If you’re not blogging in this day and age, are you at a disadvantage?

I can see a day in the not too distant future (if it’s not already here) where your “digital footprint” will carry far more weight than anything you might include in a resume or CV.

It’s perhaps not so relevant (yet) in the public education sector where the criteria for employment is not always  based solely on a meritocracy, but in the independent sector there is a definite awareness of an individual’s digital footprint as a way to gauge their involvement, passion, engagement and understanding of their chosen field.

It may not yet be happening in the public sector because of unionisation and the existing promotional structures in place, but in the outside world where people are employed, promoted and recognised by their actual contributions and not just by the amount of time they have been in a given role, the notion of knowing about an individual because of the trail of ideas they leave behind them in their online networks will play a larger and larger role.

I’m certain that almost EVERY employer these days has Googled you before they call you for an interview. Many people in the private sector (and I’m not just talking about education) are being offered positions or getting headhunted because of the presence they have created in their online spaces.

Having a blog, a Twitter account, even a Facebook… these things are not just about giving you a place to talk about mundane and trivial stuff that no one else interested in… they are in fact building your “personal brand”, as the marketers would say.  You can say that’s pretentious and that you want no part of it, but the fact is that the online persona and online presence you develop by creating this digital footprint is playing an increasingly important role in defining who you are (or at least who you appear to be).

Unfortunately, NOT having an online presence says a lot about you too.  If I was staffing a school where a passion for education was valued, I would be very dubious about employing someone who could not show any evidence of an online presence.  If I couldn’t find any record of them being part of online communities, being involved in online projects, contributing to the global conversation about education, I’d be extremely doubtful about whether they were the right people for the kind of school I wanted to staff.

This is one of the reasons why we need to not block kids from accessing network resources… The question is not whether they will have a digital footprint…  they will.  The question is whether it will say positive things about them or whether it will portray them in a negative way.  We have a unique opportunity to provide our students with a digital footprint that says wonderful things about who they are, what they can do and where their passions lie, but unless we actively teach them how to make it positive it may not be the case.

And if we don’t actively understand and engage with that process ourselves, we will most likely do a pretty ordinary job of helping our students do it right.

CC BY 4.0 Footsteps by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

19 Replies to “Footsteps”

  1. Hi – I think you make a very valid point regarding our digital footprints. I am proud of the contribution that I make to online networks and feel that it is a unique part of me. No one will have a digital footprint quite like mine. I avidly follow so many blogs/tweeters/forums all in the pursuit of education and MFL – we are all different, yet we all have a similar purpose. It is nice to see that our efforts can have another purpose – that of improving our virtual ‘CVs’!


  2. Hi, found you & this article via twitter.
    I have to disagree with this “I would be very dubious about employing someone who had no evidence of any online presence”

    I’m speaking as a primary school teacher in a rural & small school setting. I know a few extremely good old-style “chalk & talk” teachers. They actually teach rather than just keep kids busy with activities (something I am guilty of myself). I would judge a teacher not on their online presence but on their ability to teach. The teachers I am thinking of may only have the basics when it comes to computer skills but they know how to teach… without all the bells & whistles… and would be a huge asset to any school.

    1. Hi Debbie.

      Of course I agree with you that the primary requirement of a teacher is that they can teach. I’d be a but dubious about someone who does a lot of “chalk and talk” and sees active engagement of the students in activities as nothing more than “busy work” though… I certainly would not want too many of those sort of teachers in any school I was staffing.

      Naturally, the first requirement is to be able to teach, but we could have a whole discussion on what that means – what exactly does it mean “to teach”?

      And I’m afraid I have to disagree with you about your suggestion that a teacher can have only the basics of computer skills but still know how to teach, and to see that as acceptable in the 21st century. It simply isn’t.

      Teachers need BOTH of these things now… a sound understanding and application of pedagogy so that they deliver a quality learning experience, AND either know, or be willing to learn, how to deliver these things in digitally rich ways that engage and support our students using a medium they relate to. It is not enough to do chalk and talk, or dull paper worksheets, or textbook work. Whatever part these activities still play in our school (and I know from experience it’s still way too much) it needs to be replaced with richer, more relevant and more meaningful engagement with technology as a way to explore their learning process.

      The sorts of teachers you describe may still get a job in many of our current schools today, but they would not even get to the interview stage in any school that I was staffing. First thing I’d do would be to look at resumés and CVs, narrow down to those who had some experience and showed some excellence in what they do, or who had graduated with some level of excellence or aptitude. But once I had that short-list, they would all get Googled and anyone without a digital footprint that could convince me that they “walked the walk” of what their resume said they did… sorry, but their application would end there. If people do what they say they do on their resumes then I think I should be able to find some evidence of it online.

      My problem is not that some teachers don’t know much about technology. We are all learners. My problem is with those that don’t know much but try to assert that this is an acceptable situation, and that having some track record of being a good “chalk and talk” teacher can excuse them from the responsibility of adapting to a world where being digitally literate is not longer optional.

      Of course this is just the sort of school I would want to staff. Fortunately for many teachers, I’m not in a position to actually do it.

      1. Yes I.T. knowledge, use, and understanding are important skills now for teachers, but here’s another question I would ask if interviewing someone for my (also imaginary) school.

        Power outage, room full of kids, no computers, no interactive whiteboard, nothing that requires electricity or batteries available, what do you do?

        I guess I would want to know that people see IT as a means to an end and not the end in itself. That they could teach a concept with OR without it.

        I have a fairly large digital footprint myself but I don’t think that knowledge/experience makes me a good teacher. Just like a quick thinking mathematician might not be the best person to teach a kid in grade 4 struggling to grasp the basics.

        Perhaps (if I was doing the hiring) I wouldn’t dismiss the old-style teacher but get them onboard and learn from each other’s strengths. Like you say, a good teacher would be learning, as well as teaching, no matter what their age or experience.

        Thanks for the discussion!

        1. Fair enough. Good teachers would indeed be learning, as you say. So it sounds simple enough to say that a lack of digital footprint is simply due to not having actually done enough with ICT to have one… but that they can still learn this stuf.

          Hi Deb,

          My questions back to you though would be these…

          Why do we have such a large percentage of the teaching profession who, after now having had more than 20 years of ICT opportunities in education, still have not learned the basics of using technology in their daily teaching?

          Being expected to embed ICTs into your teaching is not a new idea. Education authorities have been insisting that there be some level of ICT across the curriculum for many years now… After all this time, why are there still so many educators yet to make any serious moves towards doing so?

          I’m not suggesting that there aren’t great teachers out there, or that you can’t be a great teacher without technology. I’m simply suggesting that the teachers who can do BOTH well are the ones who will be in the best possible position to add the most value to the classrooms of tomorrow, and the ones I’d want working with me in my hypothetical school. And it is the ones who can do BOTH well that will be leaving a digital trail behind them to demonstrate some evidence of it.

  3. Thanks all for the thought-provoking conversation.
    It’s making me think that I need a broad range of tools in my teacher toolbox, including online and otherwise. I hope that I can justify the use of each tool as the best in each learning situation. I hope each tool that I choose engages the learners – and connects them to their own world, not just my teacher-world.
    Now then, did I reply to these posts just to garnish my online presence? Does the prospective employer who Googles me REALLY know if I am a caring and connecting teacher to every individual child in my class? Perhaps I had better get blogging to describe the excellence of what I do in the classroom. However, I’m feeling mighty uncomfortable doing this with the aim of getting a job. I believe the greatest value in contributing online is reaffirming what is important to me, and continually questioning my teaching beliefs.

    1. Hiya Brette,

      You’re spot on… it’s not about doing this in order to get a job. That’s totally the wrong reason to do it, I agree.

      As you say, I’m sure you didn’t reply to these posts to garnish your online reputation, just as I didn’t write the post for that reason in the first place. I wrote it, and I assume you responded to it, because we both care enough to commit our thoughts to a public forum for discussion.

      The original intention of the post was to suggest that we do what we do because it’s just what we do… but in the process, we do leave a digital trail behind us. As caring educators we are here, you and I, engaging in a discussion about the things we care about, and yes, that will become part of the web’s permanent record. This conversation may turn up in searches many years from now, and people will judge us, rightly or wrongly, by the things they find attached to our digital identities.

      What most of the kids we teach don’t seem to fully appreciate is the reach and possible permanence of their online behaviours. In that incident of bullying at Ascham last week for example, the newspaper reports said that the students were “unaware that what they were doing was visible to the public”… this suggests that they may have acted differently had they realised that people could trace their words and actions back to them.

      Simply, if you don’t realise people might be watching you, your behaviour is often quite different from that which you do when you realise your behaviour is public (and possibly permanently public!)

      So, no, we oughtn’t try to manage our online presence just to get a job, but I do think we ought to try and manage our online presence so that what it says about us is consistent with what we want it to be.

      In a post-Google world, like it or not, your digital footprints say an awful lot about you.

  4. I do think the crux of the problem is that viable technology and the capability of having an online presence has been with us for 20 years! If a teacher has not been exposed to opportunities to learn and integrate technology into his/her classes s(he)is the ostrich hiding in the sand. TWENTY YEARS! Ok, so I’ll give you a break, perhaps your teacher education didn’t include using online tools, perhaps the school in which you teach didn’t get “wired” until ten years ago… but still, how many years does it take to become interested in learning beyond what you already know? I’m 67, have been teaching for 47 years and am amazed daily with what I learn because of the online community. I am a good teacher and was always a good teacher — even in the chalk talk days, but hey, they’re gone! You may have down pat drawing the diagram of nuclear fission, but give a kid (or yourself) a minute and s(he)’ll find an interactive narrated video of it on YouTube a hundred times better than any diagram you could have chalked on the board.

    People now, as always, need a wide variety of knowledge. The online world expands horizons, increases opportunities for learning, and allows the learning to be interactive. The workplace our students will enter will not be one of paper, pencil, markers, chalk, etc. Those tools are replaced with the computer, conferencing (online included), collaboration, and creative thinking. (OK, so creative thinking works with the old tools too…)

  5. Its a great activity to see who google thinks you are. A great activity to teach students about digital citizenship. Great post as always Chris

  6. Interesting conversation…one heard in my district, too. I must admit, I’m becoming a bit weary of the resistance towards using technology to support and enhance learning. Simply stated, it is no longer an option…but rather an obligation to utilize whatever tool it takes to meet each student’s needs. Sheryl Nussbaum Beach states, “The truth is that technology will never replace teachers; however teachers who know how to use technology effectively to help their students connect and collaborate together online will replace those who do not.” Could we please focus our attention on the needs of our learners…not what teaching method a teacher prefers?

  7. Blog Response 2

    I could not agree with this post more (specifically about blocking kids from these sites in schools.) There are a few teachers at my school that are in the fight to get certain restrictions removed from our school computers! We are not allowed to even access blogs – or the educational groups I belong to. Just like everything else in life, the things we don’t know enough about tend to be the things that scare “us” the most. Instead of keeping an open mind and exploring the new opportunities that social networking, blogging, twittering, and web 2.0 applications can provide for our students, we “block” them before they can use anything. The message we send to kids can be one of “off limits” for all things social on the web, in which they can turn around and sometimes without much guidance from home use these sites unwisely. The children are digital natives who should know how to leave a positive digital footprint behind and be given the chance to learn through school. Too often, the footprints that are left from four years of unwise choices in college or posting something as a young child because you didn’t know better will come back and “kick” them in the pants later on in the job hunting process or ruin a reputation. I think, just like anything in education, it often boils down to common sense and hopefully, people will use it.

    Having just discovered your blog, I am excited to get in and read what you have to say (as I am agreeing with most of your views) – thank you!

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