<span class='p-name'>Privacy, Identity, & Protecting Yourself (and Your Students) Online</span>

Privacy, Identity, & Protecting Yourself (and Your Students) Online

As we enter the Post-Snowden era, I’ve been busy reading, listening, watching, and reflecting about the impact this has on literacy and technology. There are plenty of places online that can (and cannot) read more about initial feelings and ramifications of this full-scale surveillance. I would suggest reviewing materials from Slate, danah boyd, and TechCrunch among others as a refresher.

What bothers me the most about all of this is the work that I do in advocating for teachers and their students to create and curate their online brand. In my keynotes and addresses to educators, I urge teachers to get online…get their students online…share their work openly, publicly online.

Part of this message of empowering teachers and their students also is heavily influenced by my own use and advocacy of free, online tools. I’m a believer in Google Apps for Educators, and believe that teachers and schools should be investing in professional development and empowering their users to build, share, and learn. I’m also an Open Ed convert who believes in Creative Commons licensing in the use and sharing of the intellectual property of others.

What has been causing a pit in my stomach is whether or not I can continue to advocate for teachers and students to increasingly build and revise their digital footprint and online identity. This is in the context of identifying and detailing the specific skills and competencies we believe are necessary for an individual to be fully literate in this online, multimodal world.

As I reflect and discuss with colleagues, I believe that my earlier message about the need for individuals to create and curate their digital footprint is now even more important given the current climate. I would however like to push for a more informed, thoughtful, strategic use of digital literacies focusing on three beliefs: educate, empower, advocate.


Given the current (and potential future) climate and context of online information I believe that our schools should prepare students to be thoughtful, engaged online citizens. In just the same manner we would teach students how to be safe in the offline world, teachers need to build the skills and dispositions necessary for students to be safe when online. This includes information about how to use digital texts and tools to read, write, research, and connect. This also includes a need to discuss ramifications of privacy, security, and how individuals shape their identity. More education and understanding on the growing complexity of our relationship with technology is needed.


One of the biggest things that has struck me since this news is a mindset that I have had since beginning my career in education. I frame technology as a literacy, and not just the use of digital texts and tools. I believe that technology is a literacy issue…boiled down somewhat simplistically to an individual’s ability to read, write, communicate, socialize, and learn. As a result, in this context, technology and the use of the Internet is a social imperative. I understand that there is a current “split” in the way that Americans view the current news about surveillance. What I believe is not up for debate is whether or not all individuals should be prepared and enabled to effectively utilize the Internet for literacy-based activities. Schools have been challenged by the changes to literacy as a result of technology for a little over a decade. I believe recent events should serve as a bellwether to get our schools, teachers, and students prepared for this online and offline world that we’ve “evolved” into.


Finally, I believe that given our need to educate and empower all individuals, we should also act as advocates for informed, effective, ethical use of the Internet. What I mean by this is that we should not only be teaching others about the best ways to use Twitter to follow a TV show, but also the freedoms and responsibilities inherent in these tools. Historically there has always been a great amount of power involved in the ability to read, write, and communicate ideas. With the ability to break down barriers and engage globally in literacy-based activities there is a greater need to understand, value, and protect these freedoms. Individuals should exercise and advocate for these freedoms and their ability to engage as a web literate individual. Finally, as members of an informed online and offline society we should encourage, educate, and provide opportunities for other individuals to be literate online as well.


For more ideas as to how you can help educate, empower, and advocate for others please visit Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Mozilla Foundation.


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