Robbing Students of Recognition

Cross Posted at the TechLearning blog

Our district uses its front page to post success stories from our 40 schools. These range from academic achievements to athletic accomplishments of school teams. Schools post the stories to their own Website and submit them to me to post to the district page where generally there is more traffic. This one was sent to me earlier in the week.

Tanner Spencer from Craik, SK, attended team Canada's World Junior top 35 camp in Orlando, Florida from October 5th to October 15th.  Tanner is the youngest Saskatchewan player ever chosen to go.  The majority of the team was from BC, Ontario, and Quebec.  One player was chosen from the Maritimes, one from Manitoba, one from Saskatchewan and two from Alberta.  Tanner started pitching the first game in Orlando, started the fourth game and closed the last game.  He gave up no earned runs on six innings pitched.  Congratulations Tanner.

As soon as I read it I realize they had violated our district policy which states we will never publish a photo of a student with a full name. I also realized in that moment how absurd that policy is.

As we explore the idea of a digital footprint and identity we must consider that at some point we want to our students to own their work and accomplishments and showcase them to a variety of audiences. If I'm Tanner or Tanner's parents I want as many people as possible to know of his accomplishments. I immediately sent out my concerns about our policy to our school technology representatives and one of the school leaders, Angus Mcintosh, responded this way:

It is in Tanner's very best interest, at this point,  that everybody knows is name. He will have offers for scholarships to Major U.S Colleges and Universities and already has a collection of business cards from Major League scouts. The more people that know about him, the more  choices and opportunities it will create for him. People "knowing" Tanners name started somewhere, and the word has spread that there is a very good young pitcher living in Craik and playing ball in Moose Jaw. He has many doors open for him to choose from.

But for every Tanner Spencer, there is the opposite. There are children with  unfortunate backgrounds that need protection in terms of privacy. We know that and will always respect that. But I also think (hope?) they are as rare as Tanner.

And here's the point that is critical.

And then there is the rest. There are kids with special talents that few people know about. What about them? I would bet our schools are full of kids like Tanner but their talent is in Art, or Drama, or Math, or Writing etc. Most kids probably don't even know where their talent is! But if they did, would they be able to open the doors like Tanner has? How does a superior math student get "recruited" to a University? Can a dance student get into the National Ballet if nobody knows what they have accomplished? At some point everyone needs to "sell themselves" in a job interview, or a business proposal, or even a meeting with the bank manager for your first mortgage.   If we can show kids that their accomplishments are to be proud of, and that the accomplishments are not anonymous, we can teach self confidence, and true self esteem.

While this confidence and self esteem can be and should be established offline even more so that online, we do a huge disservice to our students when in efforts to protect them we inadvertently rob them of the opportunity to be recognized.

I get pretty zealous over stuff like this and perhaps I've missed something here. If I have please share.

EdTech Posse 5.4 Grumpy Old Digital Residents

We missed Rick and Alec but welcomed back Heather Ross and Kyle Lichtenwald as we talk about digital safety and identity, digital residents and digital tourists. I was able to elaborate further on the debacle of the other night’s presentation. I actually don’t show up until about 15 minutes into the conversation. I was busy eating donuts. Thanks to Rob for the quick turn around.

Personal Branding

Dan Schawbel of Personal Branding Magazine asked me to write a brief article on personal branding and how it might relate to K-12 education. I found it interesting that he would be interested in a K-12 perspective so I felt like it was an opportunity to further bridge the gap between education and the rest of the world.  While the business world calls it “personal branding” the term “digital citizenship” or “digital footprint” is the synomous term in education. The idea of students developing their “brand” or identity is a burgeoning concept in education.

I’ve been following Dan’s blog and shared items in his reader for about the past 2 months. It’s interesting to notice where we do and don’t overlap on the idea of personal branding or digital footprint.

You can view the entire issue for free by clicking on the free sample issue link on the main page.

Podcast 40 Going Global, Going Public

I tried to record the audio from my presentation last week but I must have messed something up. It’s likely for the best since I was able to condense a 50 minute presentation down to about 18 minutes. After removing the videos, discussion and excessive rambling, this is what you’re left with; the slidecast below as well as the mp3 for the podcast portion.

Is your identity worth $10 a year?

Disclaimer: Most people who would bother to read this blog might get this and most who don’t read this won’t.

Purchasing your domain name will be, and is becoming a big deal. Even if you don’t blog or wiki or whatever. If you exist, you should be claiming your identity. Whether google is making us more stupid or not, it is almost the de facto standard for finding out about someone.

Google yourself. Do it now. What comes up? Nothing? Good stuff? Somebody with the same or similar name? If someone else is googling you, would they know the difference? For those that answered nothing, you might be safe for now. But as google becomes better and better at indexing, even the smallest digital footprint will appear. That small footprint might be a forum posting from 3 years ago. It might be a newspaper article. It might be something that really doesn’t reflect who you are.
Following the lead of Ewan and Will, I went out and looked for and was already taken by a company that buys domains and sells them at inflated prices. Most domain registrars charge between $7 and $20 a year for a domain name. This site is asking $1300 for The only reason I can fathom is that my blog generates a bit of traffic. I did manage to buy and it now points to this site. I’m fortunate in that my name is not found much on the internet save for a few long lost relatives, it’s mostly me you’ll find on a typical name search. As stated by Robert Jones on Ewan’s post, if you’re name is John Smith, it’s not that easy to secure your name. However, it may not be that hard to establish your digital footprint. You may have to be a bit creative, find some other keywords, tags to bring with you but it can be done.

A mother on Will’s blog, stated that she purchased a domain for her young daughter. So when you google Sarah Wynne, this is what you get: a teenager taking control of her digital footprint. When any university, employer, friend or relative searches her name, they see the stuff that she intentionally posts as a reflection of her life. Smart parent, smart kid.

Kern Kelley and his high school bought all the graduates their domain name and left them with this powerful video.

So is $10 too much to claim your identity? The video demonstrates that the ridiculously easy tools that are available to create even a simple webpage can pay huge dividends. This is just another great opportunity to discuss digital citizenship and internet safety in positive terms. In the book Naked Conversations, they discuss the importance of companies to take control of the media and in fact be their own media but engaging their customers via blogs. In the same way, individuals need to be taking control of their identity and having a little understanding of google, rankings and metadata, they can.

As Stephen Downes commented,

And I have a domain for a very simple reason – I didn’t want my website address to change every time I got a new job. This was especially relevant when I had three jobs within a coupe, of years. Less so now, but it’s still good to have a personal permanent URL.

Everyone should, have one, and eventually, everyone will.

What are you waiting for?