How I used Vizify To Teach Students A Lesson (And 5 Other Digital Citizenship Resources)

by Dawn Casey-Rowe, Social Studies Teacher

“Miss, you have an Instagram? And Twitter?” Students are shocked. In their eyes that makes me a…real person. Not just a pencil-pushing, tree-killing teacher. An individual with a pulse. I get street cred. As any teacher knows, a half-ounce of street cred means that you might be able to teach that day.

“I’m going to follow you on Twitter!” I don’t follow them back, but if they want to see my inspirational comments on gardening, family, or education, God bless them. Following is what they do. Social media is an everyday occurrence for high school students. Never call them in for dinner. You’ll get better results if you tweet them. Don’t give them deadlines–have them calendar it in and send themselves reminders.

Don’t ask deep questions–read their Tumblr. It’s the only way things get done. Social media is revolutionary and convenient, but students often forget to keep up a respectful guard at times. Then, they end up with profiles that look much more like the National Inquirer than the The Good Book.

This is important. Students must understand how critical it is to behave professionally and control their image online. The real world will fire or reject them for inappropriateness. The real world does not have detentions.

“Put that away,” I told a Tweeting senior. “We are not doing that now.” I changed my mind, “No, actually, take that out. We ARE doing this now.”

I projected my Vizify on the smartboard. Vizify is a graphical biography you can make with the push of a few buttons. It had a picture of me. It knew everything about me. It knew so much about me that it made Big Brother and the NSA look inept. There were eleven pages, each containing personal information–my employment history, places I’ve lived, work experience, photos from my life–it was an eleven-paged business card that the Internet self-assembled, down to the last photo of my classroom.

The only thing I did was add in an inspirational quote from the Buddha.

“I did nothing–it did the entire thing,” I told the class. I pointed out the graphics, the content, the layout. “It’s nice,” I said. I can share who I am and what I do with anyone…” I continued. “We’re going to try an experiment. You go home, and if you want, sign up for an account. Review the results. Then, we’ll discuss.”

Several unhappy faces marched in the next day. “Miss,” said the first grumpy scholar, “Mine didn’t look like yours. It said my most frequent word was $%^#@%.” I knew it would. It’s why I gave the assignment.

“What would you think of yourself if you were a potential boss or business partner?” I asked. “Or maybe a college admissions person? Because this is how the world sees you.” They grumbled some more.

I teach social media and digital citizenship whenever I have the opportunity–the positives–how you can build a great reputation and create a powerful personal brand, and the not-so-positives, like what can happen to a person who doesn’t respect the power of social media.

These are lessons that must be included in 21st century curricula in order to save students and young professionals from suffering.  I use the following Learnist boards to help teach digital citizenship and the correct use of social media.

Learnist-app-logo-digital1. Clean Up Your Social Media: Big Brother Is Watching

Students and professionals must attend to social media and clean it up if necessary. My rule of thumb is that if there’s something out there that a minister or my mom shouldn’t see, it doesn’t go up.

2. Addiction to Social Media

Sometimes people misuse social media, and allow it to compensate for personal relationships. This board discusses this difficult addiction, giving pointers for those who overuse social media or use it incorrectly. Social media can be a powerful tool in building a professional or personal image, but it should never take over a person’s life.

3. Mind Your Manners: Etiquette in the Digital Age

People are more casual on social media. This brings us a whole new set of etiquette rules. Be polite, don’t spam, don’t do unto others via social media things that you wouldn’t like them to do unto you. That is the golden rule of social media. This board has some specifics and some common comical offenses you should try to avoid.

4. Twitter for Teens and Teachers: How You Can Harness the Power of Social Media

Teachers using Twitter can help teens to harness the power of social media. Teens who have good professional models for social media learn the benefits of using social media in their careers and lives.

5. Social Media for Edu

This board has some great uses for social media in the classroom, but also lessons about modeling social media safety.

Craft Your Image: Social Media Sites to Use

A lot of the information out there is about how not to use social media. This board shows some of the key ways to use social media, and some of the heavy-hitting sites you should be using for branding and self-promotion. These are great for teens and college students, and professionals. Each social media platform has a different audience and nuances that can be used to craft a helpful public image.