If students want to run for office, run a business, or change how things are run where they live, work, or play, they need to be savvy users of social media. This starts with having a positive online reputation. I had the opportunity at Tech Forum New York to speak with four Innovative educators (see below for faces and end of article for names) from elementary, middle, and high school as well as a district administrator about how to best prepare students.
Below is their advice.
How can you ensure your students are well Googled by the time they graduate?
- Common Sense Media lessons.
- Discuss and show examples of the importance of your online legacy.
- Ensure students know what you say online can stay with you.
- Have students consider the who they want to be on Google.
- Move beyond ensuring students are not posting negative stuff and on to creating environments where they can create a positive online presence.
- Parent nights to teach that this is a partnership where schools will educate and support, but reinforce that parents are responsible for their child’s digital footprint.
How is identity and reputation different today than when we were kids?
- Today students are living online and living out loud.
- Because what we do online becomes permanent (digital permanence) it is important that we learn we can control what our digital footprint will become.
- Whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, writer or athlete, a strong online identity benefits you career. Today, students need to know how to establish an online identity that will support the career path they choose and attract the right kind of people.
- Because many colleges check the digital footprints of potential candidates, we must ensure our students know how to do this right.
- Good schools have always ensured their students are good citizens. Now it goes further since our actions are often documented, if not by ourselves, by others. Because of this conversations about image and reputation are of utmost importance.
- When we see positive or negative consequences from someone’s online identity, we can use these as samples and ask students to reflect upon what they want for their own online image and how to best get there.
- Many of today’s teachers who are the 30 somethings were the early adopters of social networking. Their participation in these communities formed the foundation for many of platforms our students use today. This generation was the first to set trends and establish taboos. As it became endemic to personal life it became important to carry that over to academic and professional life. The 30-somethings often made mistakes and have real-world examples that their students can learn from. As teachers, regardless of when we were born, we have a responsibility to model what an effective digital footprint looks like for both our students and their parents.
Explain the importance of professional development.
- Professional Development and teacher buy in is the key! Teachers who don’t know fully how to explain what creating a digital footprint is to their students will need support in building their own footprint first.
- Teachers need to feel confident when implementing a new classroom tool. When using a resource like Edmodo or Kidblog there needs to be a sufficient amount of time given to teachers explaining why we are using it and how to do this work.
- Professional development is especially important because teachers must serve as the role models for how to use social media properly. Not only can it can affect their personal life but their professional life as well. Therefore it is important to support teachers in using these tools effectively.
- Social media can be a great tool to engage learners, but since most teachers were not taught to teach by those who incorporated social media into teaching and learning, professional development is key. With strong professional development teachers can turn resources typically considered classroom distractions into tools of engagement. Good professional development will also help teachers understand how to best use these tools appropriately and within the guidelines that exists for specific age groups.
- Most teachers would agree that it is important to support our students in being good digital citizens but few know how to do this. School leaders need to build more opportunities for teachers to learn to leverage technology in their classrooms. They need to capture and showcase teachers experiencing the benefits.
What’s your advice for others who want to begin creating their own positive digital footprint?
- Begin looking at the online identity of others. When you see someone you like, ask them for tips.
- With social media, we are creating our own personal newspapers that can be read by others and even picked up in the mainstream press. With that in mind, it is an easier reminder that whenever you write ask yourself how you would feel if what you wrote were in tomorrow’s newspaper.
- Think about what you are passionate about that you want to share with the world. Think about how to share it best.
- Consider what you love and look to find others online with the same interest. When you do it will broaden your friend ase, experiences, and knowledge. You can control your online identity by putting positive interests and passions out there and connecting with others who have the same interests.
- Strong professional development on this topic is a great way to begin creating a positive digital footprint.
- Create accounts in a few of the popular online spaces. Lurk, then contribute. This enables you to understand the power and learn the pitfalls.
- Know people who rave about how they learn via social media? Speak with them and ask them for tips.
- Be aware of what people are doing who are using social media well to promote themselves or a cause. If you like what they are doing, copy them.
- Start to think of yourself as a brand. It is not shameless self promotion. It is how you are identified and how other users come to trust your content. I encourage my students to begin to create material that has more than just the content, but has a look, feel, and style of their own. Even if it’s a font choice, or color that they like (when appropriate), it is nice to look at a digital submission and immediately know who it belongs to. Some of my students have gone as far to outsource this, having logos and websites created by experts in the field who the found on Fiverr.
- Show them the possibilities and don’t make it mandatory.
How do you get administration to buy into the importance of this?
- Incidents of social media misuse provide a great opportunity to make a case for the importance of supporting students in creating a positive digital footprint and becoming responsible citizens.
- Show admin stats on the percentages of colleges and employers who consider a student’s online image. Once that is established discuss with administration the importance of ensuring every child is well-googled by the time they graduate.
- Ask your administration who is managing their online identity and the identity of their school. If it is no one, show administration how they can help themselves and their teachers develop a positive digital image. Administration cares about their reputation. Start with them.
- How admin how showcasing the work of the school via social media can help their school look better. When they understand the importance of this for their school, the importance for students is a natural progression.
- Made it a district goal- from the boardroom to the classroom.
Share one resource students can use to begin creating a positive digital image?
- Blendspace is a great platform for communicating with others and sharing of content. One example using Blendspace is a student can create a project train on highlighting their accomplishments in writing for this year. Anyone invited to their Blendspacecan comment on the work. The commenting feature allows for peer reviews where we are establishing the types of feedback we hope to provide to our peers without being mean along with students making conscious decisions of what they would like to put up online to really promote themselves positively. This could be used as an eportfolio as well so from year to year they can collect artifacts and build their online legacy.
- VoiceThread is a great resource to use with students. It provides students an opportunity to have a conversation in the cloud around different topics and different types of media. Students learn how to properly comment online as well as listen to others. Students can have live discussions and review each others work.
- You (the teacher) are a great resource in modeling how to establish a positive digital footprint. Talk about it. Explain to students deliberate choices you have made to have a great online footprint.
- Google Sites and Wix provide free website platforms students can use to present products of their learning. For example, students will often create a website instead of writing a traditional lab report. In this way they are leveraging technology to become producers of online content rather than consumers.
- Teachers need to be active in the process of editing student content and monitoring the work they produce. They need to toe the line between increasing the stakes with outward facing work, but ensuring students are conveying the proper identity to the proper audience. In some cases, using rubrics to reflect upon work empowers students to do this independently.
- If students are doing great work, we need workflow solutions that allow you to regulate content and embargo student work to give ownership/permission back the student after graduation
- Tim Comer’s Youtube Channel
Technology Coach, PS 16, The John J Driscoll School
Teacher/Tech Coordinator, MS 167, Robert F. Wagner Middle School
Teacher, Hudson HIgh School
Director of Technology, Owen J Roberts SD