Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Digital Footprint Awakening

Note: My summer posts have been all about what I have learned, and not with students. It is a reflection journal, so I'm going to continue reflecting!

In all the tweets, in all the blog posts, in all the websites, I keep seeing threads of discussion on our "digital footprint." Well, I learned a big lesson about my own this week.

When I first started following teachers and principals, I realized the fact that "PD on Twitter has become everything a teacher's lounge or after school meeting SHOULD be." I believe someone tweeted it, I retweeted it, and it soon became my mantra when I got online. (Update 8/17/12 - I finally found the author - Sean Junkins! I put this quote in my PD in Your PJs keynote, as well! Thanks, @SJunkins!)

I loved the positivity of educators on Twitter. Sure, there were still people who tweeted about concerns they had in education, and most had links to articles they'd read that were worrisome. And some don't separate their personal tweets from their professional tweets, so I'd hear how someone's son's baseball team did not win, or some restaurant service or food that wasn't the best, but it was mostly positive. I learned to skim over the personal tweets and only focus on my goal - of learning from this beautiful PLN I had carefully built.

Well, I was humbled this week. I posted what I thought of as my first (was it really, though???) negative-with-a-plea tweet as a reaction. I was upset, so I tweeted what I heard. I only have a tad over 100 followers, thank goodness. Who really wants to follow a 7th grade LA teacher who's just on Twitter to learn? The only "accolade" in my bio is NBCT, and that was in 2007 (yikes! The year to renew is approaching fast!)! So I viewed the 140 characters as a tiny vent session.

When I came home, I knew I had vented, and started wondering why. I realized I had veered away from "teacher's lounge without the complaints" after what I consider a very valuable discussion I had three days later... 

That discussion I had was with a man who is from the source of my frustration that day. I was contacted, and we talked for half an hour [my true Genius (Half-)Hour today]. This is a person I know & respect, and yet was not expecting to hear from. He inquired about the situation from which my tweet stemmed. He listened when I detailed the background of it's reactionary nature. He then proceeded to thoroughly educate me (in the truest sense) about the Common Core Standards and he alleviated some of my fears that come with such as big change. I don't know if he is aware of all he truly taught me... about so many things... (a partial list follows!)!

--> I learned, as so often happens in my life, that I am still ignorant of the digital world, of the power my words can have, and of the ease of straying from my own beliefs to be a positive person. I am humbled by this experience.

--> I learned (and I suppose I already knew, but it was instilled in me this week) that we can write and say (and tweet) whatever we choose. 

--> I learned that most companies, no matter the size, have someone on staff who monitors the web (yes, the entire web, including tweets) for any mention of their name, or their services, or their affiliates, and most likely their competitors, as well. This can be to see concerns, successes, ideas, and to keep the revenue coming in. They keep their business by keeping up their image in this image-driven society. This could mean they try to help customers if there are issues, spread the word about what they do well, attempt to keep up with their competitors, and perhaps glean ideas for improvements - all by hovering over and examining the web.

--> I learned to go to the source if you have an issue with something. This could be difficult in some situations... Such as teacher salaries or overcrowded schools. But it could be easier in other situations... Such as a hair in your soup or a student who won't participate. Such situations we can deal with quickly, and even get results, or at the very least bring awareness to the situation. We have so many resources - we can choose to go to them instead of venting our drama out to the world.

--> I learned that if you Google (I can't believe it's a verb these days!) your name, you'll get every tweet you ever typed, every comment you ever made on any blog post, every website organization you belong to, and, of course, your blog and school at which you work. I am creating my digital footprint each and every day. I am taking risks - everything I write can be taken out of context, misconstrued, and used against me. I am still figuring out who I am by what I write. So much of my verbal life has landed on these "pages." I've always said what I feel, as my family is well aware. However... our online community is IMMEASURABLY larger than any family and friends we have that know us. We need to make sure they know US, and not just what we type.
And now I'm off to spend time with just my husband to celebrate our anniversary. --> I've learned that you need to let the cherished people in your life know how you feel. If you want to leave a "footprint" on their hearts, you need to communicate your love in multiple ways to get your message across. Thank you to my husband for helping me sort through my feelings this week and figure out what I truly want to communicate to you... whoever you are. 


