Online Identity Vs. Real Identity- A challenge for authenticity

 People are generally very selective in what they post online about themselves. Even those who seem to have little filter at all rarely post things that depict themselves in a negative light. This is despite the fact they might have a whole lot to say about everyone else and their dog. I certainly don’t look at a bad photo of myself and think, hey, I should put that on Facebook. Likewise, a friend taking a great photo usually ends in… “send me that!”, then is posted on fb for all friends to see.

Looking at Facebook specifically, people use it to create a collection of (good) memories. Not often people post about the skeletons in their own closet. People post happy moments. At this point in my life, my Facebook has gone through a few stages. I remember friends posting party pics of their “best night ever” which turned into a whole lot of pictures of engagement rings followed by wedding photos. Now, my Facebook feeds is full of birth announcements and photos of my friends children. The Social Media and Social Anxiety Link by Dr. Brankica Georgievska, MD expresses that, “Social media pages are becoming more like fairy tales rather than personal stories, where people only put the very best thing that happens at the moment.” We create an online identity that portrays ourselves in the optimal light. We create our online identity based on how we want others to see us.

It is important to recognize when viewing others profiles that their lives are likely not as perfect as they seem. They too, are carefully constructing their online self. Constantly comparing to the lives of others can be draining and affect our long-term well-being. Dr. G states, “People are afraid to ruin their image they have created for themselves, people are reserved and find it awkward to talk face to face with strangers and even friends compared to conversing online.”

“It is the mismatch between our online identity and our real life that is causing much of today’s social anxiety. Having to accept our life as it is, and not as the fairy tale shown on Facebook, is a major cause for anxiety and depression”

– Dr. Georgievska

I recently came across an article online on Common Sense Media about

Selfie Improvement apps. Teens today are feeling the pressure to look perfect online and are using applications to brighten their teeth, remove blemishes and slim themselves before posting the perfect picture of themselves…. Which is no longer hardly them at all. The media has already been creating unrealistic ideals of beauty for years but now teens are setting impossible beauty standards for themselves.

The article offers the following suggestions to parents who see their children using these apps to “perfect” themselves:

·      Talk to your kids about the validation they get from their peers and how it should never be defined solely by their looks.

·      Ask your child, “What does it feel like when you change your photos like this?” Striving to look “perfect” can weigh heavily on us. We all have imperfections, and it’s high time we embrace them.

Selfies were meant to be quick snapshots that capture fun in the moment. Too often, teens and even adults find themselves taking multiple snaps because they don’t like the way they looked. Now, some are even making use of these apps to reconstruct themselves digitally to be closer to perfect.

We learn about protecting our online identity from others but it is important to protect ourselves from our hardest critic, ourselves! In creating a true identity for ourselves online we are modeling authenticity for our children. We can help them to realize it’s ok to be who we are (unedited and app free) and that each and every one of us is beautiful in our own way.


Are devices divisive? Using devices wisely in today’s digital world.

Photo Credit: Sizzo-grafy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sizzo-grafy via Compfight cc

We’ve all done it. We’re in a conversation with friends and someone says something we feel is slightly less than accurate and we pull out our phones to “fact check”. Google is at our fingertips and we have become a culture that requires immediate information. Sherry Turkle’s article, Stop Googling. Let’s Talk. explains the effects when we divide our attention. Even something as simple as having a screen on the table disrupts the flow of conversation.

Turkle states, “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.”  She explains we restrict ourselves from having meaningful conversations when we let our devices interfere. Simply having the device between you, even if not using it,  is enough to disrupt conversation. It lights up on the table and we naturally glance down. I have not heard of the “rule of three” before but its sad that it needs to exist Turkle explains the rule of three as follows:  “In a conversation among five or six people at dinner, you have to check that three people are paying attention — heads up — before you give yourself permission to look down at your phone. So conversation proceeds, but with different people having their heads up at different times”.

