high school practicum: online identity display


It feels as though it’s been nearly forever since my high school practicum ended, and I’ve spent many sleepless nights weighed down by the obligation of posting the work that I did.  Not only will I finally have a solid record of my practicum, but I’ll be able to show some of my wonderful friends how I incorporated their great ideas (and generous help) into the final outcome.

While I’m on the subject, I’d like to thank everyone who responded to Facebook status updates and emails.  You gave me some seriously fantastic input, and you inspired my ideas into what they are.  In short, you’re awesome.

My site supervisor approached me one day and asked me to fill one of the display cases that are in the hall outside the library.  Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.  Then I panicked, because I had no idea what theme to choose.  The librarian spends a whole lot of time teaching and collaborating, so the displays tend to become an afterthought for months at a time.  I needed something that would be interesting, and it had to remain relevant for a while.

That day, one of the middle schoolers approached me about a classmate who was threatening to find her on Facebook.  What ensued was a pretty interesting talk about Internet privacy.  For as well versed as these students are in Web 2.0, I was surprised to hear that most of them had very little knowledge of privacy settings and terms of usage.

And thus, a display was born:

(click the image for a slightly larger version)

In the middle panel, I created a faux version of Facebook’s signature news feed.  The users featured in the display are all teachers at the school.  I created status updates, wall posts, and other Facebook features by polling students.  Asking random groups of students to divulge their teachers’ catch phrases was better than I anticipated, because it generated a lot of curiosity about my project.

Of course, in the midst of my work on the display, Facebook changed its interface.  But I’m not in the least bit miffed by that.  Nope.

Anyway, I rounded out the display with some tips on maintaining a safe online identity.  I also hoped to create a more in-depth handout that students could pick up from the library, but time constraints prohibited me from doing so.

Here’s the information from the right panel of the display:

  • understand privacy settings:
    there are some things that you can’t keep private, and many things that you have to manually restrict from public view. make sure you know who sees what you post online.
  • keep your passwords safe:
    in the wrong hands (like those of an angry friend), access to your social media accounts can provide information that could harm you, or worse yet- embarrass you.
  • don’t reveal personal information:
    your friends already know your address, phone number, school, and workplace, so there’s no reason to post it on your social media profile.
  • think before you post:
    would you want your parents, teachers, or employers to see what you post? could it be hurtful to someone else? remember- once you post something, you can’t take it back (even if you delete it).
  • read the terms of use:
    it sounds lame, but it’s very common for online retailers, social media websites, applications, and online promotions to share your information with other companies (where do you think spam comes from?). understand just who you’re giving your email, home address, or parents’ credit card number to.
  • realize who owns your stuff:
    when you sign up for some social media sites, you grant them ownership of anything you post. do you really want Facebook to have control over all of your pictures?
  • know your friends:
    don’t accept requests from people you have no real-life connection to. you could be giving personal information to a stalker… or a college recruiter.

As I completed the display, it started to feel a little hokey… and coming from me, that’s saying a lot.  However, the students appeared to be responding well.  Those I showed it to even said it was- get this- cool, and I noticed a lot of students stopping to check out the display on their way to class.

Whether or not it had a huge impact on the entire school, it seemed to be an effective way of getting students to start thinking about Internet privacy.  It’s difficult to take the time to teach it thoroughly, and I thought this was a good way to open up some dialogue on such an important issue.


3 Responses to “high school practicum: online identity display”

  1. I really like this display. The message is great and the humor is totally appropriate. In fact, I’d love to share this with my librarian and possibly do something similar at our school.

  2. 2 Pete

    You’re the coolest dork I know.

  3. I’m the librarian that Phunkyteacher refers to, and I love your display! May I use it for our middle school students? Do you have a copy of the “faux version of Facebook’s signature news feed” that you created, that you are willing to share? I’m sure I’ll need to re-tool it to reflect my teachers, etc., but it would save me some time to start with yours.

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