I come from a place that takes personal privacy and teacher protection very seriously, maybe too seriously. I can recall my first foray into the digital world as an international teacher at the American International School – Riyadh. I had my grade 3 students create trailers to introduce themselves using iMovie on classroom iPads. I wondered what the simplest way to share their work would be. The easiest way of course would be to upload the video that they created to youTube so that they could share with their parents and the school community. Of course, I thought my principal would never go for it. Surely parents would not appreciate me sharing images of their children playing with their classmates on the school campus. Surely there was a school policy against it. Back home in Ontario, Canada you would have to jump through hoops not just to share the footage but in many cases to even record it. I had planned to lay out my plan with my principal that the video would be unlisted and that the students full names would not be used. I braced for the worst and was truly surprised when she immediately and without hesitation gave me the go ahead. Our school embraces sharing visual evidence of student work and of students working be it with youTube, classroom blogs and our class instagram feeds. Back home the school boards are overly enthusiastic about protecting student privacy and the unions are overly enthusiastic about keeping teachers “off thin ice”.
It was interesting to read that the fear mongering going on with regard to online privacy and digital citizenship is going too far and is not resulting in any real protection for our students. I am encouraged with the hope that soon more common sense may soon take over. Taking it a step farther by encouraging students to build a positive digital footprint was eye opening. I believe that online problems like cyberbullying, cyberstalking and protection of personal privacy are real and need to be addressed. I also feel that they are not nearly on an epidemic scale. Directing our kids to make progressive decisions to create a positive digital profile makes a great deal of sense.
As an international teacher I think having a digital footprint is not only inevitable but absolutely essential. Our school recently developed an incredible ePortfolio template for teachers to use to collect and link to evidence of our learning, leadership, and experiences. The intended purpose is for teachers to have a place to document what we do to become better teachers. It is laid out in a format that we will be able to share with future employers and help us get our next job when we decide it is time to move on to the next school. I guess it shows a small portion of our digital footprint (more if you take advantage of all options). Getting the next job is a matter of selling yourself well before you ever hit a job fair.
The key to having a positive digital footprint is to follow some basic guidelines when decided what to share and how to behave on line.
Like it or not we are teachers 24/7/365. I don’t believe that means that we have to live our lives like saints but we need to be mindful that in most places we will be seen as a model to our young students. The guidelines in On Thin Ice (p. 6-7) have been ingrained in me from my time as a teacher in Ontario and as a member of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association. I don’t necessarily take everything they say as gospel but a lot of what they propose makes good sense.
I particularly take heed when using digital communication with parents and for sure when using with students. Emails and messages can very easily be taken out of context. It is easier to take the time to word your communication carefully than to have to defend yourself based on something you may have typed. This becomes even more important when you are broadcasting views on social media. I like the short video below that gives some general guidelines about posting on social media. I think would be great to show classes and there are some points in there that adults should definitely heed as well.
Building a positive footprint is something that I had not considered until this assignment but the work has already begun. My COETAIL blog, twitter feed, classroom blog are all examples of ways to share the learning and the work that I do. Leveraging these and other tools and platforms to tell the story that you want to tell is not only responsible but more and more it is becoming critical in the international teaching job market. I have had amazing learning experiences since joining the faculty at AIS-R. Our school values professional growth in its teachers and supports that learning more generously than I have experienced in the past. They also ask me to be accountable for the learning that I do and documenting it effectively as part of my digital footprint is extremely efficient. Initially I was uncomfortable with the concept of branding myself online but in light of the fact that my digital footprint is visible and available to anyone who wants to access it I might as well control the narrative.