Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lives of Teachers: Public or Private?

This is my response to an excellent discussion, by Andy Losik, a fellow educator/blogger, on his blog, HCS Geektopia. Below, I have quoted a portion of his posting that relates to problems some teachers have with online content that they have used, developed and placed in their profiles, websites, blogs and other online media.

If you don't think people are really looking at your Facebook pages or Googling you, think again. Here is a blog post from talk show radio host Kim Komando instructing parents how to find all kinds of information about YOU!

A tv station in Arizona ran a November sweeps piece on what they found on Arizona teachers' social network pages. "Teachers Expose Private Lives" dug up all kinds on new hires across the state, told where and what they teach, and tried to confront many on air.

Unfortunately for some teachers, the damage was done a long time ago. People post stuff or make crazy decisions and end up paying for them every time a perspective employer runs their name through a search engine. That stuff just doesn't go away.

You have expanded on a critically important topic that can affect the lives of many teachers.

Having a teen who interacts online, along with myself, I have had some strange experiences that lead me to believe that we may have more to worry about than monitoring our own behavior.

There is a dangerous trend among spammers and SEO's of ill repute to hijack websites, profile pages and public pages of social networking sites such as twitter, jaiku and others.

A few of my friends found our tweets online with different names, and these were part of a dating service. One of my friends was so aghast that she made her tweets private, shared the information with her colleagues and gave some suggestions to combat these thieves. I am of the opinion that might deter some, but not the hard core identity thieves.

My take home story is that we need to educate our leaders, including administrators and parents, not to jump to conclusions without verification and appropriate safeguards (including hearings) for teachers or we will end up with a witch hunt on our hands in a time when we need good teachers.

Through appropriate education on this topic, communities can aggree on standards and determine which teachers are trying their best to do right. We can learn to root out cases of identity theft, overcome a social faux pas and weed out the teachers with real social/emotional issues.

Thanks for carrying on this valuable conversation;D


Anonymous said...

This issue is of great concern and one that made me quite wary in the initial stages of me developing my twitter network. However, my social networks are now so valuable to me that never want to be forced to give them up. Hopefully, close monitoring of all who interact, will allow me to continue on.

samccoy said...

Thanks! I hope others will agree with your insight and monitor themselves and their online data stream.

SusanT said...

This is definitely an important subject and one that seems difficult to combat. While one can monitor oneself and ones contacts, it's very difficult to keep tabs on an rss feed.
One thing I have done is set up a Google alert for my name. However so far it hasn't once picked up the hijacked feed.

samccoy said...

Setting up a Google alert for your name is an excellent idea, and I will try that.

You may be right that the Google alert won't catch a very determined identity thief, but I think it will give a wide range of added preparations for future attacks.

Thanks for bringing this entire thread to my attention. Glad you are so online savvy, really helps;D

Kirsti A. Dyer said...

I think the emergency of social networking has really changed how people interact online. Many have chosen to make things public, that perhaps should remain private.

The fact that future employers and colleges may search online for prospective employees and students can reveal all sorts of things that might not be desirable.

It will be interesting to see if people start changing what they are posting realizing that what gets posted on the Internet suddenly becomes a public and potentially permanent.

I really like the idea of a Google alert for one's own name as a way of monitoring what is out there.

Thanks for giving me something to ruminate about for the Comment Challenge.

samccoy said...

Kristi, Thanks! I appreciate your comment.

Your point about considering everything you put online as public is so true.

I know we don't live in a perfect world, but I hope that employers use these types of online investigative tools as only ONE of the ways they may discover if they want to hire someone as a teacher in their district. I would hope that district administrators may use this method as an initial screening, along with the resume, references, portfolio, etc. I would hope, if they found something questionable online, they would give potential employees an opportunity to explain themselves.

I believe teachers should use the Google Search periodically. If they find inappropriate use of their online input, they should seek redress through the online host. Not money, but elimination of the offending, mistaken or stolen identity. If that doesn't happen, they should blog about it and bookmark the blog as much as possible....over time. Then the recognition of the problem will come up in a search of their name. Hopefully, this would help their reputations.

I don't know about the people who put inappropriate pictures online or write inappropriately. I have my own thoughts, but it will take another blog posting to explain them;D

Right now, there seems to be much nervousness about the online presence, in general. It seems to me that those of use who know of these pitfalls will continue working together, just as we are here.

We can help people in the World of Matter know about online pitfalls, but, more importantly,the benefits of online interactions. It seems to me that this is a great start in building ethical online/real world communities.