Do you have an online presence?
We place deserved concern on student awareness of internet dangers. We want them to feel safe and to recognize that the information they share online can have measurable impact beyond the computer screen, and we can only imagine how such presence will impact their futures. Beyond safety, we should be helping children understand how to market themselves, and use the immense power of the internet for their own good. What about applying these same ideas in our own lives?
The internet can still be an unsteady, uncomfortable place for some teachers. For others, the internet has been something that we’ve grown up alongside, so the line between appropriate and reputation-killing can be a blurry one. Moving from getting rid of the bad to making our online presence a tool for our own success can be a broad leap, but this is something that may very well be a requirement for survival in coming years.
First, get rid of the bad!
You have to make sure that you are in control of what can be seen about you, and that includes considering who can see you. If you have a personal social networking account that you use for friends, do not add students! Social networking is such a natural part of our lives, that you will likely post something that you will regret later. In active, face-to-face social circles, we can manage the way we interact with different groups based on the reactions we pick up on from those peers through experience: we can be professional with colleagues, firm yet caring with students, irresponsible and crazy with one group of friends, and intellectual with other groups. When we expose all of the aspects of our personalities in one location to be seen by many different social groups, without regulating ourselves through the use of visual cues, those inhibitors that alert us to compartmentalize our behavior are absent. When we’re making posts, uploading pictures, commenting with friends, etc., our audience receives a full compendium of behaviors that we might not otherwise wish to expose them to. One method for regulating those interactions is to know your network’s privacy settings and methods for organizing your friends into groups based on visibility. If this is the method you choose, be careful! Privacy settings and visibility features can change without you knowing, and you can never be entirely sure that these features are working effectively for long. Another possibility is to not add students at all, or to create a separate profile specifically for students.
What do you have visible to the public that you wouldn’t show kids in the classroom or during a break at school? A profile picture of you with alcohol? Comments about other teachers or negativity about any aspect of the school on your wall? Not only are you sending the wrong message to students, but you’re sending a message that might get in the way of you being hired at your next dream job.
Once you’ve cleaned house, and all of the things that can hurt your reputation are gone, let the internet work for you.
The online resume
Love it or hate it, LinkedIn has staying power. If you don’t have a full resume here that you update regularly, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
There are more educational communities than you can count. Don’t overreach, but find a place that makes you feel comfortable and confident where you can make occasional contributions.
Examples of practice
Many Learning Management Systems (see my other post about them) allow you to make aspects of your course publicly viewable. Practice discretion to make sure that you do not reveal information about your students, but let the world know about the highlights of your practice. Do you flip your classroom? Share your videos. Are you fantastic with bringing your physical classroom to life? Take pictures and share on a blog. Do you have a few lessons that you just know other teachers will love? Share them on one of the many lesson and resource-sharing websites out there! Let all the hard work you already do represent you online by essentially using the internet as your personal portfolio.
Share your expertise
Creating and keeping up with a blog is an excellent way to gain presence, and it allows you to store all those Musts from above in a centralized location. Be cautious though: if you choose a blog that encourages discussions with other practitioners (a good one will) don’t get sucked into arguments that you wouldn’t want your boss (current or future) to see in a professional meeting.
Here I am!
How can people find you on the internet? If you’re using your presence to market yourself, then you want to be found! Sites like about.me give the world a central point for access to your online, professional outlets.
Your email signature is another great point of information - so please, I beg of you, clean it up…no 18-point comic sans in painful colors!
Do you already make the grade and have additional tips to share? Do you disagree with concerns about online presence?