Online safety is an important aspects of any students education whether it is delivered through ICT/Computing, PSHE or tutor periods. It is expected to be taught in every school and our students need to be aware of the dangers of the internet and how to behave appropriately. My worry is that we spend so much time talking about the dangers of the internet and social media that we don’t always show our students or in fact staff how positive it can be. A positive digital footprint or online reputation can help our students get into university, get a job or get involved with productive activities outside of school. The question is – how can we develop our students positive online reputation in schools?
Firstly, the increase use of social media in schools would help promote productive use. I am very passionate about it and have written several articles and spoken at confernces on the subject. Embracing social media in schools is the best way for our students to engage with it in a way they previously have not. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook can be used for teaching and learning. For instance, students can be encouraged to tweet about their subject and engage in online discussions with other students and their teacher (using a school account). This is all part of their digital footprint and shows those looking at their profile that they are interested in their studies, which gets more important the older they get.
Blogging is also an important tool for developing an online reputation. It gives students an audience for the their writing that is not just their teacher as they are essentially publishing work online. They could write assignments in the format of a blog post or write about what they have been learning, which could in turn be used for revision. Blogging is also something that can be used beyond classroom studies. Its a great way of writing about things that interest them outside of school. It could be a sports team, music, films, outside academic pursuit or perhaps something that could interest them career wise.
Another fantastic way to improve our students online presence would be to incorporate digital CV’s into career lessons. We should encourage students to publish their CV’s online using about.me, LinkedIn or even using a blogging service like WordPress or Blogger. This will give them another way to sell themselves to colleges, universities and employers.
Using social networks and blogs all fits in with what students are being taught in e-safety lessons. Anything they share needs to be thought about and young people need to be confident that what they are posting will show them in a good light. You only need to look at the incident involving Paris Brown to see the importance of having a positive digital footprint. She lost her job as the first Youth Crime Commissioner when it emerged she had posted some offensive tweets on Twitter several years earlier. Teachers have even been caught out because of things they have said online. Our students digital footprint is more important than ever.
There are a number of websites and resources that are useful for helping to teach this. Ollie Bray has shared a useful image that could be used in an assemble on the digital footprint on the GTN resources section. Along the same lines is a great infographic on Edudemic about how different generations leave a digital footprint. The UK Safer Internet Centre website has a great section on professional reputation. It has some great information about online reputation including research as well as tips and advice. Which can certainly be included in lessons or for assemblies.
One great set of resources on online reputation and digital footprint can be found on the LifeSkills website. Once registered teachers can download free lessons and workshops. These contain plans, presentations, worksheets and interactive games for students to engage with. They cover everything from the effective use of social media to online reputation lessons. This will help our students for the future and help them understand how digital technology can help them in further education as well as for finding employment.
The importance of a positive online reputation cannot be underestimated. When our students apply for a job the potential employer will more than likely search for them online. If our students are able to do some of the things I have written in this article, they will be much more desirable to the employer as rather than come across some questionable posts on social media they will find work experience, blogs posts, online CV, a portfolio of work or constructive online discussions. The same works for universities or colleges searching for students who have applied for their institutions.
Students can use the internet and social media to their advantage, we just need to show them how.