In the face of this global pandemic, many of you are navigating new challenges and adapting to professional changes. For example, RECEs working in kindergarten are navigating the new world of online learning. Many of you are finding creative ways to develop and maintain relationships with children, families and colleagues using digital media platforms.
RECEs in a number of areas in the sector are also working remotely to support children and families online. “Today, I’m supporting families virtually, whether it’s over the phone or via a service called OTN (Ontario Telemedicine Network),” says Tasha Palmer, an RECE and centre supervisor. “We’re trying to maintain any meetings booked prior to the crisis with children and families.”
RECEs understand that strong, positive relationships are necessary for children’s well-being and learning. Building and maintaining caring and responsive relationships with children, families and colleagues is fundamental to the practice of RECEs (Standard I). But lately, routines have been altered and many are feeling isolated. To help maintain a sense of consistency, RECEs like Tasha continue to nurture relationships with children and families, even when using technology to accomplish their goals.
Be aware of technology’s pitfalls
Some are connecting via social media and various digital platforms. Standard V reminds you to maintain professional boundaries with children, families and colleagues when using technology and social media. As professionals, ensure that any communications online, whether professional or personal, are consistent with the ethical and professional standards you are to uphold.
Connecting with communities using technology brings joy to many, and responsive relationships are foundational to practice. While there are positives to using technology and social media, it’s important to pay attention to the potential risks as well.
“Our practice setting has transitioned into our homes where I maintain my professional role,” Kerissa Brewster, RECE in a kindergarten class, says. “The Ministry of Education has shared tips with educators about privacy for virtual platforms, and we all use our professional email accounts, Google classroom and refrain from using social media platforms on the job, such as Facebook and Instagram.”
Tips for using technology to connect with children and families
- Maintain your professionalism. This includes using a more formal tone in all communications with children and families.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Address concerns about the use of digital platforms or your professional expectations with your employer or supervisor.
- Maintain separate social media accounts for professional and personal use. This will help prevent blurring of professional boundaries when connecting online.
- Refrain from sharing personal information with children and families. While it may seem that sharing more personal information is a way to connect with others experiencing similar situations, it’s important to uphold your professional standards and obligations.
- Review the College’s Practice Note on Using Social Media. The note highlights benefits of using social media for professional activities, but primarily provides helpful reminders for its use outside of work.
Some of you may connect through live video platforms. If doing so, here are more tips to remember:
- Be aware of your surroundings while on live video. Carefully consider what your audience is seeing and hearing.
- Be thoughtful, considerate and professional in how you communicate while on live video. Though you’re not physically in the learning environment, you still need to demonstrate your professional judgment.
- Ensure that live videos are purposeful and grounded in the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
- Whenever possible, create passwords for your online meetings to avoid unwanted ‘visitors.’
- If problems do arise with a live video meeting, such as unwanted visitors or messages, shut down your online meeting immediately.
- Maintain equitable practices. If choosing to conduct live videos, have recordings or other options for families who are unable to attend. This supports families with alternative schedules or those without full access to technology.
The College recognizes that using technology as the sole means to engage and connect with children and families is unusual for many RECEs. And, despite all of the challenges and learning that may accompany this ‘new’ way of connecting, we also recognize the incredible effort RECEs are making in order to allow children and families to stay connected with you.
To learn more about using social media and technology while practising remotely, explore these resources:
- Practice Note on Professional Judgment
- Ontario College of Teachers’ advisory on the use of social media
- Preventing “Zoom-bombing”