What do you want to be remembered for? It seems that increasingly, what people will be remembered for has less to do with our accomplishments and more to do with what information can be found in our digital footprint. I attended an interesting breakout session at our Regina Teachers’ Convention on Friday which got me thinking about what people see online when they search for me. In this session, several scenarios were presented in which teachers became embroiled in situations that led to suspensions or termination due to social media or online identity issues.
Teachers have run up against many legal issues in recent years with the ability to share freely and openly about anything online. Students and parents now have access to the pictures and musings of many school staff members. Some teachers have chosen to simply stay out of the social media arena as a preemptive defensive manoeuvre. Permanently sealed off from any possible attack based on online profiles or posts, these teachers may feel that they are protected but are they missing out on something worthwhile. After all, the information and support available to teachers online is extremely helpful. In addition, if you aren’t controlling your digital footprint, who is? So how should teachers be presenting themselves online? According to Ulrike Shultze, social media tools have a great deal to do with how people form their identity. From a sociological perspective, the tools we invent to help shape our world also shape us. In essence, it is a multi-faceted question because at any given moment, individuals are able to perform multiple identities if they so chose. Social Media has expedited this factor immensely.
If we are to be the curators of our own personal online identities, what are the steps necessary to ensure that what people see is a professional and organized picture of who we are. Teachers and students alike need to take control of their digital identity and make it something that they can be proud of. Stephen Anderson has some sound suggestions when it comes to online identity curation. Firstly, it’s important that teachers and students make a habit of googling themselves. Control of your online identity can not happen unless you are aware of what is out there. It is often surprising what pops up on the first page of a google search about yourself. My blog page appears as 3rd on the google search list after a list of possible Luke Brauns on Facebook and another Luke Braun’s Twitter account. Only 2 of the images in the image search are of me. One is my About.me profile picture and the other is my Twitter profile picture. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. My public online persona is certainly somewhat limited if you compare it to other teachers in the educational technology realm. In some ways I feel as if my digital footprint is already quite professional, however it could always be better curated and available. I hope to build a brand that is both professional and accessible.
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Secondly, establishing a brand can help build your digital identity based around a common idea or theme. This does not mean the marketing of a commodity but marketing yourself as an individual. In other words, what positive points would you like to highlight about yourself. Thirdly, claim a space or set of spaces online in which you can control what information is made public. This could be a blog, a Twitter account, an About.me page or a personal domain. These spaces serve not only as promotional tools for you as a person but also allow you to control what is published about you. Lastly, try to keep track of what personal information regarding your identity is online. One simple way tot do this is to set up a Google Alert to notify you when your brand is mentioned online. This can be done by telling Google a list of keywords to search for. They could include your name, your blog or twitter account or even your brand. The results will show up in your email inbox so you know who is talking about you online. Take steps to delete information that you do not want as a part of your online identity. Remember, take control before someone else does.
Perhaps we need to stop thinking in terms of digital footprints and more in terms of digital tattoos. As teachers, are we held to some higher standard for online identity? Certainly if we consider other professionals in public service positions, there is some notion of responsibility to maintain a certain image in the public eye. Teachers often argue that there exists a divide between personal and professional identities and that teachers have the right to a personal online identity that should be seen as separate from their public persona. Unfortunately, the public may not see the difference in these two categories. Due to the fact that teachers work with children, and that they provide a public service to society, the notions exists that teachers should be held to a higher standard when it comes to our online presence. I believe we have to start increasing professional development opportunities related to the curation of online profiles. What are your thoughts? Should teachers be held to a higher standard when it comes to online identity?
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