Documentation:Digital Tattoo Questionable Comments

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During the summer of 2017, the Digital Tattoo project team is collaborating with students and others on the development of case study scenarios for use in seminars in teacher education programs.

Learning Outcomes

Workshop participants have the opportunity to:

  • build their confidence for decision-making about posting and sharing content online.
  • practice using guidelines and resources to support decision-making.
  • reflect on and discuss the multiple perspectives at play in each scenario and the implications for themselves as beginning teachers.


When used appropriately, social media can be a source of connection and community for teachers.

Table Discussion

In groups of 3-4:

1. Read the case study and consider your response to the personal reflection question as you read.

2. Discuss each question below with your group, using the resources to support your responses.

3. Take notes on your discussion to share when the large group reconvenes.

Personal Reflection

While reading the case study, consider your personal response to the following question:

How would I respond to seeing a fellow teacher or teacher candidate make inappropriate comments through social media?

Case Study

someone texting - hand on a cell phone

Before beginning their practicums, a group of teacher candidates who were placed in the same school to teach created a Discord server so that they could share resources, discuss their experiences, and plan where possible to connect after school hours. Because they were all trying to monitor their use of social media in order to avoid breaching any policies, they decided to communicate through Discord, as opposed to posting on any public profiles. Recognizing that they could help one another succeed by monitoring their social media interactions, all of the teacher candidates agreed not to send messages about each other or share any photos without asking for permission, especially if they involve drinking alcohol or wearing revealing clothing that they would not wear while teaching.

When they began their practicums, the Discord server was primarily used to share resources and suggestions for their teaching, and to connect and chat. As the practicum progressed, however, the teacher candidates became more stressed because of their workloads and frustrated by some of their experiences, and this became evident in their conversations. Common experiences included disruptions and disrespect from students, difficult interactions with school advisors, and administrators that teacher candidates did not enjoy working with, and some members of the group began using the Discord server as a way to vent about these situations and let off steam. One particular teacher candidate, Mark, finds his ninth grade science class to be consistently unmotivated and difficult to manage and he feels unfairly scrutinized by his school advisor for his inability to maintain control of the class at times. He feels that her criticisms are unearned, especially because she often leaves the classroom for long periods of time during his lessons and is not there to help him find better ways to manage the students when they will not complete their schoolwork. Mark has started expressing his frustration to his fellow teacher candidates through their texts and Discord conversations, making comments like “I hope these kids enjoy their jobs at McDonald's--they’ll be working there forever at this rate” and “Seriously, if this woman is in charge of evaluating me, SHE SHOULD STAY IN THE ROOM WHILE I TEACH!” One day, while his students are working on an assignment, and while he is grading their most recent tests, he takes photos of some of his students’ wrong answers and later sends them to the group message, saying “These kids are such idiots sometimes. Maybe if they tried paying attention in class they wouldn’t give answers like these on tests!”

Li Jing, another teacher candidate in the group, understands his frustration about the difficulties of managing students in the classroom and getting support from other teachers; however, she also feels that the comments he makes are inappropriate—even if the students and other teachers can’t see them—and that they might represent professional misconduct for a certified teacher. Because she is a part of the group, Li Jing is worried that not saying or doing anything about Mark's posts could suggest that she agrees with the things he says and encourage him to continue sending these kinds of messages. At the same time, she considers Mark a friend and she recognizes the need for teacher candidates to protect one another. She does not want to upset her fellow teacher candidates, especially Mark, by sharing the Discord group discussions  with their practicum advisor or the Teacher Education Office, but she is also not comfortable ignoring them, especially if her name is associated with the group messages.

Note: Discord is a chat and video app that has recently grown in popularity. Discord is separated into servers (groups) which discuss different topics, the vast majority of which are “private, invite-only servers”. People are often anonymous on Discord, as users are not required to show personal information publicly on the platform. Users create usernames, which they can make as private or similar to their own names as they like.

Discussion Questions

1. Are Mark's messages on the Discord server a violation of social media policies and/or the Teacher Education Office’s practicum guidelines? Can comments like these be grounds for discipline? Who could be impacted by Mark's messages?

Consider these resources as you answer:

  • Read guidelines 1 through 4.4.

2. What would you do in Li Jing's situation? Is it reasonable for her to consider sharing the messages she deems inappropriate? What should she consider when making a decision?

Consider these resources as you answer:

  • Read "Background and Facts" on pages 1-2.

3. To what extent can teachers expect privacy when communicating digitally? What should teachers consider before sending messages to colleagues through social media?

Consider these resources as you answer:

  • Read the "Why Be Concerned?" and "Guidelines and Advice" sections.
  • Read "Minimizing the Risk: Advice to Members" on pages 6-7.
  • Read "The Inappropriate E-mail Incident" on page 10.

4. What are the benefits of communicating with other teachers and teacher candidates through social media? How would you use social media to connect with colleagues and how would you ensure that it is used effectively and appropriately?

Consider these resources as you answer:

Additional Resources

If time allows, explore these additional resources:

  • Read "Professional Conduct Advisory: Professional Boundaries and Social Media” on page 14.

Sharing Permissions

Some rights reserved
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document according to the terms in Creative Commons License, Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0. The full text of this license may be found here: CC by-sa 4.0

When re-using this resource, please attribute as follows: developed by the University of British Columbia: Digital Tattoo – Case Studies Project Team.


What questions did this case study raise for you from your perspective? Please share in the comment box below.