This past week’s debate created conversations that garnered support for both sides. Although I agree that there are dangers associated with oversharing online and that we all need to be somewhat wary of the digital tattoos that we are creating and the potential long-term impacts of what we put online, I believe that that the benefits are too great to be disregarded. Also, as Kathy Cassidy noted in her video, “digital is where the kids are at now.” Kids are using digital technology and social networks to share with their friends, families and the world. Is it not our responsibility as Saskatchewan teachers to teach them the importance of digital citizenship? Is this not why Alec and Katia created this document?
Benefits Overshadow the Risk. Following are a couple of benefits that I see
Benefit 1 — Improved home-school communication
Online sharing of student work and accomplishment can greatly enhance home-school communication, keeping parents and families in the loop, which can be helpful for student motivation and gives students something to be proud of. It allows student work to be displayed for parents and families to see, even when it is school work that might not be able to be sent home or shared at a celebration of learning.
My classmate, Steve Boutilier mentioned in his most recent blog post Call in in the Brigade – Debate 4 Response, when advocating for the importance of real-life, face to face interactions without the use of technology that we should, “instead of sending photos of work home, send work home.” I agree with him that real interaction is important, that perhaps it is too often the case that “many important events in our kids’ lives are being seen through the screen of a phone,” and that sending a real tactile product of work home with students is beneficial. That being said, however, my response to him was as follows:
“What about work that we (and our students) think should be shared with parents, family or the community that is not in a format that can be sent home? I feel like a lot of project based and experiential learning could fall into this category. There are plenty of examples of projects or activities that we could invite parents into the school to see, but not all parents can come. There are also a lot of examples of learning that we couldn’t bring parents in to witness, even if they were able to come. Videos or photos documentation of volunteerism, community involvement activities and a variety of hands on experience are a really great way of sharing them.”
I would add to this that digital sharing can lend itself to sharing more of the process as well — where the real learning takes place. Sure, we can send finished products home to hang on the fridge, but what about the documentation of the path that led the student to that product? Processes like that of Genius Hour are greatly enhanced by blogging to track the process of researching and exploring student projects. Being able to share the process of learning with parents and families allows them to have a much greater understanding of how their child is doing in school.
More than just the process and products of students time spent in schools can be shared with families online. Tools like ClassDojo make it easy to communicate with parents about behaviours and accomplishments and can also serve to motivate students.
Some of these benefits are laid out in An Apprehensive Teacher’s Guide to…ClassDojo. This was a useful tool for me when I taught elementary school, both as a motivational tool with students and for generating communication with parents. The information is private and safe, the student records are not permanent and are only shared between the teacher, student and parent account.
Benefit 2 — Connection to people and classrooms outside of your school increases authenticity and relevance of school for our students.
Sharing student work online with people outside of your school — other classes, authors, musicians, professionals, etc can have amazing outcomes. It connects students with the outside world, allowing them to solicit feedback on their work from other students and professionals in the topic, giving them the opportunity to improve their learning based on this feedback. Sharing allows students to consider different perspectives, understand worldviews other than their own. Kathy Cassidy argues this in her video, Using Social Media in the Classroom , as do the students in this video that was included in Janelle Bence’s article The Benefits of Sharing Student Work in Online Spaces.
Bence suggests that “being transparent with learning also adds another layer of authenticity to education. Authentic learning is not demonstrated by a worksheet that’s turned in to a teacher.” To me this just reiterates my earlier point about using digital technology to share the process of learning not just final products, something that I feel has great value.
Now, although I see much merit in sharing students work online, I do understand that there are potential risks of doing so, that we need to be aware of the digital footprints that we are shaping for them. Of course any online sharing of student work and activities needs to be approved through parental consent, as well as that of the student themselves. If a parent agrees to it, but a student is opposed to their work being shared, I would not share it.
Anyway, the consideration of potential risks lead me to the following:
My personal digital footprint
When it came up during the class last week, I was compelled to open an extra tab and do a quick Google search of my name (I wasn’t the only one, was I?) As I expected, I did not find a whole lot — LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts that belong to other Ian Temples, not me. I felt a little disappointed, but it wasn’t as though I had never done this before. However, I just never really dug very far. After the debate, when I was reading Teacher, Take Care of your Digital Footprint, I went a little deeper, using variations of my name and including a few key words that I thought might differentiate me from Ian Temple the actor. Actually, who am I kidding? All I did was add “Regina.” This yielded better results. The search turned up my professional twitter account, as well as barely used personal one, my school staff directory, a couple of documents linking me to organizations I have been involved in, some news articles about projects that I’ve been a part of and even an article I wrote as an undergraduate (anyone want to learn something about Magic and the Common People In Early Modern Europe?). Based on what I found, someone could put together a few details about me, but I did not come across anything that I would not be ok with most people seeing. I post pictures on Facebook, but try to keep my privacy settings up and I’m admittedly not all that active on other social media platforms (hence my last personal tweet being from 2011).
Based on the point, however, that the article, Teacher, Take Care of your Digital Footprint, makes that “if you aren’t controlling who you are online, someone else is or will,” I have begun wondering whether I should be making more of a conscious effort to create a positive digital footprint for myself given that searching my name does not bring up much that is actually connected to me. After all, according to Reputation Management and Social Media, apparently most people “can be identified [online] with only three pieces of information.” Not that anything I found through Google was negative, but perhaps I need to actively endeavor to increase my positive digital footprint. As the article suggests, maybe I should be “further solidifying [my]self on the web… control how much information [I} put out there and what information [I] put out there; all in an effort to control [my] identity.” I’ve since started an About.me page to make me more “googleable,” linking it back to this wordpress blog and my professional twitter account. I think that this class is a great starting point for me in the development of my own digital footprint!