They can just use a computer on campus.

This is a common response when I bring up the challenges of using technology in my courses. I teach a blended biology class, where students have an online lesson one day each week. Often a student’s computer is their cell phone. I challenge any educator to complete an online class using only a tiny cell phone screen! Technology would benefit my literacy math class, but the digital divide is even more prevalent with this group of students. A ‘digital divide’ is unequal access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) due to geography, socioeconomic status or knowledge (Wikipedia, 2014).

According to the Canadian Federation of Students (British Columbia) (CFSBC) (2013), the proportion of aboriginal students in ABE is higher (at 12%) than in traditional K-12 systems. This student population identifies as visual or graphic learners and ICT can support this method of learning (Thiessen & Looker, 2010). However, 71% of ABE students live on an annual income below the poverty line, even though half are employed full-time (CFSBC, 2013) and only 58% of households with incomes $30 000 or less have access to the internet (Statistics Canada, 2012). Students believe they learn more using computers than from reading books or watching TV (Thiessen & Looker, 2010), but without access at home they are required to remain on campus outside class time. Since 29% of ABE students support a family while attending school (10% as single parents) (CFSBC, 2013), class time may be the only time they have in the day. I see the value in using technology in my classroom, but I still struggle with how to create an equal learning experience for all my students. Seeing the statistics has made me realize how challenging this may be.



Canadian Federation of Students (British Columbia). (2013). Adult Basic Education: A gateway to post-secondary success (Fact Sheet). Retrieved from

Thiessen, V. & Looker, E.D. (2010). Chapter 3. Bridging and bonding social capital: Computer and Internet use among youth in relation to their cultural identities. In E. DianneLooker & T.D. Naylor (Eds.), Digital Diversity (pp. 59-86). Retrieved from

Statistics Canada. (2013). Canadian Internet Use Survey, 2012

Wikipedia. (2014). Digital divide.

15. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Blog · Tags: ,

In British Columbia, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) protects our privacy rights. At Vancouver Island University (VIU), faculty are encouraged to participate in training sessions to help them understand how to apply FIPPA rules when using social media, especially in regard to students and their personal information (Hengstler, 2013a). ‘Personal information’ is “recorded information about an identifiable individual other than contact information” (Cooper, Southwell & Portal, 2011, p. 3). If an instructor requires a student to use personal information as part of a class project or assignment, the student must be given written notice at the beginning of the project or course. This notice outlines the purpose of the project, what technology will be used, what personal information may be necessary and the potential uses of the information (Cooper, Southwell & Portal, 2011). Informed consent, typically requested and provided in written form, secures the student’s permission for use of personal information as described in the written notice (Hengstler, 2013b).

Hengstler (2014) describes a continuum of 6 FIPPA compliance positions for educators (Figure 1). After reading about privacy boundaries and social media, learning more about FIPPA and my role as an educator, I fear that I may be at the ‘avoidance’ or ‘ignorance’ end of the continuum.

compliance continuum

Figure 1. The Compliance Continuum (Hengstler, 2014).

Educators are responsible for the emotional and physical safety of students (Teacher Regulation Branch, 2013). Protecting my students’ personal privacy online to the best of my abilities requires work on my part to move myself from ‘ignorance’ to ‘full compliance’.   It is not enough to simply understand how to use technology; it is critical to understand social media privacy boundaries.



Cooper, S., Southwell, & Portal, P. (2011). Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses. Vancouver Island University & BC Campus. Retrieved from

Hengstler, J. (2013a, May 17). A K-12 Primer for British Columbia Teachers Posting Students’ Work Online [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Hengstler, J. (2013b). A K-12 Primer for British Columbia Teachers Posting Students’ Work Online. Retrieved from

Hengstler, J. (2014). The Compliance Continuum: FIPPA & BC Public Educators’ Use of Social Media & the Cloud. Vancouver Island University. Retrieved from

Teacher Regulation Branch, British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2013). Standards for education, competence, and professional conduct of educators in BC.

