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Does this come with an off switch?

During my last visit to sunny Hampshire in 2016 I spoke about some of the key issues from 'the Elephant in the Staffroom' which was published a couple of weeks afterwards. In particular we discussed the importance of having clear boundaries: you may have read my #50isplenty blog. If I were writing now I might say more about setting digital boundaries. This is something that is getting worse for teachers and students. There are a number of dilemmas that present themselves.

  • Should I have my work emails on my phone?

  • Do we need a protocol on when emails are sent?

  • Should I sign up to the staffroom WhatsApp group?

  • Should I have to use my own mobile phone for 2 factor authentication on school pcs?

  • Is it helpful to have posts from Facebook subject groups alongside friends holiday photos?

Each of these things may be harmless in themselves but they threaten to blur the boundaries that we need to set in order to avoid our job taking over all our waking hours. As well as the issue of boundaries the digital world takes at least part of our attention; each ping is an interruption from what we are currently doing. Just as we settle down on the sofa with our significant other - a message flashes up and our mind is temporarily elsewhere.

So it's about boundaries and focus - can I teach properly if my emails are open? What am I currently working on and would it be done quicker if my mind wasn't divided? It's also about example - would I be happy for a student to be sending/receiving messages in class? If they email a question at 8pm what do they learn if we answer instantly? How do we model good digital wellbeing to our students?

When we try to resolve these issues and set boundaries, we find that staff can become very tribal: the 'only communicate in office hours' camp vs the 'right to email when I want' brigade. Can these two groups ever see eye to eye? I have a few thoughts - but I don't have all the answers - and look forward to continuing the conversation about this new and digital Elephant

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