Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Who is controlling your school’s online profile?

In my presentation to educators I usually say:

You need to take control of your online presence, because if you don’t…someone else will!

Do schools have someone looking after their online profile?

Do we need to create a new position in the communication office?

I just got done editing my school’s wikipedia entry where someone had put false information on the site. It was brought to my attention today by a teacher who was told by a student about the edits made to the article.

Funny enough as I’m writing this blog post I go back to the page to find more edits made that are false. I quickly go to the history page, see that the person editing the pages is logged in as user: shanghai12345, and quickly undo their edits again.

I’m loving this! They make an edit I click on the history, click undo, write a quick summary of my edit and click Revert. The real information comes back.

Schools need to understand where students go to get information about their school.

Schools need to understand that if you don’t control the school’s profile students will.

How is your school represented on Facebook?

How is your school represented on Wikipedia?

How can your school leverage these places as communication avenues?

How can your school leverage these social-networks for learning?

If someone at your school isn’t asking these questions…isn’t actively creating and managing your school’s online presence then the school is allowing students past/present/future to create it for them.

If school’s are not going to adopt and take these spaces seriously…then they will allow these social places to run the school’s image. Someday I have a feeling that will ruin a school, an administrator, or a teacher. We are only at the beginning of the use of these tools. Take control now or forfeit your online profile to others!

So I still have Shirky’s post running through my head.

Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.

When today I head into a 4th grade class to talk about cyber safety (the school counselor talked me into it 😉 ).

As we were wrapping up I asked the kids, “How old do you think the Internet is?”

“50?”
“20?”

Counselor: “What!” laughing “No way!”

“15?”

Me: “Well actually the web as we know it today got started in 1996.”

Students:
“What! That’s it?”
“No Way!”

Every student but one has their own cell phone
Every student raised their hand when I asked if they go on the Internet at least once a week.
Every student has an mp3 player

To reword Shirky from above:

Here’s something fourth graders know: Media is free, content is free, it’s always been that way. Here’s something fourth graders know: Information that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because fourth graders, the students we’re teaching are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that we have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching (Insert favorite sitcom), they just assume that information is consumable, producible and sharable.

And that’s just the way it is!

What interested me the most is in all six of the classes, as soon as I start talking about technology they all get that look….teachers know the one…..the one of complete attention, of wanting to know and wanting to share what they know.

We talk about all their favorite sites, we talk about who has this gaming console and who has that one. We talk about cell phones…and when they are really excited, we talk about staying safe on the web. What do you share, what not to share, were are the “cool places” and where should you not go.

One fourth grade lied and is on Facebook

Three others have older siblings who are under 13 and are on Facebook.

Ladies and Gentlemen we’re missing opportunities here to teach with the tool they so desperately want to use and want to learn. I could have asked them to write about their favorite features on their cell phones. To write a letter to their parents about why they should get an iPhone (persuasive writing).

We could have discussed the lastest podcast from ?????

We could have discussed the latest developments in Club Penguin.

We can do so much with what they are excited about. So many opportunities to bring learning into what they are doing, what they want to be doing, a where they are and want to spend their time. Opportunities….so many opportunities.

We all know what happens when you get administrators that understand this Web 2.0 stuff. Shift happens!

Gourmet Geeks Image Andy Torris a good friend of mine, fellow Gourmet Geek, and oh yeah Deputy Superintendent at our school has the wheels a spinning on what Web 2.0 can mean for a school community.

We had a great conversation starter today. What Andy and I really need is a day or two to talk through how this stuff will/can work….and we both believe it can.

“I know there is power in Twitter!” he says has he starts talking about the Twitter account he set up for our school.
We have some ideas on how our community can use Twitter to stay up on what is happening within the school. The school can use it to point to recent or updated information.


Think of the following as Twitter updates:

Practice for softball has been canceled today do to rain.

Don’t forget to vote in the board election this week.

Latest posting from principals can be found here.

Fund raiser this week for Habitat for Humanity remember to support our clubs!


