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Online Edge

You Need to Be "Clickable"

Are you preparing your students to be Googled?


Googled yourself lately? If you have, good for you; here's hoping the results were positive. If you haven't, you might want to take a few moments to see what's out there, what people are reading and using to form their opinions about you and your district. Whether you like it or not, you and your school are now "clickable," a condition that, depending on what steps you've taken to deal with that reality, could be a very good or, as some have already experienced, a very bad thing.

In a world where it is easy for anyone with a Web connection to publish, and one where much of the editing or filtering happens after the fact and not before, administrators, teachers, parents and students, all of us for that matter, have to get used to the idea that we have an important choice to make here: We can be the authors of our own online life stories, or let someone else do it for us. I would opt for the former. In fact, I would go so far as to say that right now, you ought to make becoming "clickable" a part of your three-year plan and start working toward a day where much of your students' and teachers' work and, most importantly, much of your own work as an administrator is online, out there for people to click on, interact with and share.

We can either be the authors of our own online life stories, or let someone else do it for us.

Creating and Reflecting

I'm not talking here about just posting sports schedules or student showcases either, though neither could hurt. I'm talking about sharing collaborative projects between your students and others from around the world, or starting a blog where you not only communicate what's going on but reflect on your process and progress, or publishing the regularly updated professional portfolios of the teachers on your staff. This can even include offering opportunities for parents and others not only to participate in a dialogue about the happenings in your district but actually to collaborate and co-create with teachers and students on meaningful, real-world projects.

I know. Some of you are thinking "Why on earth would we want to do this?" For one thing, you might want to model for your students something that is going to be commonplace in their future. We may not like this idea that content is moving so transparently online and that everyone is collaborating and sharing in such open ways, but it is almost certainly the world in which our kids are going to work. Right now, most of our students are "clickable" in the sole context of their My Space or Facebook pages, contexts which very few schools or parents are adequately educating their kids about. In many cases, that's not a good thing. Already, college admissions officers and job employers are using Google and MySpace to make judgments about potential acceptances or hires, to say nothing of the future love interests our students might have.

Modeling for Students

No doubt many of you are Googling the names of the candidates you are interviewing for your job openings. And even if you're not, a bigger question is this: What are you doing to prepare your students for the moment when their names will be entered into that search box? Will you have helped them be proud of the result? At a time when they have few models to guide them, will you yourself have shown them how to do it well?

But a second, equally important reason to be clickable is this: The more you share, the more you learn. As Fred Deutsch (, a board member in Watertown, S.D., notes, blogging allows him "to be in closer touch with constituents, but also to learn how to become a better board member. Being in touch with visionary educators across the globe helps me as a policymaker better understand where education is going, and what we need to do locally to help our children get there."

Being "clickable" means being connected. It means that other people can find you and potentially teach you and learn with you. If, of course, what they find inspires them.

Will Richardson is an author and educator who also blogs about teaching and learning