When I was training to be a teacher, social media was relatively new. Everybody was joining Facebook and many teachers were getting in trouble because of their inappropriate sharing. In my training, we were advised to keep everything private.
“Your students will inevitably google you. Don’t give them anything to find!”
Teacher training, 2007
How times have changed…
In 2015, I attended the EdTechTeam Global Summit in Hong Kong. I have mentioned it quite a lot on my blog because that’s where my interest in technology started. At this fantastic event, the presenters also mentioned student googling:
“Your students will inevitably google you. Give them lots of positive things to find. How can you claim to be a 21st-century teacher if you are not taking advantage of online possibilities and contributing to the wider profession?”
This was a dramatic shift in my thinking. I googled myself there and then. As expected, nothing came up. Even when I was very specific, my school’s website was the only thing that displayed. I was not connecting or collaborating with other teachers online and I was not contributing to the wider profession. This was made clear by my lack of presence on Google.
When my students google me now, they’ll find loads! Well, as long as they can filter out Aussie comedian Adam Hills! I no longer fear my online presence; I’m proud of it! The order varies depending on the exact search terms, but these are typically the first-page results when I google myself:
- My blog homepage
- Specific posts from my blog
- My guest posts on other blogs
- My Twitter profile
- My LinkedIn profile
- My Google+ profile (admittedly, I don’t use this much)
- My Movember ‘Mo Space’ page
Ok, the last one is a bit random. Even so, I hope that my students do google me. I have nothing to hide! I believe that my online presence is a true reflection of who I am in the real world and a good example of how to behave online. If my students choose to go snooping, they will find nothing but positive exchanges or, at the very worst, respectful debates. Our responsibility as role models now extends to the virtual world. We need to be modelling digital citizenship and ensuring that our own digital footprints are positive.
The internet is home to a lot of anger, insults and hatred. It’s everywhere! For example, I challenge you to find a YouTube video that doesn’t include negativity in the comments. Even the most innocent videos often contain racism, homophobia and general rudeness in the comments section. Also, many online games include chatboxes that are filled with similar nonsense. Oh, and check the replies on any Donald Trump tweet! There is so much anger in the world! Students can easily find the negative online. Where will they find the positive?
Go ahead and google yourself. What comes up? If nothing, you might want to set up one of the above platforms yourself. The setup process is usually very quick and easy. If you’re interested in blogging, click here to read my posts relating to teacher blogging. Likewise, click here for posts about professional Twitter. This book, 140 Twitter Tips for Educators, comes highly recommended and it could be very useful to new ‘tweachers’. I also recommend LinkedIn, the network designed for professionals, businesses and employment. Your professional profile can even be used as a CV and downloaded as a PDF, so it’s worth keeping it up to date.
I choose to keep my Facebook and Instagram private. I use these personally rather than professionally (although this blog does have a Facebook page). I don’t mind sharing glimpses of my personal life with students, but I do want some boundaries. By the way, on Facebook, click the three dots on your profile page and click ‘view as…’. This will show you what your page looks like to the public or even a particular person. You can then update your security settings if necessary.
What evidence is there that you are a 21st-century teacher and learner? What could you do to create or enhance your online presence? How do you model digital citizenship? The internet isn’t going away. Social media isn’t either. Stop fighting it and start embracing it! Enjoy learning, connecting and sharing while modelling positive online behaviour to your students. If I can help you in any way, let me know.