Managing Your Digital Footprint as an Educator

How would a digital profile help or hinder you if you went looking for a new job?
Our digital footprint has become a reflection of who we are, whether we like it or not. "According to a survey of 300 hiring professionals conducted by Reppler, a social media monitoring service for managing online presence, a job candidate’s social network is thoroughly examined during the hiring process by 91 percent of employers and recruiters." Some other interesting facts from the study are:
  • 68% rejected a candidate based on what they saw on a Social Networking site.
  • 69% a candidate based on what they saw on a Social Networking site.
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Of course a positive footprint would be beneficial if you are a thoughtful blogger or contributor to a journal or periodical, but bad content can haunt you. Kindly email curators of negative comments to take them down and there are even agencies that you can hire like ReputationHawk or ReputationDefender that charge a fee for removing disparaging content from clients.    






How can you manage your digital footprint as an international educator?
Google yourself with advanced search settings including your profession and school and see what comes up. After I did mine, I was surprised to see that many comments that I wrote on news websites and blogs had come up. An extreme case of this is presidential candidate Rick Santorum, whose "Google Problem" which has been the product of Dan Savage's blog "Spreading Santorum". When you google Rick Santorum, this blog is prominently displayed, parodying his views on gay marriage. Although Mr. Santorum could hire an army of volunteers to pump out whitewashed propaganda on him in order to dilute this slight on him, a number of news agencies have already been remixing and revitalizing the story. Some other things to consider:
  • Don't Friend Students. There is grey area between social media and professionalism and if you're commenting on a weekend bender, misbehaving students or showing support for a gay colleague, you may find information that was meant from a few spreads with devastating consequences. If you must, have a separate account for your students and one for your adult friends.
  • Be Professional Outside of the Classroom. I'm a frequent commenter on the Huffington and Washington post and although my interactions usually have little to do with school, people searching for me might find my stance on an issue. Be respectful and courteous and don't assume that your comments will only be read by those involved in the current conversation.
  • Evolve from a Lurker to Contributor. Take time to comment on blogs or journals in support of ideas or offer dissenting points of view. Not only does this create a greater wealth of perspectives, but as you often sign in with login details from social sites, you'll further expand your digital footprint.
  • Learn About your Social Networks. My mom just got a facebook account last year and she's been exploring it's applications and it's insights. She thought it was strange that so many of her friends sent her birthday wishes last month when she didn't tell anyone it was her birthday; to which we replied: "It's on your timeline and facebook sends reminders to your friends!" A 2010 survey on Jobvite showed LinkedIn used most by employers for background checks followed by Facebook.

What then are the implications for students and how should educators be teaching them to have a positive digital footprint?

Most people don't realize how Google's privacy settings affect them and only learn about the consequences when they read shocking articles such as the one by John Brownlee which shows how when you make visible your location settings and start texting or tweeting to Twitter or Facebook, many people would have access to where you are through google maps, where you are walking as they know your address and write you a text on behalf of your brother as they know your family members. A lone girl walking home from the bar might not even know that while she thinks she's simply recapping the night, she might be inviting potential rapists with her information which gives them her complete profile and agenda.

Banksy Image Courtesy of CC
Obviously, we need to teach students about what should and what shouldn't included on social networks and this may vary depending on your schools acceptable use policy. We may also think that using source citation is the most important part of working with media to prevent plagiarism. However, every time you write and even search for something, there is a record. When need to teach students that when they search for fertilizer, the FBI may be watching, and when they search for porn, their parents may be watching. Either way, someone is watching and their privacy may be an illusion.  



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