As a teacher, there is no doubt that being conscious of your digital footprint is extremely important. We work in a profession where we are held to very high standards and it is important that our online identity matches the identity that we have as professionals in our careers. As teachers, we must realize that there is a very thin line between our professional and personal identities so much so that we should begin to look at them as being one.
Prior to taking ECI 831 and now ECI832, I do feel like I always tried to be very conscious of what I was posting and sharing online. Over the years I have looked at this differently and as I matured and grew professionally my idea of what is appropriate has changed and matured with that. Not that I would say I was ever one for sharing inappropriate posts but I would just say that I am much more conscious now than let’s say I was in my university days. The Facebook memory feed is sure to help one realize how their idea of professional or acceptable has changed over time. It is a good reminder of the growth and maturity one finds and is expected of in this profession. I am similar to Jessica in that I feel that I have had different versions of myself online over the years. She shares in her blog post about her digital identity that early on in her career she tried to separate her professional and personal by creating two different accounts. I feel that moving through my career I am much more able and comfortable blurring those lines more.
One thing I have learned over the last few months is that it is very important to look at how we can build our digital identity not only personally but also professionally. I have made it my mission to begin to look at my professional digital identity and how I can begin to build my professional identity online. My identity online up until now has been personal and for the most part, secured under privacy settings so only my closest family and friends could find me. My first challenge was to get on twitter and begin using Twitter to collaborate and build a professional identity and network. I felt like this was a good place to start as I was not on twitter yet and this allowed me to start fresh and truly build the network that I wanted to.
In EC&I 831 last term I was challenged to think about how ‘playing it safe online’ which many teachers tend to do, can actually have negative effects on a teachers reputation online. In my blog post-Social Media Activism: slacker or responsible? I shared how I was challenged to look at the importance of taking a stance on social justice issues online. I would encourage you all to read Katia Hildebrandt’s article In online spaces, silence speaks as loudly as words. In this article Katia shares:
Silence speaks just as loudly as words. If we are online, as educators, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in Canada, or about the burning of Black churches in the southern United States, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important.
This article really helped me realize how as educators when we choose to play it safe online we are in turn actually taking a stance. By not saying anything we are saying we agree with what is going on by not offering a differing opinion or taking a different stance. This really opened my eyes to the idea that both being active and not being active online can negatively impact your digital identity. Katia shared in her article that at the core “ed tech is a privilege” and that we as educators have a responsibility to take a stance on social justice issues. If you don’t take the time to create your online digital footprint someone else may take the opportunity to create it for you. This is something I am slowly stepping out of my comfort zone to ensure that I speak out on social justice issues.
Looking at all of this really makes me contemplate how I will address digital identity with my own children. I was raised in a time when I didn’t have access to social media until I was much older and mature than when my children will have access to it. As a teacher, I have been talking about this with my students who are 9 and 10-years old and they are beginning already to build a digital footprint. I feel that future generations will not have the opportunity to separate their personal and professional identities as much because their identity online will start at a much younger age than ours did. In turn, we need to help them understand and consider how their digital footprint will impact them lifelong and they need to learn this at a very young age. This is something that parents and educators need to take seriously and ensure that we are taking the time to ensure that we are helping children learn how to be safe and responsible online so that they are not punished for this later on in life when they enter the professional world. As adults, we need to make this a priority to ensure that we are educating our children about the importance of their digital identity and helping them understand how to navigate and use the online world safely and maturely.