Denying Our World

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by swanksalot

This is a true story and I will do my best to tell it from my memory…

Presenting to a group of staff and students in an Australian school, with them all in the same room (which was something that I think we should do a lot more of!), I talked about the notion of “Digital Footprint”.  In this talk, I shared some of the negatives of being online, but also discussing the huge potential you can have by understanding your own digital footprint and leveraging it as well.

I was actually quite surprised when one of the teachers had stated in front of the students that she would never go on Facebook because she would “lose her job” because of all the stuff (she actually didn’t say “stuff” but another ‘s’ word in front of the kids…wow) she didn’t want others to see in her personal life.  As I challenged her on this statement that simply being online does not mean you will lose your job, she backed off but you could see she still did not see that being online in any way could be a good thing for our students, even if they are properly guided.


Then I said, “Okay, how many students in here are going to go offline because of what I shared with you today?”

Not one hand raised.

Then I asked, “How many students in here are going to rethink how they do stuff online because of what I shared today?”

Almost every single hand went up in the room.


As much as many would like it to happen, the Internet is not going away.  In fact, being active and social online is only going to grow.  Are we educating our kids to understand both the positives and negatives?  And…are we talking from experience or from what we see on TV or read in a newspaper?

I am going to keep doing my best to prepare our kids not only for their future, but for their present.

It reminds of a powerful statement I heard from Gary Stager:

Less Us. More Them

We can’t continue to deny the world we live in.

(If you are interested, here is a google doc I created to work on with others regarding their “Digital Footprint”.  Please feel free to use to work with your staff and your students.)



  1. I find it very sad that the teacher was opposed to Facebook. Whether we educators accept it, or not, the fact is that this generation embraces social media and celebrates their individual and collective 'voices'. We must teach them responsibility and encourage their creativity.

  2. Although I am not a fan of Facebook and do not have my own account, I do realize that there is a proper way to use it to make a difference in our world. Like George always says, it is important to teach them the right way and role modelling is vital to making this happen. I do think that as teachers, there needs to be some separation between our personal and professional lives if we are interacting with students. But George makes a great statement when he questions our digital footprint. "Would your footprint gain you a position, lose a position, or have no impact?" I continue to journey and grow with the hopes that I can figure out how to best connect with my students through social media. Keep up the great work George.

  3. I have run across teachers in the past (who teach distance ed. specifically) who are adamantly against having any kind of personal online presence, to the extent where they will not even put a photo of themselves in their course (accessible to students & staff only). It opens up a bit of debate, in my mind, as the teachers that do post pictures or snippets of themselves for students to see are fostering engagement and connection with students, and specifically illustrating in distance ed. that an actually person is at the other end of the line with support for students. Furthermore…these same teachers have their name all over the website and they don't kick up a fuss about that– what is the weight of an image in comparison to the weight of a name in terms of online presence?

    Anywho… A while ago, you had mentioned something about how the progressing forward of an idea should not be halted by the minority, and while I'm certain it comes across as callous to some, I'm inclined to agree with you. One or two people who oppose something, especially out of ignorance or fear should not halt forward progress.

    Or maybe I'm just grouchy because it's snowing.

  4. As a teacher sitting in that audience, I was mortified by what this teacher said. I was embarrassed at the thought that George may associate her sentiments with the rest of the teachers in our system. I looked around the room and saw the same sentiment reflected on the faces of the students seated around us.
    The sad thing is that, in that moment, with that one comment, a stronger message was delivered to the students about this teachers willingness to have a go, to learn, to try, to share……….

  5. As Principal of a school in Australia your experience working with my colleagues, and the parallels I drew and ramifications of what I heard made me fear that ignorance may be guiding the pedagogy within our schools.

  6. I understand and value the potential for social media within both educational contexts and our social lives. However, I find the argument "It's not going away" to be neither substantive, nor compelling. It echos to me the feet stamping of educators who say "I've always done it this way". Both describe a state of affairs, but neither provides high quality convincing reasons for why teachers should or should not change their practice. It seems to me that there are many things in this world that are here to stay – our obsession with Hollywood actors comes to mind – but that does not mean I either wish to, nor should I, take this up in any way on either a personal or professional level, except to offer loud and clear critique.
    The teacher's comments did reflect a commonly held apprehension teachers have around our rights and responsibilities in the digital world, which in fact remain largely untested in the legal world. You recently reported yourself about a teacher using Facebook who was shut down. It is not unreasonable for teachers to be reluctant to spend time and energy on work that may land them in professional hot water with both their administration and the extended community.
    Speaking in a room of already-converted provides many with a sense of comfort that may not exist for that teacher when she goes back alone to her classroom to contemplate the positive and negative impact of her digital footprint.
    If we believe in the power of social media is it not our responsibility to provide powerful and compelling pedagogical reasons for its adoption, while acknowledging and addressing the legitimate fears of those who remain reluctant?

  7. Great insight! Embracing the tools and realities of our students world is so important. School boards worldwide need to break down the barriers we have built to further allow teachers and students to use these great tools and resources to their fullest. Thanks for shining a light on this. As a teacher who is trying to embrace these ideas and taking my first steps into the world of things like Twittwr, I appreciate your insights.

  8. @Kirsten T:

    I have rarely read anything as cogent and insightful as your post. Kudos to you, madam.

    I personally am opposed to social media and have next to no digital footprint at all. I choose that road.

    I have not found any convincing reason to change my practice, or even to encourage the use of social media to my students. All I have ever seen are people who come to ruin who engage in the practice. I warn people away. I don't encourage.

    • Hey Joe…some irony that you are using social media to write your comment?Sent from my iPhone

      • Huge laugh at irony comment George :-)
        Many points well made by many people though.
        We should be part of the digital world – this now, to me, is being literate in the present. We need to relate as teachers to the students' world and provide good modelling.
        I am still amazed when students exclaim "You know how to use your iPhone!" What does this say about their perceptions of most Teachers…?

  9. As Jeff Utecht (@jutecht) says, "You can't compete with the connection." We need to embrace the "always on" social media our kids are growing up with, and learn how to use it in the classroom. Otherwise we will become more and more irrelevant to their lives. Hasn't the line between Work life | Social life disappeared for many of us? Ever check email or send an SMS to your spouse at school? Log on at home to do work, or even simply grade papers at home? Our students are growing up in a world that has always-on social media and the only place they can't be connected is…the typical classroom. They're going to learn to use it from someone; shouldn't we be a part of that?

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