Social Media is defined as an Internet-based community where members post information and media pertaining to themselves and have the opportunity to find and interact with other members, particularly those with shared real-life interests or experiences.
Social media and electronic communication encompass software, applications, including those running on mobile devices, e-mail and websites, which enable users to interact, create and exchange information online. Examples include, but are not limited to, sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, Picasa and MySpace.
Social media is becoming increasingly popular with people of all ages and, in some cases, has become a virtual meeting place for school personnel and students. Maintaining professional boundaries in all forms of communication, technology-related or not, is vital to maintaining appropriate professional relationships with students, parents/guardians and other stakeholders.
The faculty of Town Centre Private High School (“TCPHS”) use social media to create professional interactive virtual communities for students and the school’s wider community. Social media enable connectivity in the school’s community as parents/guardians, students and other stakeholders benefit from access to assignments and school updates or can engage with educational connections outside the classroom. Media literate educators at TCPHS guide students to embrace digital citizenship by productively utilizing the tools of a growing social media landscape to enhance their education.
All staff are aware that the educational use of social media and electronic communication requires cautious and professional use by everyone. TCPHS employees are governed by the school’s Acceptable Use of Technology Policy requiring respectful and responsible conduct.
Every staff member must know and maintain proper professional boundaries with students, even when students initiate electronic interaction. Staff members are prohibited to connect to student’s personal sites and can only engage in communication in the school’s established curriculum and social media venues. It is up to TCPHS staff members to know and respect proper professional boundaries with students, even when students initiate electronic interaction.
At all times school staff must use such social media tools in ways that are consistent with the mission and vision of the school and that comply with the Ontario College of Teachers’ professional advisory entitled “Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media”, approved on February 23, 2011.
There is a distinction between the professional and private life of a TCPHS staff member. Staff members are individuals with private lives, however, off-duty conduct matters. Sound judgment and due care should be exercised. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that teacher’s off-duty conduct, even when not related to students, is relevant to their suitability to teach. School staff should maintain a sense of professionalism at all times – in their personal and professional lives. Avoiding improper activities of an unethical or illegal nature are paramount in maintaining a comfortable, safe and inclusive environment for everyone in the TCPHS community.
2TCPHS staff should adhere to the following guidelines when using online social media applications that may be frequented by current or former students of the school or their families:
· As a digital citizen, teachers will model the behaviour they expect to see online from their students.
· Alert students to appropriate online behaviour and the proper use of comments and images.
· School staff will maintain their professional persona by communicating with students electronically at appropriate times of the day and through established education platforms (i.e., a web page dedicated to a school program, project or class).
· Maintain a formal, courteous and professional tone in all communications with students to ensure that professional boundaries with students are maintained.
· Avoid exchanging private texts, phone numbers, personal e-mail addresses or photos of a personal nature with students.
· Decline student-initiated “friend” requests and do not issue “friend” requests to students.
· Decline parent-initiated “friend” requests and do not issue “friend” requests to a parent.
· Social network “friend” requests may be accepted only with alumnae over the age of 18.
· School staff will set and maintain strict privacy settings by choosing settings that limit what others can do. Blanket invitations that use e-mail contacts automatically should be avoided. Students should not be among those who are allowed to post on a staff member’s personal social media location but are welcome to publish through school sanctioned sites.
· TCPHS staff will assume that information that they post can be accessed or altered.
· School staff will monitor regularly all content that they or others post to their social media accounts and remove anything that is inappropriate.
· TCPHS staff will ask others to remove any undesirable content related to them.
· School staff will recognize that many former students have online connections with current students, and that information shared between such staff and former students is likely to be seen by current students as well.
· Respect the privacy and confidentiality of information pertaining to students, parents, staff and other members of the TCPHS community. Postings in personal blogs or websites will not reveal confidential information about any member of the school community. This includes personal information, photographs or videos of students or staff, financial information, school plans, marketing materials or school development information.
· School staff will consider whether any posting may reflect poorly on them, the school or the teaching profession. Social media sites should will not be used to attack, threaten or intimidate colleagues. Staff members will respect the privacy and feelings of others.
· Be transparent and authentic. TCPHS staff will use their professional identity at all times. Staff who use social media for school purposes must do so using their own name or the name of the course, not a pseudonym or nickname.
· Do not post online criticism about students, colleagues, the school or others within the school community, including impulsive, inappropriate or heated comments.
· Ensure that comments do not incite others to make discriminatory, harassing or other professionally unacceptable comments. School staff will actively monitor their site, threads and blogs for inappropriate responses and, if necessary, follow up through established reporting protocols.
· TCPHS staff are aware of and will comply with the school’s Acceptable Use of Technology Policy and other policies regarding the use of social media/ecommunications and the appropriate use of electronic equipment.
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