Tag Archives: digital footprint

Credibility in the Conversation

Educators tend to listen to other educators.  It is not that we are not open to listening to people outside of the education realm, but being a part of a school and understanding the intricacies of what teachers deal with is important for perspective.

I have heard before, during, and after talks educators not to excited about a message from a “non-educator” because of those important details that they tend to miss.  Learning is one aspect of our job, but if you are working with so many students that each are so unique in their own way. a lot of ideas shared are not as simple as they may seem to someone who has never taught a classroom full of children.  Although we should always be open to different perspectives, I think it is fair that we tend to connect more with someone who has done the work.

So when so many people are giving young people suggestions on how they use technology, the “do’s and don’ts” (they are more often don’ts from what I have seen), and ideas on social media without ever using it, I wonder if kids see us with the same lens of “credibility” that we tend to use with others outside the field.

I remember this older post by Will Richardson on “Balance” and how we often tell kids that they are out of balance because they use too much technology when they might see adults as out of balance because they do not use it enough.

I just wonder if the same credibility from experience that so many people value (in all professions, not just education) is something that young people consider as well?

If you have no idea what SnapChat is or how to use it, do you think a kid really cares when we say that they shouldn’t use it?

The Balance of Digital Footprint and Having Empathy

You might have heard of “Vodka Samm”.  She was a student at the University of Iowa who was extremely intoxicated, taken to jail, and then live tweeted from her phone about her experience.  Her story quickly went viral, and as we teach our kids about the perils of their “digital footprint”, you can see in the screenshot below the Google search of Samantha Goudie:

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.35.24 AM

Not the most flattering “footprint”, and by any accounts, she might struggle getting a job if any employer was to Google her.

But before we judge too harshly, check out part of this video that is on the first page of results when you google her name.

Does she seem like a really horrible person or just someone that made a mistake in university?  Does this one action posted online determine her character for the rest of her life?

t is very easy to become judgmental as a society and jump on people when they screw up, but honestly, did you ever drink too much or do something that you regretted?  I know that I am guilty of making many mistakes in my life, and perhaps I was just lucky that social media did not exist when I was in high school or post-secondary.  We teach a lot about “Digital Footprint” but do we teach our kids and ourselves enough about empathy?

I think there has to be a balance of teaching our kids the perils of posting inappropriate things online and the impact it could have on their lives, while also having an empathy for one another and realizing that we are all human meaning fundamentally, we are all flawed.

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.)

You are what you tweet

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by David Reber’s Hammer Photography

On the other side of the world (Adelaide, Australia) from where I usually hang out, it can be quite intimidating to be in a different country knowing very few people.  Yet Twitter has changed that significantly for me where some of my best friends in the world are literally from around the world.  I have connected with some amazing people that have become more than just digital colleagues; they have become great friends.  Yet I noticed something weird at #CEGSA2012 last week.

No one was a cartoon.  Many of them looked like that at the beginning of the week before I met them, but by the end, that had mostly changed.

The thing that I noticed the last time I was in Australia and  again this time, was that there were so many cartoon or picture avatars representing people that I had no idea who the people were that I was talking to until I landed and actually met them face-to-face.  I will have to admit that although I could tell there were some extremely intelligent people that I was talking to, the idea of talking back and forth to a cartoon character or a picture online was a struggle.  It just didn’t feel real.

So when I finally did meet with these amazing people and discussed the human side of the Internet, I challenged them to think about changing their avatar to a picture of themselves.  As the conference continued, cartoons changed to people and you could feel a growing camaraderie at the conference as the conversation on Twitter amplified the conversation in the face-to-face setting.  It was extremely powerful.

Although it is much easier to say than do, I understand why some people are nervous to post a real picture of themselves on the Internet because of many differing situations.  But if you are comfortable, you should.  I often hear conversations about how the Internet is dehumanizing our world yet the fake avatars don’t help.

This great article on “Friending cats and following eggs“, has been one of my favourites on this topic:

On social networks, you ARE your photo.

Your image is important!

The photo you choose to represent you says a great deal about who you are as an individual. It is your personal brand.

I love meeting people in person at conferences or cocktail parties and then connecting with them on social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Sometimes I search people out and connect and other times they find me.

But when somebody has an image that is not an actual photo of them, I hesitate and usually do not connect.

So if you are involved in this crazy social media world, when you finally meet someone in person, do they recognize you?  Do they connect with you?  I have a strong belief that the best teachers are seen by their students as people who just happen to teach, not teachers who just happen to be people.  I want to connect with people.

In the last week, I connected with an amazing educator who will now be a lifelong friend and colleague.  Selena Woodward shared her own journey and discussed her change over the few days:

I wasn’t the only one either…. By the end of the CEGSA conference we had shouted out to a large number of new tweeps, eggs, logos and cartoons became human and the vibe of the conference changed …

I’m not suggesting, even for one minute, that members of CEGSA are not sociable people, however… the fact that we knew who we were talking to during the presentations meant that we could then continue those conversations over a cup of tea – face to face.  Those virtual twitter connections became real-life connections.  Now, that’s got to have an impact on the development of your support network. Hasn’t it?

