From Switzerland to Israel with love: examining (digital) neutrality

After dropping out of the Coetail world for a couple of weeks, (and the online world in general–”vacationing” with twin toddlers in Israel with limited wifi…my activity reduced 

Requisite charming vacation pic posted

Requisite charming vacation pic posted

to lying in bed late at night with my phone, eyes blinded by tears, sand and exhaustion, but still determined to post those darn vacation pics!)


I returned home with my first assignment a week late and began to read the plethora of fellow Coetailers’ posts on the digital footprint.

I first read Amber’s post as she recently emailed me about a possible collaboration for course 2’s final project.  Amber reflects on her “personal vs professional” digital spaces and references articles warning us to avoid posting incriminating things in case your future boss sees.  (How you are embarrassing yourself online without knowing .) Why are these catchy and ominous titles so addictive?

I replied:

The quote about the innocuous statements you make on facebook really struck me…as I think about “liking” references to 4.20, for example. (Or highlighting that fact here!) But in all seriousness, I would hope employers (and anyone judging someone entirely on what is posted on social media) take what they see with a grain of salt, and understand that people change and their understanding of what is appropriate and what is not changes…unfortunately for a lot of young kids, that learning curve is very public. You are right –it is part of our job to get kids thinking about their digital selves and digital etiquette. Already I have had discussions with my 4 and 5 year olds about posting questionable pictures of others–me included (!) to our class blog and we have had to come to certain agreements about this.

The opening lines of Layla’s post grabbed me.  She wrote a beautifully worded, researched and analyzed article discussing our quest for identity…and how the internet is changing how that quest is undertaken, and how it can be manipulated to work for or against us.  She references an article by Meredith Scroeder to highlight the idea that

removing chunks of information that violate one person’s right to forget may in fact violate another individual’s freedom of speech and right to know.”

This highlighted quote made me immediately think of this picture:

Okay--I went ahead and posted it...this is an exercise for educational purposes, surely a higher calling than mere entertainment.

Vacationing with toddlers can go from barely surviving the day to this at any point. Pooped on and naked in the street.

I respond to Layla:

Thank you for your thought provoking post and helpful links. Like Brendon, I also wonder similar things…what happens when the views or ideas we may have expressed in the past have changed, and yet the digital ties to us are there forever…or when our well meaning friends and relatives tag us in silly or even offensive posts…

I myself am currently debating whether to post certain hilarious to me pictures during a recent vacation, but potentially embarrassing to my children in the future. Should I be posting pictures of them at all? They are toddlers and can’t give their consent…

Okay–so I went ahead and posted it…this is an exercise for educational purposes, surely a higher calling than mere entertainment.Does my action violate my child’s right to forget? Or Dad’s right?

Next I read Jon’s post about moving from a neutral footprint (previously a focus in many inquiries into digital citizenship) to a deliberately positive footprint.  I was left worrying and wondering at my relative lack of footprint, thanks to this article and after taking Lisa Nielson’s Digital Footprint quiz and realised I need to work harder to put myself out there in a positive and proactive way.   

I wrote to Jon,

I liked your comment about moving your “neutral digital footprint to a positive one.”  I feel I had been mostly working hard (okay, not that hard) to maintain relatively neutral online, lest I offend someone.  This approach only works to a point, as you mentioned in your “scare tactics” with your first graders–“Posting mean things online will get you into a lot of trouble” or “How would you feel if someone said something rude to you online?”   But I see this neutrality has left me without much of a digital footprint at all.  (Darn, I’ll blame it on living in Switzerland!)

It’s actually harder work to continuously seek ways to showcase our positive contributions–we have to go out of our way to write nicely worded comments on someone else’s blog or Facebook posts…the ‘like” button is way too easy.  But this this effort is worthwhile in the end, and is a good way to move that neutral footprint (both ours and our students)  to a positive one.


From the security wall in the West Bank, Bethlehem.

Shot taken mid spray!  The security wall in the West Bank, Bethlehem.


