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Twitter use and Instructor Credibility

This article brings up many questions, and foremost has to do with the constantly changing face of social media.  Any studies that reference social media platforms risk that information to be seen as either invalid or unreliable, since the shelf-life of a particular platform is quite short, supplanted relatively quickly by something else.  Given that the study was published online in 2015, that is already a lifetime ago in social media terms, since the data would have been collected earlier than 2015 as well.  Since this article deals with college students from likely 2013-2014, the use of Twitter may or may not apply to 2019.  That in and of itself would be needed to affirm its reliability.  Another complicating factor is whether this information can be extrapolated to apply to younger students, such as in high school.  In that case, the difference between the relationships forged between a young adult and a college professor and that between an adolescent and a high school or middle school teacher is very wide.

As for social media platforms, in terms of use, I would anecdotally say that at the moment, Instagram is the platform of choice in 2019 of those in their early 20s and younger.  How would this different platform and its use affect college students’ perception of instructor credibility?  What about at the high school level?

In the Results section, it is reported that of student responses to the Open-ended questions, “Improving student-instructor relationships” was a theme that arose in student responses.  This may be more of an indication of the current generation’s preferred mode of communication with everyone, rather than just the instructor.  The follow-up to this may be about Twitter, or other platforms’ affect on everyone’s credibility.  As well, a control group of an equal number of students who talked with their instructors face-to-face might show the same results.

In my practice as a high school teacher, I went through the wave of Facebook mania about 15 years ago.  As facebook gained in popularity, so did the number of students who wanted to be “facebook friends.”  Some of those students were just “collecting” friends to bump up their numbers, which was a status symbol.  Many just wanted to connect in a way that was less teacher-student oriented.  When dealing with minors, this melding of professional and private personas was, and is, fraught with disaster.  The BCTF warns all teachers to be very careful about those kinds of relationships, and as a union rep, I have had to work with teachers who were pushing the boundaries of professional and private interactions online.  As a compromise, I created a facebook account and accepted only students on that account.  As well, I rarely posted or commented, but used the account to acknowledge a student’s desire to reach out, and left it at that.  The flurry of requests died down, and in the last five years, as facebook has lost its shine with the younger students, I have only been sought out a few times.  At the same time, as Instagram’s popularity has increased, a student has created a fan account on me.  I do not have an Instagram account myself, but this is the new way for students to reach out.

So where does that place us at the high school (and lower) level?  I believe that students’ perception of instructor credibility at the high school level looks very different from that at the post-secondary level.  This may require an equivalent study as DeGroot but with high school students as participants to fully know.

2 Comments

  1. Deirdre Houghton

    July 8, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    You have raised some very interesting points in your blog around social media and interactions with students. I agree that a high school student could have a different perception of instructor credibility (being on line), as opposed to a student at the post secondary level. Personally, I am not on Instagram and rarely on Facebook. (The most online communication, other than email, for myself, has been these courses!) As you have indicated in your writing, the BCTF has given very strict guidelines around communication with students/families. I think as professionals its essential we take responsibility for what we post on social media as students look up to teachers as mentors. That being said, if a teacher is comfortable with the material they are posting, and it not inappropriate in any way, than it may also serve as a learning tool or hub for students who view their teachers in a more mature manner. Thank you for your article! Thought provoking.

    • dalesaki

      July 8, 2019 at 10:14 pm

      Thank you for the comment! I think it is important to note that as you mentioned, not only is it the students’ responsibility to be careful about their online presence, as educators we must multiply that by ten! As our world and our jobs include more and more technology, we have to strike a balance with how we use it. At the same time, even though there is a line to not cross, our jobs often put us in a position to be humans too, who care about the students and their well-being. To always stay an arm’s-length away emotionally from the students is to be a robot, and that is not right either. It’s tough!

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