People spend a lot of time on their devices. We keep in touch with friends by shooting texts back and fourth. Life gets busy and its easier than actually getting together. More commonly people opt to text than talk. Rather than picking up the phone people choose to text for many reasons. Some feel it is less of an interruption. It gives people time to think about their responses and respond at their leisure.  We Never Talk Anymore: The Problem with Text Messaging by Jeffrey Kluger expresses concern for our youth because they are  no longer developing the skills necessary to initiate and maintain a conversation. They also don’t get the practice to interpret non-verbal cues. Some youth shared that conversations make them uncomfortable because they simply don’t know how to communicate face-to-face.

Photo Credit: Pauls-Pictures via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pauls-Pictures via Compfight cc

We commonly hear the phrase lately, “together, yet alone”. So frequently while out you see people on their phones; couples in restaurants that barely speak; Individuals that can barely put their phones down to pay for groceries. The photo on the left shows a mother and daughter out spending “quality time” together shopping, while glued to their personal devices. However, I wonder who took this picture? Did it have a purpose? or could these ladies victims of online shaming? These ladies may have had a great device-free day together and for one minute, mom may be making arrangements for transportation while her daughter returns a quick text. It could quickly be posted online and others will quickly form judgments with no background knowledge at all. You may have come across the post about the girls taking selfies at a game . The article, What you need to know about those selfie girls demonstrates the importance of viewing what we see online critically because things aren’t always what they seem.

Recently a story was featured on Global News, that highlighted an Instagram account that was created called “passenger shaming” where photos were posted of people doing undesirable behaviours on airplanes such as trimming toe nails, treating warts etc. The photos appear to be taken without the others knowledge. As of today #passengershaming has over 4000 posts. While I don’t endorse any of the behaviours posted on the account I am almost as disgusted at the people who posted them.  If the poster was so disturbed by the behavior, politely asking the person to stop would have been more helpful than posting it online. It seems like a cry for “likes”.

We really need to think about what we post online! What is the purpose? We need to teach our students about carefully selecting what they post but also need to model this ourselves. Jennifer Stewart Mitchell shared an excellent YouTube video created by Common Sense Media called oversharing. Think before you post peeps… no one cares what you had for breakfast.


Falling into Place: Our Final Project Plan

I’m excited to get started on our final project for #ECI832! While I have learned so much from my EADM classes it is a nice break from papers and a fun change of pace. It will be great to create some tools that we can use in our classroom right now. Branelle Zenuk and I have decided to create a Digital Citizenship unit. While we understand that it is important for this message and these skills to be taught on an ongoing basis we will create a ready-to-use resource that can be used to introduce digital citizenship in the classroom.

Our digital citizenship unit will be posted online. With consultation from our instructors we have decided to use WordPress as our platform. The unit will consist of approximately 8-10 lessons that draw on cross-curricular outcomes. We will create all the materials and evaluation tools to go with it. It will be geared towards middle years students! It would be really neat if there was another group out there in our class that did a similar project directed towards primary students! It’s never to early to start teaching digital citizenship! The sooner, the better prepared our students will be to navigate this digital world. Any takers?


Stop restricting, teach how to navigate through preparation

Tell a student they can't go there and they will. Prepare them for when they get there.

Tell a student they can’t go there and they will. Prepare them for when they get there.

In Losh and Jenkin’s article, Can Public Education Coexist with Participatory Culture they express obligations of institutions to promote responsible citizenship, respect for others, and a willingness to sometimes sacrifice immediate self-interest for the long-term common good. They suggest that laws and regulations that currently exist that act to shield or restrict students from viewing online content based on concerns about predators, bullying or distraction be challenged. They argue access to information and the learning the internet promotes far outweighs the potential risks that can be avoided with explicit teaching in the area of digital citizenship and critical thinking skills.

In many school divisions, this restriction on specific websites has affected the teacher’s also. In many cases teachers are unable to access the content they need. A research project done by Project New Media Literacies (NML) showed that this headache around teachers having to basically “hack” and find ways to show their two minute YouTube clip highly discouraged them from incorporated web-based materials. This block of access to many key platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and twitter where participatory learning takes place takes away from many meaningful learning opportunities. In addition to the list of websites that were blocked to restrict students (and teachers) many divisions utilize software that picks up on certain words that are deemed as inappropriate and blocks sites that are inappropriate. Losh and Jenkin’s shared an example of how this process of restricting information deemed as inappropriate has created a barrier for a meaningful learning experience. A whole school division was blocked access to almost all sites about Herman Melville because the title of his best known novel includes the word “dick”.

