A little over a month ago, I wrote a bit on the role that teachers STILL need to play in helping students to take full advantage of the new opportunities that digital tools make possible for today’s learners.

The argument was a simple one:  Just because our students know how to use digital tools without ever opening up an owner’s manual doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to leverage those same tools to do meaningful work without us. 

The piece spotlighted several Tweets from the articulate, intelligent students in Brad Ovenell-Carter’s Vancouver-area high school.  Brad had asked them to reflect on a few questions that I’d asked using their classroom hashtag, #tokafe11.

Tons of people stopped by to leave comments for me on the bit, including a guy who calls himself “Mr. Chips” who took Brad to task for letting his students post on Twitter under their real names. 

Chips wrote:

“Hmmm … not too smart of your bright-minded friend to post students feeds under their full names. Nothing wrong with the tweets quoted, but students’ identities should be protected.

As educators we should be very cautious how we create digital tattoos that my come back to haunt the students.”

It’s an interesting take, isn’t it — and one that I suspect MOST educators would agree with. 

We’ve been taught over and over again that ANYONE under the age of 21 ought to hide behind pseudonyms — both to cover our own butts and to keep kids safe from “the predators who lurk in the digital night.”

But Mr. Chips’s comments also fly directly in the face of Will Richardson’s argument that schools bear the responsibility of making sure that students are “Well-Googled” on graduation day.

And contrary to Mr. Chips’ snark, Brad IS one of the brightest guys that I know — so I asked him to respond to Mr. Chips, explaining his rationale behind having kids post on Twitter using their real names.

Here’s what he wrote.  It’s DEFINITELY worth your time.


Brad Ovenell-Carter on Digital Footprints Versus “The Brand of Me.”

Mr. Chips,

I hear your concern and think you’re right…partly. There is a time in our students’ lives where they do need us to help them protect their identities.

We have a duty of care that insists on that.

But that same duty of care also insists that we need to prepare our older students to work online — as themselves.

Any student with a smartphone has wide open access to the web and in Canada, public libraries must also keep an open connection–they’re not allowed to block sites.

It’s naive to think that by creating pseudonyms in school I am securing what they do out of school on their own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, accounts.

My only option as an adult — indeed my obligation — is to coach them, not control them.

If we turn our students out at graduation without having spent time guiding them online in real situations, then we have done them a disservice.

The analogy, I suppose, would be to have them read books about driving a car and then to hand them a set of keys when they receive their diplomas. That would be foolish, I’m sure you agree.

But even if they were to try to remain anonymous, they would have no control over what other people post about them.  

The only possible way to manage your reputation online is to build it yourself.

For this reason, I don’t like the terms “digital tattoo” or “digital footprint” — they’re too passive and talk about what you leave behind.

Instead, we talk about the “Brand of Me” and coach our kids on proactively managing their online identity and on becoming good digital citizens, for the reasons Will Richardson talks about.

We take this very seriously at Mulgrave. Our seniors can fly as unaccompanied minors to anywhere on the globe at this age; we need to make sure they can do the same, so to speak, safely online.

As Lucy points out above — with the courage and conviction of using her real name, I’ll point out — the students feel they are getting good guidance and role modelling here.

I’ve gathered some of the students’ Twitter posts in Storify so you can get their views:


All the best,


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