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

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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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Last week I listened to TWIT episode 121. This is not unusual as the TWIT podcast is my favorite podcast to listen to; great quality, good people, and relevant topics that somehow I always find a way to bring back to education.

Now the unusual part comes with my wife and I having a conversations on Saturday morning that paralleled what they were talking about on TWIT. It is also something I have been thinking about over the past couple of days. Now either my wife is secretly listening to TWIT (which would bring a tear to my eye) or there truly is some power in this network.
During the TWIT episode (right around the 60-minute mark), they talk about networks and how much a network can be worth. In the episode, they use Scoble as an example.
 

“He would probably bring you 20, 30, 40 thousand dollars worth of value just in the marketing of his social presence. Think of that, if you were a company you would get 20, 30, 40 percent discount on his presence.”

“Everybody who is in your social network is worth 50 cents to a dollar to your employer.”

Think about that for a minute. Is your social presence, your social network, worth something? Absolutely!

Now education is not in the money-making business, but we are in the knowledge business. That knowledge is worth something to our schools, our districts, and to the teachers we teach with and help.

I’ll use myself as an example:

Because of my social presence, how many of you know of Shanghai American School (SAS)?

How many of you think that Shanghai American School would be a good school to work at?

How many of you would consider working for SAS because of what you know about the school through my social presence?

Is that worth something to my school? Is it worth something to my school that a teacher asks for a letter to explain blogging to parents, and that I am able to Twitter the request and in less than 5 minutes have three links to help that teacher? Is it worth something to my school that as the recruiting process is upon us in international schools, that administrators can point recruits to my blog as an example of the types of things we are doing at SAS? Do schools understand the value of what they have when they have a Clarence Fisher and his social network working for them? Or a Miguel Guhlin, a Vicki Davis, a John Pederson, a David Jakes, or you?

With social networks comes knowledge power that most schools do not realize they have. Imagine the following interview question:

“Could you please share with me the extent of the learning network that you would bring with you to this job?”

An answer:

“Well, I bring 1500 readers from my blog, over 400 Twitter contacts, 30+ Facebook friends, 50+ Skype contacts, and a Ustream.TV station that at the last live event saw 40+ people attend. I bring with me one click access to a knowledge base far greater than any single hire can bring.”

This is the conversation my wife and I had: that when you are hired to work for a school, you are not the only one working for that school but you bring your social network to that school too, and that social network, that social presence is working for the school as well.

Think about the social presence of Will Richardson or David Warlick. Two guys whose social presence just on their blogs alone is worth something. I wonder what the going rate for their social presence would be.

Can you imagine interviewing Will Richardson for a job and asking him about his social presence, about what he brings with him to the job? You would get a lot more than you are paying for.

So let’s break it down this way:

You have two people applying for the same position. One has a social presence that reaches far into the educational community. You have another who does not have a social network.
Who do you hire?

Let’s say they have the same skills. Who do you hire?

Let’s say the one without a social presence is slightly more qualified. Who do you hire?

We tell students to be aware of their social presence. As adults, we too must understand the power of these networks. We need to understand that there is power here and that our social presence adds market value. How do we factor this into our hiring practices? 21st Century hiring practices should not only look at your experience but at the social network you bring with you to the job.

A fine example of this comes from Valleywag which posted in its rumormonger category a couple weeks ago about Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.com, selling the company and working for News Corp.

Word is News Corp.’s newly launched Fox Business Network, the CNBC rival, also wants to use Rose for coverage of CES, the large gadget trade show in January.

Let’s pretend for a moment that this rumor is true. What if News Corp was buying Digg.com not for its site, but for its creator and his social presence? Between Digg.com and the Diggnation Podcast, Kevin Rose’s social presence means instant viewership to an aging business model like Fox News. If you have a person with a vast social presence covering the largest gadget trade show for the Fox Network, you are guaranteed to get viewers, which in return equals revenue through ad sales. Is the business world starting to understand the power of social presence on the web? How far behind is education?

In the 21st Century do we need to reexamine the importance put on social presence verses that put on experience? Can an employee with a vast social presence, a person who knows where to find the information when they need it, be more valuable to a company then someone with years of experience?

Today I actually visited some blogs to see how people represent their social presence. I found that I have totally missed MyBlogLog (putting that on my blog now) and a couple new wordpress plugins that help to illustrate your social presence. Of the blog wandering I did today, I think Wes Fryer has the best blog layout for showing his web presence. That guy’s connected everywhere to everyone! Worth something to Wes? I’m sure. Worth something to the teachers and schools he works with? Absolutely!

I ask you to stop and think for a second how much your knowledge network is worth.

There is not only power in the knowledge, but there is also power of the presence. Get social, get connected, and let your presence be known!

[tags]social presence[/tags]

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