Teachers Liable for Student's Online Work?

#edtech #edchat #elearning #elemchat Are teachers liable for the work that students post online as part of a class project?

The other day I got a tweat from a colleague asking me if teachers are liable for the online work that students do? She had overheard a teacher union rep tell a teacher, "Never allow your students to put things online -- because you can be held liable for it."

There went the baby and the bath water.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about things that students do online that are not connected to school. Things like Facebook and such that are not part of school work and have no connection to the teacher are not relevant for what we are talking about here. What I am talking about is student's online work that is part of a classroom project.

Here is an example...

Let's say you start an 8th grade classroom blog about the Civil War. You have each student start their own blog account with, let's say Blogger, and then you start each student blogging about the Civil War as you give them weekly assignments. Soon your students are having a great time blogging and commenting on each other's blogs and you feel like a great teacher -- giving your students 21st Century Skills.  A few weeks into the project you are asked to come to the principal's office to meet with some angry parents who have just found out that their daughter has been cyberbullied by students in your class with posts that they have made on their blogs, their Civil War blogs. Or should I say -- your Civil War blogs. They threaten to sue the school and you.

What do you do?

Does that mean we should never allow online classroom projects?

Here is what I think about it...

I think of student using the Internet like students using power tools, let me explain.

  1. Get Parent Permissions: I would never allow students to use dangerous power tools without getting their parent's permission. So do the same with online projects. Send home a parent permission slip explaining the project and the risks that are involved. Invite the parents to be involved with online projects.
  2. Educate the Students: Don't let a student use a table saw without explaining how it works and the safety rules. Train your students how to properly do work online, teach them about Internet Safety and how to be good digital citizens. Teach them about the rules -- spell them out for them so they clearly understand. The school I teach at has a very clear policy on cyberbulling and my kids know it.
  3. Monitor Student Work: Watching students with power tools, keep them following the rules. Make sure to check in on what your students are doing online. Comment on their blogs, let them know you are watching and taking care of them online -- just like if they were on a field trip. Don't allow them to wander off and do other things, keep them close and focused on the project.

This is just simple "due diligence" on the part of the teacher when it comes to online classroom projects, this will keep you and your school out of a lot of how water. And most importantly, it can save a student from getting hurt online.

What do you think?



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