Think Before You Tweet (or Blog or Update a Status) redux

It’s mid-term, and we are tired, and maybe we aren’t doing our best teaching.  Students are tired, and maybe they aren’t doing their best work.  Maybe all of this explains the increasing number of complaints about students in online forums.  The complaints are popping up in all sorts of places online.  Twitter?  Facebook?  Blogs?  The complaints are in all those places.  About six months ago, I wrote Think Before You Tweet (or Blog or Update a Status) about, well, thinking before you post online, and this post garnered many insightful and useful comments from ProfHacker readers.  Maybe it’s time for a refresher.

Here at ProfHacker, we’ve written before about the networking wonders and creative collaborations that can happen via online forums.  We have written extensively about creating an online presence that is positive and professional.  In online interactions, we meet people from different disciplines in various parts of the world, and we connect because we share interests and goals.  With all the good, though, there can be a negative side to online activity.  As positive and as good as online connections can be, it’s important to recognize that whatever we write online is for public consumption, that what we write is a part of our larger online persona, that we are not simply chatting with friends and family when we post.

Unfortunately, fatigue and stress can allow us—as professional educators—to become a little lax in our online practices, particularly when it concerns students.  It’s easy to commiserate with like-minded professionals on Twitter, for example, and complain about the student who is always late to class or a conference, or the one who has plagiarized, or the one who can’t write as we think she should, or the one who always has an excuse why he can’t submit his work on time.  We can be irritated at students’ sometimes immature behavior, or we can sometimes feel responsible for that student’s lack of understanding of course content.  We sometimes take students’ actions personally.  If we work with sometimes hundreds of students each semester, frustration can a part of our job.  Sometimes, those frustrations can bubble to the surface and they erupt on social networking sites.

We might think we are writing to a group of our closest online friends who will understand the context of our complaints , but it’s impossible to know—with any certainty—who might be reading those online words.  But our actual audience could include those very students we criticize.

How about you? Do you believe it is acceptable for professors to voice frustrations with students or student work in an online forum? If so, why so?  If not, why not?  Is there a context or a social networking space that is more conducive to these comments?  Please leave your comments or suggestions below.

[Image by Flickr user boetter and used under the Creative Commons license.]

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