Despite having size 12 shoes, I seem to have the digital footprint of an ant! As an international educator, I need to learn to manage my online presence. Google Search checks on my name have always revealed about 80 000 000 results! I can never find myself as there are so many others called “John Oliver”! I realize this is a problem, so I have started to tackle the issue. I’ve read on NPR that I could create a more visible footprint by creating and posting lots of video attributed to myself. Unfortunately I don’t make many videos! However I do take lots of photos and create many drawings and paintings. I wonder if posting thousands of these images on Flickr would help? It would be incredibly time consuming , but if I protect it all with Creative Commons, it could be worthwhile. I can only hope that future employers will use “TeachOliver” to search for me. That wouldn’t be enough to satisfy a potential boss, so I need to find ways to improve my visibility. I’ve seriously considered changing my name by deed poll to add a middle name to help separate me from the others! I have just joined LinkedIn to start to improve this situation and get myself ready for a job search next year.My invisibility may be seen as a lack of digital literacy or as a suspicious lack of information ! Either belief would be disastrous to my employability rating!
The implications for our students and their digital footprints are very different from my own. Some of them may come to wish for my current anonymity…My youth in the 1980s was a very forgiving time when natural teenage mistakes were quickly forgotten. Today’s students are burdened with the prospect of the eternal Internet! When they make a mistake or an error of judgment, there is often someone nearby with a cell-phone camera to record the indiscretion and post it online instantly. They then have to live with the vivid record of their actions FOREVER. In fifty years, a future employer will still be able to find the video and perhaps refuse them a job based on it.Of course we can remind students of this danger, but youthful misbehavior is hard to control, especially when under the influence of teenage hormones or alcohol! The hangover can last a lifetime …
Similarly, Internet browsing histories can be very revealing about the inner workings of a prospective college/job applicant. Visiting socially immoral/inappropriate websites will create a negative impression which will be difficult (if not impossible) to shake off.
Looking at this from an optomistic perspective, students can be encouraged to start creating a positive web presence which reflects the good they contribute to their community. For instance, when they take part in a charity fun-run, they could ask friends/family to shoot video of them at the event which they could post along with a short description of their role and aims.
Social media encourages discussion and the expression of opinions. Long-term, a harsh comment can be more harmful to the author than to the subject of the discussion. These opinions could be used by employers to assess personality and ethics. We need to help students self-edit their online writing before they click “send”. Perhaps they should keep their personal comments to telephone or face-to-face conversations to be future-safe?
When using social media, if they take part in discussions, they should always have this shadow of the future in mind. So we can encourage them to use positive/constructive criticism. This will help build immediate relationships as well as impressing future (influential) readers of their posts. This is a deep subject area which is about citizenship and needs to be tackled across the curriculum over time. We can’t be expected to make much impact as individual teachers unless we are working together as a team, with a common goal.
Good manners and respect are the cornerstones of all societies. If we teach our students to treat others as they would like to be treated , then these issues would be less of a problem.