  1. And what valuable lessons you have learned. I have also learned these and keep being reminded of the power of our network. I love the balance between personal and professional, in fact many people I onsider to be friends I have never met. I love the passion that people ring and the fearlessness, and I love being both connected and disconnected at the same time. Welcome to you and may your journey continue to inspire you.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to respond!
      You've pointed out the positives of Twitter once again, and I have to keep those in mind, for it's the reason I'm engrossed in more learning this summer! I appreciate those friends I've never met, and know they will help me along on this journey.
      Thanks again,

  2. Joy,
    I only "met" you once during the Genius Hour chat in June, but since then I have been following you and admire your ability to tweet comfortably. I'm still a newbie (started last summer) and really don't feel as if I have anything too original to tweet. I, too, am a NBCT in early adolescence language arts but my certification is finished this year. I'm not reapplying b/c I will retire in a few years. It was a goal of mine to be nationally certified. Now my goal is to begin leaving my digital footprint and develop my PLN. I didn't even know what a PLN was until last summer.

    Our district hired a new tech coordinator who is great, and she made us aware of Twitter, blogs, etc...foreign words really for most of us. In February we became a 1:1 school for grades 4th-12th, which, of course, is wonderful.It also has created many questions in my mind, which has made the need for a strong PLN even more necessary.

    I guess I'm afraid that I'm going to tweet something that's "stupid" or make someone mad or make a mistake, so your post about a humbling experience from a tweet really hit home. Your courage to not only explain in a public way what happened but also (more importantly) what you learned from the experience has given me some confidence to begin branching out and taking risks in a public way. If I do any of the things that I'm afraid of doing, I'll just remember your post, your professionalism, and the importance of a PLN. I hope I can add you to my meager but growing PLN.

    1. Kris,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I know what you mean about not wanting to tweet something others may think is "stupid," and to tell the truth, I really only retweeted a bit after the discussion I mentioned. I was... Nervous about anything my tweets may imply or suggest. My husband caught on to this, and was worried I'd go back to not tweeting. I sometimes am an all-or-nothing sort of person, and he was worried, because I've learned so much from my PLN and he didn't want me to lose that.

      Don't obsess over what you tweet out - we all have a ton to learn from each other - hence the N in PLN! Again, thank you SO MUCH for your response!

  3. Thanks, Joy. I, too, can be and all or nothing type of person. I think I may have a little bit of ADD in me where I go all out and then something happens and I quit. Despite not tweeting a lot, I have many some great connections: Denise Krebs, Laura Coughlin, JoAnn Jacobs, You...just to name a few and have learned so much from them. I so want my students to develop their PLN as well..or at least begin's a journey like most everything else.
    Have a great Sunday!

  4. Joy,
    This is totally off topic, but I just wanted to say what fun it's been reading through your blog this morning. I read about your journey of making independent reading more meaningful for your students, and how you are getting your students involved in passionate learning, teaching others and writing authentically. I love that you are adding your genius to the genius hour community!

    Another by-product I saw as I read through your posts is how you have grown as a blogger. Your blog started out, as you said yourself, as a note-taking space. Now it has developed into a 21st century conversation! I love how now you embed video, add images, hyperlink, comment on comments, and write your posts for a world-wide audience! I learn so much from you.


    1. Denise,
      Oh, you are so sweet!
      I had to read this to my husband, because he's been so supportive of this roller coaster learning I've been experiencing the last six months! Thanks for seeing what I didn't - I'm so glad it's all evolved into what it is! I am going to continue the Genius Hour aspect of this blog, and hopefully can share out all we're doing in that time in class. :-D

      Thanks for taking the time to read all the posts - I knew they'd make more sense if read in that fashion!

      I truly love learning alongside you,