Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Neverending Search
Inside Neverending Search

Shifting the way we look at footprints

For quite some time I’ve accepted that my blogging, my online pubs, my participation in social networks, my hyperconnectedness, all make for a rather transparent presence.

I’ve not only accepted this, I’ve welcomed the ability to reflect out loud, to join the discussion, to contribute.

Last week in a provocative SIG-MS/AASL session, Googled Well: Helping Kids Lead Transparent Lives, Will Richardson spoke of the potential for transparency and students, a subject he wrote about in Footprints in the Digital Age (Educational Leadership, November 2008) and blogged about a few weeks back in his post Transparency=Leadership.

My students know I blog.  A few read my blog. A few follow me on Twitter.  It had occurred to me a little while back that I was not only writing for the more obvious library/ed-tech audience, but that I might be modeling a behavior I wanted my learners and our teachers to follow.

Will clarifies for me why this behavior, this modeling matters. Writing as a parent, he describes his unrealized expectations for teachers and administrators:

I have more and more of an expectation of the teachers and especially the administrators in our schools to lead transparent lives. The fact that they are veritably “un-googleable” in terms of finding anything they have created and shared and perhaps collaborated with others on troubles me on a number of levels. First, I can’t see for myself whether or not they are learners. And, almost more importantly, I get no sense as to whether or not they are leaders of learners. Whether they are in the classroom or in the front office, I want (demand?) the adults in my schools to be effective models for living in a transparent world. I want my kids to see them navigating these spaces effectively, sharing what they know, teaching others outside of their physical space, and contributing to the conversation.

The Second Life discussion pushed the notion of transparency a little further.  What about learners? We spend so much time and effort protecting them.  We keep them in walled gardens. Their best work is hidden, often completely detached from their names. 

There’s a very big refrigerator out there.

In a communication landscape distinguished by its ability to foster collaboration, share media, create audience, should our learners hide the best of what they create?

Can we keep them safe and encourage them to be googleable in positive ways?

I mentioned in a previous post that before our students apply for college, we do a little digital footprint exploration using Pipl.

This semester one of our juniors pointed out that her personal search revealed an award she won when she was in middle school.  Another saw a link to a video project he’d done for a social student class.  They both asked if it was okay that people see that.  I assured them that it was more than okay.

It surprised me that they weren’t delighted.  That they even asked. 

We need to ask ourselves and our administrators few more questions about balance.  I suspect that we can protect our students as well as celebrate their contributions.

Will ended his post with a few questions from Dov Seidman’s book How:

The question before us as we consider what we need to thrive in the inter-networked world is: How do we conquer our fear of exposure and turn these new realities into new abilities and behaviors? How can we become proactive about transparency?

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Floyd Pentlin says:

    This is an interesting reflection. I did check out Richardson’s post on this issue. What is the future result of leading a transparent life? I can’t help thinking about the signal to noise ratio that comes from living a transparent life. With so much information out there does our job become teaching students how to filter out the trivial, inane, and unschooled from the authentic, important, and expert?

  2. Joan Tracy says:

    I, too, have been thinking about this. I was listening to a radio program discussing the “perils” of Facebook and college applications, and I thought of the many wonderful works students have done around which I have created a purposeful wall. No one on the “outside” will see these impressive works. Hmmm, is it time to ask why?

Speak Your Mind