ethical use issues involving technology. (See ethics resources and fair use scenarios.

Jen Hegna from Byron MN and I will be doing a breakout session on the appropriate use of social and educational networking sites at our state conference coming up in a couple weeks. Some scenarios to start a discussion are in order.

For each of the situations below,

  1. Discuss the possible ethical issues of the situation.
  2. Determine if the safety or well-being of anyone is at stake.
  3. What advice, strategy or policy would you recommend to individuals or schools based on this scenario.
  4. Share any real-life incidents related to the scenario.

Social Networking Scenario 1: Mr. Blake and Jennifer
High school social studies teacher Mr. Blake has been adding students as friends to his Facebook page, using the forum to answer questions and guiding classroom related discussions. Lately some students have begun asking personal questions about relationships and life choices. Jennifer's mother, who monitors Jennifer's Facebook page, feels uncomfortable about this and brings it to the attention of the principal.

Social Networking Scenario 2: Ms Olson's Camping Trip
Sixth grade teacher Ms Olson posted pictures of the camping trip she and her husband took to the Boundry Waters last summer on her Facebook page. In one of the photos, she is smoking what looks suspiciously like a marijuana cigarette. One of her students finds the photos and shows her friends.

Social Networking Scenario 3: Juan and Philip trade insults
The HHH Middle School is using GoogleDocs as a writing tool and as a means to do peer reviewing. Juan and Philip have used the platform to exchange messages that involve name calling and racial slurs. Philp's parents object when his account is suspended for two weeks, beleiving it will hurt is academic progress.

Social Networking Scenario 4: The social networking ban
After hearing a presentation at a conference, high school principal Miller has banned all "Web 2.0" tools including Facebook, Skype, YouTube, wikis, blogs and Flickr. A number of teachers and many students are upset with this decision but Mr. Miller cites CIPA as a legal reason for blocking the sites.

Social Networking Scenario 5: The blog about blobs
PE teacher Teng has created a widely read blog about teaching elementary physical education and health. In one post, he describes (but does not name) several students and teachers he sees as having poor eating habits that contribute to then having an unhealthy BMI score. One teacher thinks he is writing about her and brings the post to the attention of the principal.

Happy to hear suggestions for other "social networking" scenarios worthy of discussion.

See Carl Anderson's scenarios too.

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Reader Comments (4)

Scenario 6:

Mr. Smith has created a class profile on a social networking site to use with his students. Through use of the site he posts announcements, celebrates student achievements, and builds a respectful relationships with his students and gets to know them in a way no other adult does. One day Mr. Smith finds an update posted by one of his students saying that they are fed up with the world, have given up hope, and can't see any reason to live. Mr. Smith then calls the kid's home, dad goes to check on him and finds him in the middle of a suicide attempt. The student is then given proper help to deal with their problems.

Scenario 7:

Principal Janet bans all forms of web 2.0 and social media for the reasons described in scenario 4. Having put up an ironclad wall between the business of the school and what goes on online feels as if she has washed her hands of any responsibility in that space. Her walls prevent access to these tools for students, teachers, and herself. Having successfully blinded herself from seeing what happens on the other side of her firewall she becomes woefully unaware that embarrassing videos of her and her teachers that have been doctored by the students have gone viral and have caused irreparable harm to both the school and the professional image of it's employees.

Scenario 8:

School X imposes a zero-tolerance policy on the use of social networking and doesn't allow it's use by teachers or students at school. Students at this school all have Facebook and Myspace profiles that they keep and use to network with each other at home. Their use of these sites, for many of their students, has no guidance from parents at home. As such many post messages, pictures, and video of themselves doing things they would later regret. Unchecked and unseen by adults at school things spiral out of control in their social network. A few years later, as the use of these tools becomes more important to the operation of the world for commerce, communication, and information these students' profiles stick with them as they apply for jobs and colleges who, as a part of the application process, now review these sites to learn more about their applicants. Consequently, the school's college acceptance rate drops and many find it difficult to find work.

Scenario 9:

A school is sued for negligence after a teenage girl commits suicide after being cyber-bullied on a social networking site the school blocks. The school also has a no cellphone policy but many students carry cellphones anyway (most because their parents want to be able to reach them in case of an emergency) but do a very good job of hiding their phones from their teachers. One girl takes a picture of the other girl in the locker room at school then uploads the picture to their social networking profile. The picture, taken at school, then spreads quickly among students on that social network. Having chosen not to pay attention to the social activity students were engaging in online the school had no idea how much this girl was being harassed by her classmates. The school is found guilty for negligence for not knowing their students well enough to recognize this harassment intervening.

Scenario 10:

School Z allows the use of social networking and web 2.0 tools but none of the teachers actively promote or necessarily do anything in their classrooms with it. However, they do allow students to access these tools on school computers and staff are encouraged to learn from their students about the websites they visit and what they do on them. Conversations about online behavior and activity are common between students and staff. One day an expensive piece of equipment is stolen from the school. Police are called but the thief left little evidence and the case is considered a dead end. One day a teacher notices on a picture on the screen of one of their students what appears to be the stolen equipment in one of their friend's uploaded photos. The equipment is found and returned, the student is disciplined for their action and the situation becomes a teachable moment for the school, its teachers, and students.

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Anderson

I will be starting a unit on this exact topic next week - thank you for reading my mind and giving me additional topics for discussion.
Although I can guess what kind of answers the students I have will give me (whatever they think I want to hear) there is a chance that some will actually think about the scenarios and give me honest, true and maybe slightly questionable answers.

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

These scenarios strike me as alarmist and aberrant. They have great potential to send the conversation down the rabbit hole with a negative slant. I like Carl's suggestions. They start the conversation on a positive note.

September 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Montagne

Hi Carl,

I really appreciate your scenarios and the POV from which they originate. Unfortunately, these are not the conversations I am hearing (but perhaps should be).

Here's what I'd like to do with your permission - take your scenarios and make them a regular entry on the blog. I know they served as a wake-up call for me and I think they deserve broader readership.

Thanks for considering this,


Hi Kenn,

Great - let me know how the kids react!


Hi Matt,

I based my scenarios about what I am hearing in the general education community, but I agree that Carl's take is more positive and will work out a way to share his scenarios more broadly as well.


September 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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