Losh and Jenkin stress that, “schools have a central role to play in connecting what takes place outside the classroom with the kinds of assessments and certifications that will create future educational, economic, civic, and creative opportunities for students. These opportunities connecting what students are learning outside of school with what happens within formal education have been described by Mimi Ito and her colleagues as “connected learning.” At their Connected Learning website, they explain how problems occur when there is a strong disconnect between formal education and learning outside school.” Furthermore they explain that, “Each time a teacher tells students that what they care about the most, what makes them curious and passionate outside of school, does not belong in the classroom, that teacher also delivers another message: What teachers care about and what is mandated by educational standards have little or nothing to do with learners’ activities once the they school bell rings.”

Losh and Jenkin offer the following suggestions for schools and educators:

  1. Use digital media to engage learners.
  2. Recognize the value of participatory culture/connected learning.
  3. Teach ethical standards and skills in critical judgment

The Google Play Project ran extensive interviews with youth about their online lives and found that students lack formal mentorship in this area. They pointed out that a newspaper committee has a staff advisor to help them with ethical issues, provides feedback and helps students with editing their writing. They then point out that many of our students are reaching far larger audiences through blogs, vlogs and social media yet receive little guidance from mature mentors on how to navigate their online world. As teachers we need to assist our youth in learning to take part in participatory culture. Web 2.0, educational policy tends to be restrictive. In an effort to ensure student safety it appear to limit student choices rather than provide them with the information required to be a responsible digital citizen. The Good Project was created at Harvard as a result of the Google Play studies. They have developed several tools for educators to teach students skills to navigate our digital world.

Henry Jenkin’s article, Confronting the challenges of participatory culture he discusses the importance of providing access to all students. It presented projects that have been created in areas of poverty to provide low income earners with access to the internet. However, he also explains the importance of not just dropping them off. People need to be taught how to be responsible digital citizens. Additionally he talked about the important of recognizing the shift from viewing the internet as a place for individual expression to all the possibilities for collaboration.

“Instead of focusing on gatekeeping… let’s focus on how school librarians can help young people interact with human mentors and peers as students learn to observe norms and respect boundaries.” Losh and Jenkins, 2012

Katrina Schwartz talks about trust and how it is so important for us to teach students to use the internet properly rather than restrict their access in her article titled Why trust is an important ingredient  I agree with this entirely. We need to teach our students in the classroom so they are prepared to deal with issues that may arise later on their own in their own lives. There needs to be a link between home and school. Losh and Jenkin’s would also agree. They stated, “Young people are not rendered safer when schools block access to these sites; instead, blocking ensures that many kids will be forced to confront online risks on their own. Many young people lack opportunities to learn how to use new media tools effectively and appropriately. Reliance on blocking sends the message that sites and tools important to students have little to nothing to contribute to intellectual pursuits.”

Passive learning is not effective. We need to find ways to engage learners by including their own interests. A new term that I came across in my reading was “Affinity spaces,” as James Paul Gee (2005) has labeled them, are critical sites of important kinds of exploration, experimentation, and play, where at least some young people are developing and deploying their own expertise in the service of their own passions and interests. These affinity spaces can be such a powerful thing and we need to use them to our advantage and there is many meaningful skills our students can acquire in these places. Creating a connected culture is crucial.

 YOUNG PEOPLE MAY NOT need adults snooping over their shoulders, but they certainly need adults helping to watch their backs. (Losh and Jenkins 2012)

Losh, E., & Jenkins, H. (2012). CAN PUBLIC EDUCATION COEXIST WITH PARTICIPATORY CULTURE? Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 16-21. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1076399985?accountid=13480


My shifting thoughts

inernet danger

A few years ago our school division had us complete a strengthfinders quiz. You complete an online survey and it generates your top 5 strengths.

My Top 5 Strengths

1 Discipline
2 Learner
3 Focus
4 Individualization
5 Achiever

I spent quite some time viewing the videos, reading the articles and sorting out my thoughts. The “Learner” in me enjoys learning new things in both a formal and informal educational setting. I appreciate opportunities to learn more about a topic and form a deeper understanding.  I find it very powerful when the new knowledge I have acquired causes me to shift the ideas I have. These readings did exactly that.

