Being Googleable

by Jean Tower

Googleable refers to something that is able to be found by searching on Google, the Internet search engine. Our students may not realize how much of what they post is googleable and very durable. Even after they have deleted the silly pictures of themselves at a party, or the ill-advised rantings about a teacher or friend, the Internet footprint remains, and it is quite difficult to erase entirely.
Ask any college admissions officer, human resources representative, or school superintendent if they “Google” applicants, and you will learn that most do. At a conference I recently attended, Will Richardson said that many also check social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace. Then he raised this question – what are educators doing to insure that students “Google well” when they are themselves the applicants (see http://weblogg-ed.com/2008/making-kids-googlable/)?
His question resonated with me. Don’t we want our graduates to be able to proudly direct people to their online presence? I think so. However, I’m afraid that there is an under-representation of positive, impressive material posted by our students. I think it would be a worthwhile project for educators to help students build online portfolios that showcase their quality work and contributions. Students should know that there are those will be judging them by their online presence and that they can use the web to manage that presence to make a positive impression.

We can help make students aware of their digital identity. We should teach students, especially in the upper grades, to Google themselves periodically and review (with an objective eye) what comes up. It’s easy to do – I suggest you Google your own name and review what you find. Does anything come up? Is there anything that would impress (or worry) parents, graduate school admissions officers, school committee members, school administrators? Is what you find a showcase of your finest work and your best qualities? It could be.

I have heard many educators say that students should avoid posting anything on the web that can be related back to them. I think that since the web and Google are now being used by mainstream institutions that “just say no” is simplistic and unhelpful. It is time to have students work the web to their advantage. In a world where quality contributions to collaborative spaces actually increase the likelihood of being hired, the answer is not to post nothing online. Rather, we should be helping students to monitor their online existence and to make decisions and contributions based on the knowledge that others (besides their friends) can and do see what they post.

Related articles:
You’re a Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well
Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117856222924394753.html

Why You May Need an Online Persona
http://webworkerdaily.com/2007/03/28/why-you-may-need-an-online-persona/

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane Doe July 14, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Good point – I’d like specific examples of what teachers might have students do to accomplish this.

Potato head July 16, 2008 at 6:43 am

Great article – students and adults should be aware that their internet footprint is an important and lasting part of their reputation!

Leave a Comment

Next post: