Just this week my juniors asked me if they could friend me on facebook (side note: Facebook didn’t make the word friend a verb) and I told them that if they could find me, they could friend me. But I added that I probably wouldn’t accept the request. And, depending on which account they found, I might also block them. But I am starting to realise that I have a failing system for Facebook privacy. I have two accounts; one with all of the secrets of the world (aka weekend/personal/travel/fun) and the other with a growing list of students that have already donned the cap and gown and now are doing way too many things on Facebook (and at Uni) that I don’t need to know about. I keep friend lists separate and keep my bosses on my professional account. But then I start to know my bosses outside of the school walls and I want to tag them in pics but I can’t. For that would reveal all of the secrets. You see where I am going? It gets messy. Oh, and then I have friends that accept students as friends and suddenly I have a student connection via an adjacent friend (hello network mathematics!) and things look like this diagram below and I just don’t know who is who.
Back to my juniors, they are looking for me on Facebook and they are starting to look at themselves. They read They Loved Your GPA Then They Saw Your Tweets a NYTimes article that suggests there is a growing trend for university admissions staff to do a quick applicant digital footprint check. This pattern is certainly alarming but it could also be an opportunity and my students are starting to take notice. They want to be online and they want opportunities to be more academic online.
So we have all accepted that there are footprints that we leave behind with each and every account we open but this doesn’t need to be a bad thing. I have to mention a fellow COETAILer dimac4. She is actively responsible for her footprint (actually hers is a tattoo) and she really has a solid and extremely positive online presence. I like the way that she has maintained her handle across all tools and sites – five pages of google search results and it’s still her. I’ve got some work to do; google ange molony and you’ll get a link to me on twitter and then the second search result practically outs me (second side note: I’m already out so this is not a big deal.)
As a high school teacher, what is my job in all of this? I think that I can model a positive online presence so that when (or if) my students/parents (and future administrators!) google* me they will see everything that I want them to see. Also, I can talk to my students about who they are online and what they might look like to a stranger. I can also create more opportunities in the classroom for them to mould their own positive footprint through their blogs and tweets (and completely private Facebook pages.) At Graded School we have LARK which I actually think is working towards something closer to an Empowered Use Policy than an Acceptable Use Policy – although I can see how just a few changes might nudge it even closer. Maybe I’ll bring that up…Maybe they are listening?
This was such a massive topic for me to handle in one post and I didn’t even get close to the job hunting aspect of our digital selves. I think I will be coming back to this. For now I need I need to go and instagram my cat and share it on twitter, tumblr and facebook.