In the midst of job search season I’ve been spending a lot of time trawling school’s websites. The process reminds me yet again about how we have such weird attitudes to the internet. Having online presence often gets a bit of a bad rap when it is mentioned in the context of student teachers.
One of the most common memes is principals are using facebook, google, twitter etc. as a way to check up on the pasts of would-be teachers as a cautionary tale for applicants. ‘Beware of your digital footprint’ our institutions tells us, ‘watch what you do and say online!’ Very fear-based and unwise advice by our institutions.
But here’s something that any school who is looking for teachers might also want to think about, your applicants are googling you.
What does your school’s digital footprint say to prospective teachers?
For both my placements I put some thought and research into where I wanted to go and was very fortunate to get my first choices both times. What’s more before I go into any school, even just for a visit, I’ll google both the school and the principal. I will also read a school’s ERO report and what the principal has said in the local media, I’ll search for a social media presence, I’ll look around a school’s website and class blogs if they have them. I’ll be honest and say that I will negatively judge a school if its online presence is a looking a bit stale. Having a static website with school newsletters either regularly or haphazardly uploaded just doesn’t cut it in web 2.0.
As a soon-to-be teacher the schools I really want to work for are the ones where I get to follow class blogs and the ones whose teachers are on twitter because they are already starting to engage with me. This engagement gives me a heads up as an applicant to start thinking of ways that I could compliment and contribute to the culture of the school. In short the schools who have an effective online presence are already encouraging me to apply before the advertisements have appeared in the education gazette.
I’m well aware that I’m starting out in the teaching profession as a beginning teacher in a labour market swollen with graduates desperate for work. So anyone who who has had the pleasure of sorting through mountains of CVs from earnest grads like myself feel free to shout out ‘quiet back there in the cheap seats.’ However the employment market might not always be like it is now. What’s more wouldn’t schools want to do more to attract the top teachers by putting their thinking out into the digital space that this generation of new teachers exist in for us to see, think about and, dare I say it, even interact with? It might make sorting through those piles of CVs a little easier especially at the BT level if you’ve already ‘met’ that Beginning Teacher online or ‘seen’ them interacting with your students on your class blog’s comments.
But there’s also something more significant in play.
My friends and I joined facebook way back in 2006/2007. A whole bunch of us had babies around that time. Since then I’ve watched their children grow up on facebook, transforming on my screen from grainy ultrasound images into newborns, toddlers and now they are preschoolers who are starting to enter the school system. The parents of the facebook generation are likely to have vastly different expectations around what constitutes effective engagement than parents five years ago or even now.
What does your school’s digital footprint say to prospective parents?