Prior to these course readings, my views on how people engage and develop technological skills greatly coincided with the thoughts in the video,  Do “Digital Natives” Exist?  Mark Prensky believes todays youth are digital natives.  He refers to them as people who have grown up with machines and technology and therefore it comes naturally to them. Alternatively he classifies older people as digital immigrants. These ideas are very much two extremes, which are determined primarily by age alone. However, after watching David White’s video Visitors and Residents, some of my views have shifted.  Classifying individuals simply as natives or immigrants based on age is not possible. People bring different experiences with them. One line that stuck with me from Prensky’s video is that, “its bad to assume students know how to “computer”. He goes on to note that it is through context, immersion and practice that they learn. Some students may come from backgrounds where they have little access to technology and the internet. Just because they have been born in a time filled with technology does not mean they have had the chance to use it.  If context, immersion and practice are the factors that contribute to learning to navigate our 21st century world age is irrelevant. Anyone who has access and is willing to spend the time, explore and immerse themselves can thrive in this digital world.

I much prefer David White’s alternative model, which utilizes a continuum of visitors and residents. He explains that young people are good with technology because they grew up with it. It’s the willingness to fully immerse themselves that creates growth. He compares the challenges of not growing up with technology to learning a second language. While this is challenging it is not impossible.

While most would see me as being very technically inclined I definitely fall on the visitor end of the continuum. David White describes a visitor as someone who views the web as a connection of tools.  Some of the examples he shared include searching for info, paying bills and booking holidays. Visitors leave behind no social trace. Residents view the web as a collection of multiple places. They choose to be present online. There is evidence that they have been there after they have logged off that can be found on their blogs, social media accounts, etc.

I rarely post things online. I have a facebook, twitter and Instagram account but rarely post. I love to scroll through my feeds and see what old friends are doing these days but have no desire to post my own things! Most of my posts are generally pictures of my pets or of scenery on my vacations, or of that one time I made pickles that have little to do with me at all. Why is this? This has a lot to do with my parents and the views instilled around the DANGERS of the internet.

IMG_4542  IMG_4544 IMG_4543

I remember my first computer. I was six years old and we had gone to visit my much older great uncle in Calgary one summer and he had a computer. I’m sure it was the quiet that occurred while my brother and I were on there playing minesweeper, solitaire and tetris that sold them on the idea.  We returned to Regina and within a week we had a brand new computer of our own. We spent hours on there, and we were not afraid to “click around”.  Our parents feared they would break something. They had not used computers before and were reluctant to try it out.  We were the only kids on the block with a computer and everyone was coming over to check it out.  A few years later we got dial-up internet. It was very slow and took forever to load pages. As soon as your page was almost loaded the phone would ring and boot you out.

My parents saw the internet as a dangerous place. They closely monitored our every move and made sure we didn’t use it to connect with the outside world that to them only consisted of pedophiles.  We spent hours on MSN messenger and ICQ talking to our friends. At this time we even had fake emails because they wouldn’t let us even post our name online. I went by “Julia Taylor”.

As I got older, things like facebook came out. Now not only were my parents telling me to not post anything online but now our teachers were also. We received many lessons on internet safety. Many which just ended with DON’T DO IT! (Which probably made us want to do exactly what they were warning us about more). There became so much “RED TAPE” on the internet.  I can hear my parents and teachers saying things like, “you’ll never get into university if you post online”. We were taught to be invisible online, because invisible was “SAFE”. I actually googled myself often to make sure there was nothing on there about me.

While things have changed, these views have obviously stuck with me.  I don’t like to put myself out there online. Not because I fear for my safety but because I’ve never done it, it’s just uncomfortable to me.  I’ve had a twitter that I created 10 years ago in ECMP 355 and have approximately 20 tweets, 18 of which are from this class and I feel like I am “annoying” my followers… and blogging, OH DEAR, what if someone actually reads this?!

The internet has opened so many doors for our youth to create a positive change in the world.. Rather than shield them from the harm it is so important we teach them to navigate it appropriately.