Finally, it seems to me there is still a war of ideologies going on when it comes to Social Media & Technology in the classroom.  On the one hand there are articles like this, basically telling us to use common sense when using Facebook as teachers, but at the same time informing us of different school districts who have taken matters into their own hands and outright banning communication via all social media between teachers and students.  And then there are more progressive approaches to Social Media, and selling the importance of “having the opportunity to publish online with your name attached.”

While one approach takes away freedom of expression, the other encourages it.  If there is one thing I learned while traveling with toddlers in Israel-it’s that everyone wants to be free and be heard.


4 thoughts on “From Switzerland to Israel with love: examining (digital) neutrality

  1. Amber Dryer

    Hello Heather! I love your travel pictures and that is a great picture of your daughter and all the crazy things that can happen with toddlers!
    I have always tried to remain neutral as well when I post online as not to offend anyone or get into any arguments. My father and uncle are opposite sides of the political spectrum and both are bombarding my newsfeed with their wild arguments and comments. I watch them try to defend themselves (with very poor spelling from both) and often they have lost friends due to this. After years of watching this unfold, I have felt I need to stay neutral since I have friends from all walks of life. I do wonder how my digital footprint looks though. I like the idea of being positive and stick with positive or more meaningful posts.
    You closed with an interesting point about different approaches schools are taking regarding social media. Common sense is important, yet unfortunately there is always that one person that crosses the line. I have been in schools that banned social media because of this. I have also been in schools that use it as a tool. The schools that provide opportunities to use social media do allow for more freedom and creativity. Students who have the freedom tend to use social media properly and tend to not abuse it as much when they have the access.
    I enjoy reading your posts, you add a lot of humor to everything!

    1. Holly Fraser Post author

      Hey Amber,

      Sorry for not “approving and replying” sooner! I have been away at the #Learning2 conference…(you should follow the hashtag on Twitter to see more)…and have been completely overwhelmed with new ideas…alas my Coetail stuff took a backseat. Thanks for your comments-I definitely understand the family situation…Mine all have our different political and lifestyle views…conversations I don’t really want to have on Social Media. 🙂

  2. Jocelyn Sutherland

    Very entertaining post Holly! As a non-parent, I definitely appreciate the hilarious anecdotes friends share on facebook about their little cherubs, but sometimes it does cross a line that makes me uncomfortable. I often feel I don’t have a place to say anything so usually choose to just ‘unfollow’ them. I thought it was an interesting point you made when referencing Meredith Scroeder’s article about removing the right to ‘free speech’. It reminded me of an experience at my previous school having to do with ‘free dress’ days. Our Assistant Principal was going over the dress code (for the hot tropical climate) and basically said “if you look in the mirror for a second, and second guess your decision, that’s your answer. Don’t wear it.” Could this be applied to posting photos of children/students/others as well?

    I remember reading an article a while back posted by a mother who had made the decision to never post any photos of her children’s faces online, but instead snapped plenty of photos of them from the back or disguised by a hat or other object. Initially I thought it was an ambitious and considerate goal (for her children’s sake…no digital footprint definitely prevents ‘regret’ in later years), but I wondered to what end she would insist this ‘rule’? Especially since many digitally connected schools now request parents to sign ‘release’ forms allowing photos of their children to be taken for school/education purposes. If parents take the ‘extreme’ approach of ‘hiding’ their children from any online presence, it significantly hinders their experience in school, as well as the opportunity to ‘practice’ digital citizenship and creating a positive digital footprint for themselves. As an EdTech coach trying to implement ePortfolios and Blogs, parents refusing to allow their child to be photographed has impacted several class communities and the child themselves when they are excluded from various blog/Twitter posts about (for example) a Traveling Teddybear Project. I wonder what sense of identity (or lack of) the child will have when they become more aware of their lack of digital footprint?
    Thanks again for this thought-provoking post! I’d love to hear from other parents/teachers to see what their perspective is.

    1. Holly Fraser Post author

      Hey Jocelyn,

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I guess if you are truly second guessing a post about a student, or even your child, you probably shouldn’t post it.
      I really do like your comment about practicing digital citizenship in school. Our students are digital natives. Schools can help to ensure a student’s first digital footprints are positive.

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