Who's Controlling your profile?

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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5 Comments

  1. Jeff,

    As you, and maybe some of your readers know, what you discussed in this post has been a very real experience for me. I have written on the subject a bit

    link to intrepidteacher.edublogs.org)

    but since I am exposed and looking for a new job, I am a bit reserved on how I approach the subject.

    But let me try and sort some thoughts out here now:

    We want, I think, as educators to teach our students to be resourceful, expressive, open, honest, members of a global community that is rapidly homogenizing and melding in terms of social norms, cultural taboos etc…This is true at least in the developed world, where access to Web 2.0 is at all time high. But then as educators, we ourselves are terrified of who and what we are.

    In my case it was a picture that represented my thoughts on censorship that upset a parent, but it could have been my thoughts on social justice, politics, religion, or many other things that, apparently, I am expected to teach but not think or write about.

    My point is that there will always be things that will upset a group of people when we are exposed on the web. So the questions is are we trying to use Web 2.0 and all these tools to connect people and tear down walls, or are we still trying to hide behind as many walls as we can?

    I honestly feel that if an employer searches me out and sees my work on the web, from my youtube videos, to my flickr pages, to my personal and professional blogs, they should see a complete picture of the type of person I am. I am extremely proud of that person, I have been working on him for 33 years now. He is more than just a marketable teacher; he is a complete human being. Isn’t that ultimately what we are teaching our students? To be able to create themselves and be fully expressive using the Internet tools to not only better understand themselves, but also the people who cohabitate the planet on which they live.

    Perhaps I am too naïve and idealistic, I have been told this before, but I am a firm believer that the point of all this technology is connection and exposure. I guess my idea of private and public is fading fast…is the world ready for that? Are our schools?

    I have learned the hard way, that they are not, but with things changing as fast as they are, we have to be ready for it when it does. If we as educators are overly cautious to use the web, we cannot expect our students to use it to its full potential.

    So if you have never read my work please google Jabiz Raisdana and if you are an administrator and need a teacher, please get in touch.

  2. I agree with you about registering my own domain name and unfortunately my husband got it before me. He is really non-techy but he has been listening to me about the power of blogging etc. for months. He pushed me to buy my “Successful Teaching” name so no one else could have it. He may not understand the ins and outs of technology but he really does know about marketing so I tend to listen to him. We need to make sure that even though we may be “into” technology, that we look at what we are doing from other perspectives too.

  3. Jeff,
    As a future teacher and avid facebook-er, I completely agree with what you are trying to push for in this blog. Being a student still at a larger university, I know that students are so interested in what professors have facebooks, how they are represented, etc. There was actually an article in our school’s daily paper abotu professors getting on facebook. It’s not only a window into the professor’s world, but a greater and more effective means of communication with students, because almost every person I know checks their facebook everyday if not more than once. That’s more than most check their own e-mail.
    I think it’s also a good idea for more high schools to get involved in this sort of thing instead of just blocking the sites from being accessed by students. My high school blocked Facebook and Myspace, and everyone knew by the second day how to bypass it. But these networking sites are still growing and schools can’t stop that, so they should join in the bandwagon to make sure they are showing people the correct information about the schools, and not skewed or biased opinions from students who did not do so well. This may also help to salvage some teachers’ reputations for future students. Maybe they could put out information, like how Pick-a-prof.com works (a website for students who want to find out what their future professors will be like).
    Facebook and Myspace have been taking over these students’ lives, so why shouldn’t they want to make the best out of it?
    Thanks,
    Sarah

  4. Mr. Utech,
    I completely agree with the ideas and thoughts in your blog. As a college student I am a regular Facebook user. It is nice to keep in touch with old friends and an easy way to contact new friends. I truly don’t see any harm in the Facebook or Myspace world. It is the way kids use it that is a problem. When I first went to college, Facebook was only for college students, now there are junior high kids as well as teachers on the Facebook community. I know as a future educator I do not want to see my name portrayed in a bad manner because of a student(s) who did not particularly like me. But just like you said, we can do something about this. We can learn to control and take matters into our own hands. No, we cannot control everything that goes on the Internet but just like you said we can do something about it. I do not want potential employers to look me up on Facebook and maybe not find wonderful things because of something someone else posted. I hope that we can continue to grow with the growth of Facebook and Myspace and learn to take this experience and learn from it.

    Brittney Ghezzi

  5. I totally agree with this blog that developing a social presence is important. This kind of technology is not going away and is only going to get larger. I think teachers need to realize that this is going to be an issue in high schools and colleges around the world. If teachers could grab a positive aspect of facebook this could lead the students into the right direction. Teachers being involved in facebook not only help their social presence, but could draw them closer to their students on a more personal level. Teachers could create groups on facebook and have their students’ join them. These groups could be used as discussion sites, homework assignments, and any questions about the material being taught. If students know their teachers have facebook, it could limit the amount of talk or inappropriate behavior being passed across it. I know students will get around this but it is a start. I just feel that instead of throwing this kind of technology on the “back burner,” there are more positive ways in using a website like facebook than the negatives. This gives teachers access to all their students and can let them “keep tabs” on how their social presence is as well. Very interesting topic and will definitely keep growing as time goes on.

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