There’s a photo that’s been making the rounds; in it, a teacher holds up a sign that says:
“I’m talking to my 5th grade students about internet safety and how quickly a photo can be seen by lots of people. If you are reading this, please click “LIKE.” Thanks!
I’ve now seen a couple other variations as well–different teachers working with students in different grades, but the general message is the same.
And it really, really bothers me every time I see it. To be fair, I don’t know how it fits within a larger lesson or unit, but it has the same tone of so many fear-based “internet safety” lesson that I see.
I get that we need to talk to students about privacy and safety and the image they present online. And I do have those conversations with students–but the conversation can’t end there. We can’t just frame it as a “don’t do this, it’s bad.” Because our students are online, and will be living highly-connected lives. And you know what–having something you created seen and shared by thousands of people online is AWESOME.
There is a post I wrote several years ago about teaching citation. It is one of the most popular posts from my old blog, and I still get hits and comments on it on a regular basis. And I LOVE that. It’s why being connected to other educators and sharing my work online has been so powerful–it allows me to be a part of a much bigger conversation and to learn from people all over.
So why can’t the conversation be about creating awesome things to share? A lot of students want that audience–why can’t we talk to them about what they’re creating and how to share it? We can start from the assumption that they’re going to be sharing things online, and focus the conversation to what those things should be.
I have a unique name and I am highly Google-able. I am very aware of my online presence. But that doesn’t stop me from having one–it means that I focus on creating a positive digital footprint for myself. Does that mean I like everything about myself that’s online? No. There are pictures in which I look weird, abandoned online accounts, and writings I’ve done that make me cringe a little. Knowing those things are out there doesn’t make me want to stop putting things online–it makes me want to share more.
It’s because I’ve put many of these ideas out there that I know how much we can control our online image, simply by creating and interacting online. The more I have out there, the more well-rounded my online image is. Is there stuff out there that I didn’t put up, that I wish wasn’t there? Sure. But I also can’t control what everyone says about me in the real world.
And it seems pretty clear that the teachers doing this have a good sense that social networks can be powerful, positive things–why else would they reach out to these networks for help with this project? Let that be part of the conversation, too.
Sharing is good. Sharing can be powerful. For students and teachers.