Saint or sinner?

ve been hearing a lot recently about the need for a code of practice to guide our students in their use of web 2.0 and social media when part of their learning programme. This was a recurrent theme at last week’
s Teaching & Learning Showcase event on ‘Using technologies to engage students in their learning’
, hosted by the Centre for the Development of Teaching & Learning (CDoTL) here at the University of Reading.

Gerry Leonidas at the Teaching & Learning Showcase event on ‘Using technologies to engage students in their learning’, 24 April 2012

Speakers Kat Bicknell, Gerry Leonidas and Simon Burke shared their experiences of students collaborating on group wikis, taking part in a live poll, and using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Yammer – and had a tale or two to tell.

Student feedback on such innovative uses of technology in T & L has been overwhelmingly positive, with active and enthusiastic participation from students in online activities. Yet some of the students’ online behaviour has been suprisingly anti-social and unprofessional, with some students less willing to share, overly critical, immature or downright rude.

Simon Burke, who hosted a debate where students were able to contribute via text message using Poll Everywhere and have their comments displayed live on the presentation screen, shared some of the messages that had to be filtered out by the moderator. With almost 50% of students’
 comments unsuitable for public consumption, he clearly had his work cut out for him.

Our students may be confident users of sites such as Facebook in their social lives but perhaps less sure about appropriate ways of sharing information online when it comes to their learning and professional activities. Many institutions now publish general guidance on ‘netiquette’ – see the Open University’s advice on ‘Working with others online’
 for an example, or our own ‘Expectations surrounding the use of Web 2.0’
 which touch on social conduct as well as ethical and legal considerations.

Published just today, this blog post by Jane Adams on ‘Facebook saints vs. Facebook sinners

’ offers her personal reflections on getting the most out of your interactions with family and friends on social media networks. But many of her points are actually about common sense and good manners. Her rough guide to Facebook habits – general tips and advice on posting basic information, status updates, photos, and ‘likes’ – applies equally to learning experiences and professional environments. A positive presence is as important online as it is in any other sphere of human interaction – it is, in fact, a life skill.

We are collating thoughts from our speakers and others to create draft ideas for a code of practice on the use of digital media – for colleagues to adapt to suit the learning outcomes and needs of their students. If you have any thoughts, suggestions or good examples to share, please post them in the comments box or email Maureen Martin at



This entry was posted in Dissemination, Meetings & Events and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Saint or sinner?

  1. patparslow says:

    The silly nature of comments is not unique to students; I have seen similar behaviours at conferences. When comments are not moderated, the nature of comments seems to settle down to something more suitable – but there is always the risk of people either getting in to a ‘mob mentality’ and continuing to behave badly, or that the comments are sufficiently bad that ‘publishing’ them will cause problems.

    The advice given advising students about the expectations surrounding the use of Web2.0 should be all that is needed. Perhaps making sure that people are made fully aware of this before taking part would help.

    It is always a problem – the best way for people to learn is to get something wrong and to see the consequences, but we don’t really want to be facilitating people leaving a permanent (in terms of contributions on the ‘Net having a very long life time) mark on their digital identity.

    • Nadja Guggi says:

      I agree completely. Inappropriate online behaviour is by no means limited to students – those were just the examples given in the talks at the T&L showcase event. The guidance on our student pages should be enough (and the advice to staff on the IT Services website is virtually identical) and as I said, it seems to me to be mostly about common sense and good manners. There can certainly be an element of hiding behind the medium, but also a lack of awareness of how you come across online. I’m reminded of the two recent cases of people confronting internet trolls – Noel Edmonds and the Guardian’s Grace Dent – and found to their surprise that the bullies who had been harrassing them were actually just a little misguided and lacking in self-awareness, oblivious to the fact that their comments appeared threatening and offensive. But serious cases aside, reflecting on some of the comparatively minor online ‘sins’ (such as, say, posting passive-agressive status updates), we’ve all committed them and I’m as guilty as the next person. Clearly it’s not enough to make sure people are aware of the guidance before they participate although that’s a good start. Moderating comments does seem to keep a lid on things and confronting people with their own behaviour can be helpful too – but we also need some good practice examples.

      • I think that I get more irritated by students texting their friends during lectures than by the sometimes poorly thought through texts that go in to emails and online forums. Good e-etiquette goes beyond the content of messages and needs to cover when and when-not it is appropriate to be digitally engaged vs engaged with reality 🙂

  2. Shirley Williams says:

    This also links to my post above “Online professionalism and Facebook – Falling through the generation gap”.
    We do need to be sure that behaving professionally covers the real and virtual worlds, we shouldn’t be treating them separately.

  3. Maureen Martin says:

    As someone new to social media and its possibilities I found the following link very informative, particularly the sections on ‘the power of networks’ and ‘managing information overload’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *