My classes work towards creating a project-based environment where the students publish their work to a bigger audience. When students finish an internet-based project, we think about how we can best post their work to the world. Why do we do this?
Well, there are several reasons, but one of the reasons is so that students can create an online portfolio from which they can market themselves. Actively creating an “Internet Identity” becomes more important for young people today. With tools like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, students are putting information out there about themselves that is A) more personal than information typically shared with large communities and B) more widely accessible to people all over the world. As students apply to colleges, internships and jobs, the information that they publish about themselves becomes exponentially more connected to their chances at achieving their goals. The trick for educators seems to be to teach students to use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, wikis, blogs, etc to promote a positive identity for themselvse.
The students already use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. These sites often contain student’s full names, but do not always contain the best representation of these students to colleges or potential employers. At some schools, the policy for projects posted to the internet is that students can only use their first name and last initial (ie. Bob X. for Bob Xyz ).
As my seniors apply to college they finish working on an art history project. This project has them critically analyzing artistic techniques by Spanish painters and figuring out why these artists might have used these techniques to comunicate important messages of their time period. An impressive task in itself and these students are also doing all of this in Spanish.
If a college were to search for “Bob Xyz” on the internet, they are more likely to find a picture of a lapse in judgement that Bob had on the weekend with his buddies (with his full name posted right there) than to find the amazing project that he did in my class. They also are probably more likely to find absolutely nothing on Bob Xyz than find all his amazing work for my class. If a college searched “Bob X.” who knows how many people they are going to find.
I want my students to own their names. I want them to actively work to build their online profile. My district has many valid fears about security of our students, but in order to make my students globally competitive, I feel the need to teach them how, and the reasons why, to get their work out there for the world to see. That said, I don’t use my full name for my blog. Am I a hypocrite? I have organized my blog to mirror a more conservative “name-use” policy because I have not thought about this issue perhaps as much as others. Perhaps I am missing some important perspectives on this issue.
What are your thoughts? How is your district dealing with these issues? Do you have any suggestions for ways to help promote “internet identities” for my students? Do you think divulging their full name is too dangerous?