The world’s population is becoming increasingly connected digitally, with more and more users sharing content with others in their social networks (Wikipedia, 2014). But what happens when content that seemed funny or appropriate at the time reappears later in life and affects someone in a negative way? Digital footprints, the aggregation of all your digital activities in all the digital environments you navigate (Hengstler, 2012), are permanent. There are no ‘do-overs’ or ‘take-backs’ in a digital world. Unlike a game of telephone, where the message is passed on but stays within the confines of the group that is playing, messages that are sent into a digital environment can be rapidly copied and passed on to many others outside of the original network. A digital footprint is created through a combination of voluntary posting of content (e.g., blogs, photos), passive collection of data (e.g., cookies or browser history) and second-hand data, where your data has been deliberately shared to others beyond what you intended (Hengstler, 2011).

As an educator, I am held to a high standard of behaviour, both on and off duty (Teacher Regulation Branch, British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2013). While I do maintain a FaceBook profile, I am extremely aware that what I post is no longer under my control once it enters the digital world. This knowledge has prevented me on many occasions to refrain from contributing to a conversation with my social groups. As pointed out by Hengstler (2010), those of us entering the digital environment in our 30’s and 40’s had entered mature adulthood and were capable of making mature, rational decisions regarding posting content. As an educator I am expected to lead by example. It is my responsibility to help my students, regardless of age, understand how to manage their digital footprint.


Hengstler, J. (2010). “Fleas in a bottle? Will social networking stymie personal development of youth?” Blog post on

Hengstler, J. (2011). Managing your digital footprint: Ostriches v. Eagles. In S. Hirtz & K. Kelly (Eds.), Education for a Digital World 2.0 (2nd ed.) (Vol. 1, Part One: Emerging technologies and practices). Open School/Crown Publications: Queen’s Printer for British Columbia, Canada.

Hengstler, J. (April 2012). “Digital professionalism and digital footprints”. Document prepared for training session with Vancouver Island University’s Administrative Assistants, April 2012. Social Media Digital Footprints 2013_v3.pdf

Teacher Regulation Branch, British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2013). Standards for education, competence, and professional conduct of educators in BC.

Wikipedia. (2014). Social networking service. Retrieved from

I have limited experience and understanding of social media, mainly interacting with small communities on Facebook, but avoiding more global connections through platforms such as Twitter. I have not seen the value of social media as an educational tool. However, after reading through 506 D2L content and visiting some of the external readings, I have expanded my understanding of social media. I was particularly drawn to a description of social media presented by Ahlqvist, Bäck, Halonen, and Heinonen (2008), who describe social media as an interaction of content, communities and networks and Web 2.0 (Figure 1).

social media triangleFigure 1. Social media triangle.

My participation in social media has been mainly through text. However, I now realize that user-generated content in social media includes not only text (e.g. opinions or blog posts), but also images (e.g., photos or art), audio (e.g., user-created music or podcasts) or video (e.g., vlogs) (Rapid Learning Life, 2010). Content on its own is very static, and as Ahlqvist et al. (2008) point out, the ‘social’ part of social media implies interacting with others that share a common interest, and this is the purpose of a community or network. A community of like-minded individuals can interact and share content if they have access to each other through Web 2.0 tools designed to foster these relationships. Social networks are often web-based and allow users to create connections with others and share content across these connections (Wikipedia, 2014). Without the technology available via Web 2.0 (e.g. networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter), people and content could not meet to the same extent, sharing, exchanging and commenting in virtual communities (Ahlqvist et al., 2008). As I learn more about using social media in the classroom, I need to consider the tools my students might use, the content they will share or create and what types of communities they might become part of.


Ahlqvist, T., Bäck, A., Halonen, M., and Heinonen, S. (2008). Social Media Roadmaps: Exploring the futures triggered by social media. (VTT Tiedotteita – Research Notes 2454). Retrieved from Digital Agenda for Europe website

Rapid Learning Life. (2010, July 31). What is Social Media? In Simple English. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2014). Social networking service. Retrieved from