It is not always easy to put yourself out there, but in my own experience, as you develop and build trust with your own network, it is easier to show both the successes and struggles.

I was reminded of this in Elisa Carlson’s powerful post about some of the struggles that she went through this year and how open and honest she was:

I will say right up front that this year was too difficult for me. I found it painful and intense. How’s that for honesty? I had so much to learn at times it was way too overwhelming. I had too many responsibilities to juggle and didn’t feel I could do anything well. My goal has always been to exceed expectations and to make a difference in the work that I do. On top of that my actual personal mission statement, “joyfully obeying the call” didn’t seem to be anchoring my world. I was losing most of the joy in the intensity of the workload and spent many days struggling to be grateful. I had a difficult time navigating all the relationships and since I wear my heart on my sleeve I would often feel personally hurt over matters that should not have seemed so significant. I have worked hard as a teacher, vice-principal and principal but never as hard as I have this past year to survive being a Director of Instruction.  In some respects, it is but an act of grace that I have made it through the year.

I don’t think she would have been comfortable writing that as someone who was know as an “egg” to most.  Knowing that there are genuine people out there past her own school district it creates a strength to share who we are.

Now I am not saying that all people that share a picture of themselves on the Internet are the people they represent themselves to be.  That would be extremely naive.

It is just easier to connect and build trust with a person rather than an avatar.

Why YOUR Sharing Matters

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by andrew_mc_d

I am going to have to admit it; the term “lurker” drives me nuts.

I know that there is an amount of time where someone is becoming comfortable with the idea of social media, but many have admitted to me that they just look at all the great resources yet are uncomfortable tweeting from their own account.  My response to this is that they simply “retweet” some of the great content they are reading.  You do not have to have original content or come up with the next “big thing” but simply just share.

Here is an example of how sharing and a simple retweet can create a ripple effect.

This morning (in Australia), I received a tweet from someone I don’t know.

Being the “cyber sleuth” that I am, before I responded, I checked out who they were and their tweets.  I was not sure if it was a legitimate account or not since I did not recognize the name, although I recognized the #sd36learn hashtag that they used in their tweet.  This process is something that I do for many tweeters that send me a message because there is definitely some spam out there.  Here is what I found in their profile:

So…not many followers and not many tweets.  Most would be thrown off by this but I was interested in what he had to share so I went through his tweets.  Sure enough, I found this little gem:

So now, with his 26 tweets and his 15 followers, @MrAbdolall simply retweeted a great article that I will now be using as the basis of my “Digital Footprint” workshop (I am still in the process of creating it but feel free to use) that I will be doing in Adelaide, Australia on Wednesday.  It really is that simple.  As I tried to prepare for this workshop, there were so many good ideas that I wanted to talk about, but the Forbes article just made the information so nice and succinct, making it way easier to put together.

So my suggestion to new tweeters…

You may not have many followers and you may not be blogging or creating the next BIG IDEA, but what you share still matters.  You never know the impact you can have by sharing a link or a blog post.  Simply retweeting good information can help anyone, including someone like myself who has almost 40,000 tweets to his credit, continue to learn and grow.

Keep sharing.  That’s it.

New Teacher Presentation

I will be working with a class at the University of Regina tomorrow and I thought I would share my slides with everyone. This presentation is based on the post, “What Makes A Master Teacher“, while also discussing an educator’s digital footprint.  I hope this can be of some help to anyone working with new teachers.

What’s the harm? No really, I am asking…

cc licensed flickr photo shared by mikebaird

Coming back after taking a few days off from blogging and tweeting (for the most part), I came back to catch up on my google reader blogs (subscribing and reading others work is something that I consider essential to growing in your own educational practice…here are some great educator blogs that you can subscribe to) and found a new post from Edudemic. It was discussing a new “social network just for educators“, that was similar to facebook and twitter, but for those who are passionate about learning.

Since it is summer and I see this as a time to really explore and play, I decided to join the network and see what it was like. I remember when I first started Twitter and did not know ANYBODY other than a few people and it was really hard to get started.  Starting it was tough and since I believe that relationships and connecting are huge in education, I did not really get into it.  Now though, having connected with several others, many joined quickly and started playing on the site along with me and talking about it:


(These are all great people to follow on Twitter by the way!)

Now many of you are thinking, “here is ANOTHER site that I am going to sign up to”, and I agree with you that we sometimes have to narrow the tools that we use for our own Personal Learning Environments.  So when we sign up for these sites, I really want to know what is the harm? One of the things that I want to focus on as an educator is creating a positive digital footprint, so I always take in account the sites that I sign up for.  That is one consideration.  Knowing that this is an educator site from a good source, I am not worried about it as much as I would signing up for a bunch of credit cards! (Should I be though?)  I have always had the thought that if the site does not appeal to me, I will simply stop using it.  As educators, we can only spread our wings so far (hence the trouble that I am having with my LinkedIn account which does not seemingly improve my learning like other sites).

So signing up for these sites and playing with them, what do you think could be the potential positives or negatives?  I am kind of excited about joining something that is so new to be honest, but it is always with trepidation if others are not able to vouch for it.

I would love to hear from you.