Taking Care Of Your Digital Self

Talk about being caught off guard. I uploaded a review of one of the readings thinking I’d get back to the focus questions later and Jamie  already commented on it! Oops. Thanks by the way Jamie. I also enjoyed your post.

This reading was much anticipated as one of my recent blog post comments was questioned as potentially damaging to a job search. As a professional, especially one working with children, I am careful to manage my Internet presence though feel this is something I likely still have much to learn about. I have known teachers who accept “friend” requests from students (ill-advised from my perspective) and others who feel it is “safe” to become friends with parents. In this article there is a Twitter quote from Meredith Stewart, quoted as saying, “…astounds me when teachers/professors only digital presence is Rate My Teachers/Profs page. If you aren’t controlling your footprint, others are.” This rings true to me. It is like they teach in business school on influence. Influence, or be influenced.

© Photographer: Pokerman | Agency: Dreamstime

We are then urged to google ourselves. Not just once, but regularly to keep up-to-date on what people researching you may find. In order to add another element of controlling our online identities it is suggested that we “brand ” ourselves by picking a name and sticking with it and by choosing our “spaces.” Twitter and a blog are suggested and both seem sensible to me as they are simple tools and easy to update regularly in order to maintain visibility through search engines as a result of regular submissions. Google alerts is recommended as an effective means of keeping an eye on our branded identities once established.

A nice summary was left by someone obviously concerned with their own privacy, “There really is NO privacy, and we have to be so careful that any footprints we leave reflect positively on us.” All in all this was an easily digestible little tidbit about a very big issue that sets the tone for the second course in the program.

Oh well, now on to our focus questions in a more, well… focused manner. Should we, as international educators, have digital footprints? I’m going a different way with this. It’s been largely established that we don’t have much of a choice. The point now becomes, how do we manage these digital representations of ourselves online? The article referenced above offers many suggestions that we ignore at our own peril.

If we assume, as we should, that human resource managers and school recruiters are scouring the Internet to research us, we need to, as Brendan put it in our Tuesday meeting, make our positive messages louder than any potentially negative ones. I liked the comment that someone else made that, as kids grow up with this reality, their generation may end up being more forgiving of digitally preserved gaffes. Time will tell but this sounds a likely outcome as more and more people feel the sting of an unflattering image or representation that gets cached in cyber space.

As we protect ourselves, it seems only common sense to start teaching our students as well. I agreed with Jamie’s caution that much of what we hear is the frightening news; “Cyber-Bullies” and the threat of online predators. Certainly these are a part of the reality of our increasingly connected world but it is not just as easy to teach responsible behaviour by accentuating the positives of citizenship in any sense? The earlier we impart good habits the better but let’s not scare the kids unnecessarily.

Take a look at this video that further illustrates the issues:

I have played around with this a little and it has huge potential for creating for consumption and getting the kids creating. Give it a shot here.

About Sean Thompson

Sean is an educational technology specialist at Sacred Heart International School in Tokyo. He travels extensively across southeast Asia speaking, presenting and participating in discussions regarding the effective integration of technology in an educational setting. In 2014 he partnered up with DEEP Learning to support the team with the development, promotion and execution of professional development conferences for teachers worldwide. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader , a Google education Trainer and a Certified Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
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2 Responses to Taking Care Of Your Digital Self

  1. Jamie says:

    Interesting, Sean. As I am new to the world of blogging, I have found myself “hyper-editing” my blog posts, especially those that relate in some way to my job and colleagues. As we all know, sometimes the spirit in which we write can be misinterpreted by our audience. I recall the odd emails that have enraged or offended their recipient unintentionally. Of course, some people simply will not agree with what I have to say. That’s all good if I have presented my opinion in a respectful manner. Our students need to internalize this early in their cyber experiences. I recently surveyed my students to get an idea about how they viewed their digital footprint. Their definitions were generally accurate at some level, but one element seemed to be missing; the fact that their digital footprints may influence decisions that will affect their life in the long term, such as school or career options. William Ferriter in a recent Educational Leadership article, Positive Digital Footprints (http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr11/vol68/num07/Positive-Digital-Footprints.aspx), has some interesting ideas about how students view their own digital footprints and what we as teachers can do to help them create a positive online presence. I agree with your summary, it is necessary to insure that what we post adds positively to our footprints. It’s not always easy to do that and it does require careful consideration before posting. Thanks for sparking some ideas for my COETAIL blog for this week!

  2. Brian Farrell says:

    Glad that the conversations in class resonated with you Sean. We did largely skip over the idea that perhaps future generations will be more forgiving of our digital footprints, and so I’m glad that you’ve highlighted that idea again here. Of course, none of us have a crystal ball, and so I think you’re right in also highlighting Brendan’s idea that we need to create positive messages that will be ‘louder’ than any negatives that may be floating out there.

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