As Andy and I continued talking today we both started talking about marketing and communication and how these tools could be very powerful for a private school such as ours in Shanghai. We also talked about Facebook and having more of a presence there.

“I’ve already created an account.” he says with a smile on his face.

Our conversation goes even deeper about how we need/can engage students at this level. We also talk about the new site I launched today for our school. A Netvibes Universe page that has all our feeds in one place. You can go to www.saschinaonline.org and you will be redirected to our Universe (check out my Universe via the new link at the top of my blog).

This type of site I think has some great power for larger school districts. Could you imagine being in a school district of 20 or 30 schools and have one site like this for the community that brings the district together?

I’ve been reading a lot about marketing lately and I think that’s part of all this. We need to market our schools to our students, our parents, our communities. How do we do that? What tools can we use?

If you’re not already following Andy I would add him to your list of reads. He’s an administrator who can see the larger picture and together we’re gonna figure out how a school can embrace these tools and use them in a multitude of ways to communicate and market our school to the community of Shanghai and expats that might be moving here.

Have you ever been giving a presentation or talking to someone and all of a sudden you say something that makes you stop and think. I do it quite often actually and most of the time these turn into blog posts as is this one. My last session at EARCOS I was all fired up with a standing room only crowd and I was talking about Facebook and having a social presence when this came flying out of my mouth.

“If you don’t take control of your social presence, someone else will!”

I had some shocked looks in the room, some wiggles in the chairs, and after the session ended had three people come up to me and ask “How do I register my own domain name?” (I use godaddy.com BTW)

As educators I think it is even more important. Like it or not, your students are out there and they’re talking about you! You can either allow them to create your social presence for you or you can take control of it.

I’ve talked about the power of your social presence before and it is a scary thing if you do not have a gage on what’s out there. You can’t control what others say about you, but you can try to control what Google and Facebook searches find and rank.

I’ve also been hard on schools lately who are not controlling their social presence in Facebook. If you are a teacher in a high school go search for your school and see what you find. Then ask yourself:

1) Is this what we want incoming students to know?
2) How could our school harness the power here?
3) What do we want students; Past, Present, Future to find and know about.

(BTW schools…blocking it does not make it go away!)

One school that is getting this, I think anyway, is the International School of Kuala Lumpur. When you do a search for ISKL at Facebook the first group that comes up is their alumni group with over 1300 members. I used this as an example in my presentation and the Alumni overseer of the group was at the conference heard that I had use the site and approached me. The site was started by two past students. The alumni association approached them and asked if they could make this the official site. The school’s alumni association now works with the two college students to run the site, keep it updated, and makes sure it correctly represents the school.

Sure, there are other ISKL student ran groups on facebook and I’m sure like most schools they’re not all positive, but when a student comes to facebook and searches for ISKL…this is where they start. They start at the alumni page, they join it, know that they can get answers, makes connections, all before heading out to other “sub-groups.”

As teachers and schools we need to realize that our customers are in this space, and that if we are not going to take control of our information there, someone else will do it for you. Do you want to leave a high school student in control of your profile? How about a group of say 100 students?

Scary? Yeah….then do something about it!

We can’t continue to pretend these spaces don’t matter. Especially if you are like most International teachers and you’re out looking for a job every 3,5,7 years or so (what’s the stat…14 jobs before they’re 37?). Because some where, some time, somebody is going to Google you or do a Facebook search for you and what are they going to find? Who are you allowing to represent you?

I also like to show this poll started in 2006 and still active at USA Today.

The only thing this poll shows is that we do not want a law telling us we can or can not search for someone and use that information against them.

We are in a time of change, a time of figuring out how to use this information and when it is appropriate to do so. Until there becomes some “social norms” around this type of employee searching, you need to control what employers might find.

Do you feel like I’m yelling at you? Feel like I’m getting up in your face about this? If so this post is for you. Do something about it, get connected, get social and start talking control of your online presence! Because if you don’t…..some day some one else will.

[tags]education, facebook, social presence[/tags]

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