I am friends on Facebook with many former students. I follow the rule that once we are no longer in the same country, I will allow them to be my friend on Facebook. I am often shocked and disappointed at what my former students are posting. Although many of them I got to know in a social setting, I stunned to see who they are online. Their comments create the image of extreme ravers and foul-mouthed sailors. Yet this is not who my former students are. Would I hire them after college? Not a chance. In this digital age, students need to learn that everything they post online is out there for the world to see and formulate an opinion about who they are, and leave lasting impressions on people they have never met.
In China, I used Edmodo to teach my students how to be responsible online. In essence, Edmodo is Facebook for educators. I would post discussion questions and homework and other school related information. Students would comment and start interesting conversations. Naturally, since I was teaching grade 6, my students would often push the boundaries of what was acceptable online. I was able to use the inappropriate comments as a teaching point. The students discussed what impressions they got from their classmates comments. We often would discuss the greater implications of comments and how they would transfer to their personal lives on social network sites. It was an effective tool that I felt helped shape my students’ digital footprint.
After a quick search online, I found this article that supports what I was trying to do with my students through Edmodo. It explains how students do not understand the gravity of their online activity. It also shows how to use the applications that are available for Facebook and Twitter to be able to reflect on your digital footprint for the year. Students need to examine who they are presenting themselves as online.
As an educator, I hear rumors of recruiters that ask to see your Facebook profile during interviews, or search for you online. I actually find this frightening, not because my digital persona is one to be embarrassed by, but it remains me of the idea that teachers must be saints. We are often not allowed to appear to be regular people. How can I separate the online me from the online teacher me?