Credit: J. Albert Bowden II

So I was working on a (non education-related) project with a bright young woman today. It involved putting together a short video about her professional work. At the end, she asked me to talk her name off the title because she “tries to keep a low Internet profile.”

Wow, that threw me for a loop.

Without revealing her identity, I can say that this woman is most likely in her late 20-early 30s, has several postgraduate degrees and a very impressive career.

So my unprocessed thoughts, coming in a rapid flow, are something like this: What about building up a positive digital identity?…Well, the idea of keeping a low Internet profile is pretty much a thing of the past, no?…I can’t even imagine trying to keep a low Internet profile…. Did something happen to inspire this fear? (I suspect not.)…What does this situation say about how we provide guidance to younger folks, whether that is as teachers or parents or mentors?…And what does this imply for civil society and participation in general?

I know the whole digital identity conversation has been had a million times, but somehow this situation brought it home to me in a new way.

This also makes me think about how to counsel younger students who are publishing on the open web under our guidance. While some proceed with careful oversight, but a minimal amount of scare tactics or admonitions about the potential dangers, others seem to inspire so much fear as to lack credibility. I suspect there is a happy medium, but I don’t know where that is.

This has serious implications for connected learning, as well as open pedagogy. And it may be just as important for older folks (e.g. teachers) as it is for kids.

How do we impress the importance of privacy and safety without scaring people off from participating at all?

And is this a “real” dilemma or just an imagined one?

Fear, responsibility, identity, civil society, and the Internet (not new topics, I know)
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