Random Thoughts

Create your online profile

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I had the honor Monday (and I do see it as an honor) to give a 40 minute presentations to the whole high school student body at my school (350+) plus teachers. It is by far the largest audience I’ve ever giving a presentation in front of and not an easy audience to start with. On top of that today marked the first day of spirit week so all 350+ students were wearing their PJs!

I titled my presentation “Creating Your Online Profile: Who do you want to be?” The presentation was really about online safety and understanding social-networks. But you can’t call a presentation geared towards high schools ‘online safety’, so I decided to take a positive approach. High school kids have enough people telling them what not to do…they don’t need some geeky guy in blue jeans doing the same. So I wrapped the Internet safety message around a positive message about creating an online profile that works for you.

I started off having the students define what makes a social-network social. I had them holler out what makes a social-network. Great responses: “Allows you to connect to people”, “Allows you to share pictures”, “Allows you to communicate”. From there I asked how many of them had a facebook profile. It was easily 98% of the student body. They all laughed looking around at each other with smirks on their face like “Yeah, that’s right…we’re the social-network generation!” Next I had the teachers stand up if they had a facebook profile. Those smirks turned to shock as about half the high school staff stood up. That social-network belongs to everyone!

From there we talked about information flow and how in a connected web you can not control information. Links and connections are not always visible and once the information is out there you can not get it back.

The best feedback from the students came from the use of this site:


It takes the links from any website and turns them in to a visualization of how information flows from a site.

We talked about creating an online profile that represents who you are, or who you want to be. We discussed the fact that our society at this moment in time really doesn’t know where to draw the line when it comes to what is private and what is public, what should be held against you in a job interview and what shouldn’t. We talked about these four articles:


We then talked about how to create an online profile that will help you in life and maybe even get accepted to college.

The presentation seemed to go over well with a couple of high schoolers coming up to me afterwards and saying “Man, you’re intense!” What can I say, I get excited when I talk about this stuff…I just wish I got to more often. 🙂

After the presentation I went around with the counselors and talked with students in their classes. I helped to answer questions on a more personal level and had some great conversations with students around their concerns. One students went back to class, grabbed a laptop and did a search for his name and was shocked that people had written about him without him knowing it.

It’s a connected world, and even though they live it, I’m not really sure they get it.

Another student in one of the sessions said “We know all this stuff is there, we just pretend it isn’t.” and don’t we all pretend not to see it sometimes.

My favorite quote from today is when a student was talking with the classroom teacher and referred to facebook as “our space”. An interesting and accurate description of how the students view these social-network sites. They were their first, they have helped to make them what they are today, and they update and create content there more than any of us do. It is there space, but the issue is everyone is allowed in their space and they can’t control that!

I would share my PowerPoint slides but there really isn’t anything to share. Lately I’ve been taking the approach of using pictures to tell my story as I talk. I also played two YouTube videos which got good responses as well. You have to talk to the audience in their language and students today understand pictures and videos.


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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  2. This sounds like a fabulous presentation. Perhaps you should go on tour. High school students need to hear this but so do staff members. Understanding that every time you post anything, you are creating your profile is difficult for all of us to get – students and teachers, alike.

  3. It sounds like a great presentation all around. Some students are starting to hear so much about Internet Safety that I think it is starting to go in one ear and out the other. Your approach is great in that the kids are more likely to want to have a clean image for job and college interviews. It hits them where they live. So many students like to think that the online world is private, but fail to realize that their friend today could take a screen capture or download a file that you think is locked down and post it again anywhere. I personally struggle with where to draw the line with my own information.

  4. Jeff,

    Sometimes despite all precautions our privacy gets compromised by others in our network. Students are often surprised to realize that if just one person in their network changes the privacy settings on a shared image, for example, from “for friends only” to “anyone” then that image is now public.

    It’s a great conversation topic with students.

  5. Sara Nitschke Reply

    First of all this sounds like a really neat presentation and a unique way of getting your message across. Kids are diving headfirst into the worldwide web without understanding how they are being perceived on there. I think everyone has a part of their private life that they might not want their teacher or boss to find out about, but doesn’t affect their professional life at all. Unfortunately when you put this stuff on the web, it becomes public. If it is inappropriate, that speaks badly for your school or workplace. This is where the issue lies. Your online profile is a part of your entire personality, a reflection of yourself and the groups you are part of. Students believe these sites are their private little worlds, and finding out teachers were a large part must have shocked them. Private and professional lives should be kept apart but the web is bringing them together. If people need a more private and personal space to share with friends, they need to be more careful.

  6. Anna Niemeyer Reply

    It sounds like it was a great presentation that really connected to your students. Your approach to presenting to the kids was a great way to relate to them. Which Youtube Videos did you use for this presentation? I assume that you used the video with the bulletin picture that keeps reappearing; but what was the other?

  7. I think social networking is a really cool thing to have. It allows you connect to your friends no matter where there at. It’s neat he shows them how to do it and encourages them to use it safely.

  8. I think this presentation would have been great to see. I know in our school Facebook and You Tube are huge. 98% of our school uses it, including most teachers. It is a great way to keep in touch but also can come back and haunt you if you put to much information on it. I believe social networking is a great way for people to talk to each other and learn.

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  13. sassyhippo112 Reply

    After reading this whole article I really think that having an online profile like Face book is a really good idea. I mean you can contact with people that you have not seen in a while, that is awesome. Plus it is a great way to communicate, instead of talking on the phone all you have to do is type a message or two to them and then they reply. An online profile can get you excepted into a great college all you need to do is be careful what you say. Maintain a good digital identity.

    I totally agree with you.


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