Monday, August 29, 2011

Teachers, Social Media, and the Constitution

Today, the School Law Blog reported the following:

A state judge has issued an injunction blocking a Missouri law that would have barred teachers from communicating with students over websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

...The teachers' union filed a lawsuit challenging the social-networking prohibition, which was passed this year as part of a larger bill designed to protect children from sexual abuse in schools.

...Judge Beetem found that social networking is used "extensively" by educators, and the Missouri measure could even bar communications between teachers and their own children. The injunction says that teachers who engage in social networking with students may not be disciplined, even if the court order is later overturned.

The Associated Press reports here that another union, the Missouri National Education Association, has been trying to work with legislators to revise the law, but that any such changes are not likely before the Missouri legislature's next regular session in January.

Having students on one's facebook friends list, even after they have graduated, can lead to problems, if one uses Facebook to publicly express personal opinions, as Florida Teacher of the Year Jerry Buell recently discovered.

Some teachers use social media to communicate with students and parents about classroom issues (a practice with which I am not personally comfortable). Others use it to keep in touch with those former students who wish to do so.

So how should teachers handle this issue? The Blue Skunk Blog has a handy list of guidelines:

  • Do not accept students as friends on personal social networking sites. Decline any student-initiated friend requests.
  • Do not initiate friendships with students
  • Remember that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.
  • Post only what you want the world to see. Imagine your students, their parents, your administrator, visiting your site. It is not like posting something to your web site or blog and then realizing that a story or photo should be taken down. On a social networking site, basically once you post something it may be available, even after it is removed from the site.
  • Do not discuss students or coworkers or publicly criticize school policies or personnel. (My Note: this goes for non-anonymous blogs, too, as Natalie Munroe found out.)
  • Visit your profile’s security and privacy settings. At a minimum, educators should have all privacy settings set to “only friends”. “Friends of friends” and “Networks and Friends” open your content to a large group of unknown people. Your privacy and that of your family may be a risk.

(Read the complete Networking Guidelines for Teachers)

If you feel you must "friend" former students and colleagues, on Facebook, use the customized privacy settings to restrict their access to your wall posts.

So, while the constitution protects the personal freedom of educators using social media, it's in our own interests to exercise a little common sense and professional decorum.

This Month's Soylent Green Moment

Brought to you by China:

A South Korea investigative news team has produced a documentary reporting that the largest hospital in China is selling human fetuses, placentas, and whole corpses of dead babies to a dietary supplement manufacturer for use in its line of stamina-increasing pills. Witness the following statement taken from a story in the English language China Daily:
The Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that it has launched an investigation in the wake of a media report in South Korea about capsules from China — made from the flesh of dead babies — being used as stamina boosters.
 The story in the China Daily goes on to say that
The "tonic" capsules are mainly sent to South Korea through members of the Korean ethnic group in China.
The ethnic group mainly inhabits Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces.
It was not reported which hospital or city in China the team visited.
Phone calls to Customs in Jilin went unanswered on Tuesday.
The details of the claims made by the South Korean news organization, SBS TV, were provided on the technology news website, Gizmodo. In that piece, it was reported that SBS TV had conducted an undercover investigation into rumors that Chinese supplement companies were making pills out of dead babies purchased from China’s largest medical center. According to the findings released by SBS TV, the pills in question contained “99.7% human stuff.”
As if the story weren’t shocking enough, the documentary goes on to reveal that much of the “material” comes from stillborn births and abortion clinics whose administration employs a “microwave drying process” to manufacture the pill-ready substance.


Ruler tip to: Live Action

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Holy Sonnet X

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so ;
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy picture[s] be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke ;  why swell'st thou then ?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more ;  Death, thou shalt die. 

--John Donne 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gladiators Clash at the Colosseum

The MSNBC reports that violent turf wars have begun between groups of gladiator impersonators in Rome, leading to an undercover sting operation, arrests, and even---swordfights?

One of the more amusing photos from the arrests is one of a costumed gladiator in a headlock, courtesy of an officer in plain clothes.

If you have been to Rome, you've probably seen these guys hanging about outside the Colosseum, charging tourists absurd amounts of money to pose for pictures. 

(Photo Source)

According to the reports, they've been fighting over the most lucrative spots and even intimidating customers. The Telegraph says:
Authorities said the replica gladiators and Roman legionaries came from seven families who jealously guarded their turf, seeing off rivals with verbal threats and, if necessary, physical intimidation.

The undercover operation was launched after police received complaints from bona fide tourist operators about the "gladiators'" abusive behaviour.

Also covering this story:
The Guardian
Fox News

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Habit of Perfection

Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Images from the Vatican Observatory

The Horsehead Nebula

Planetary Nebula M27, the Dumbbell Nebula; image by Matt Nelson, taken at the VATT

Head over to the Vatican Observatory website to see more.

Ruler tip: Alive and Young