Last year I attended my first ever ISTE conference. To say it was a fantastic learning experience would be an understatement. I attended some incredible sessions, met some amazing educators, and thoroughly enjoyed following the #ISTE12 hashtag on Twitter before, during, and after the event. In fact, following the ISTE conference hashtag was a huge part of what made the conference so valuable for me, as educators shared resources from different sessions and discussed what they heard and saw at the conference. There was one morning when a nasty head cold kept me cooped up in my hotel room for half a day, but I was still able to participate in the conference events through Twitter.
I'm a huge fan of Twitter as a tool for professional development. In fact, I am presenting a concurrent session called "Twitter 201: Build your PLN with Advanced Tips and Tools" at ISTE this year. However, during last year's conference, I noticed that as social events wore on in the evenings, the ISTE conference Twitter stream became less…professional. References to vendor parties, adult beverages, and some less-than-flattering pictures of educators singing karaoke...there were times when I almost felt like I was following a frat party online. Some people complained about the declining tenor of the discussion, but to no avail.
I can certainly understand and appreciate the celebratory atmosphere that pervades ISTE social events. For many attendees, school has recently ended and they are ready to blow off some steam. Vendor-sponsored parties are a refreshing change for educators unused to the perks taken for granted by professionals in other industries. Many educators who attend ISTE are footing the bill themselves and consider the event a working vacation. I personally enjoyed socializing with my colleagues as much as I enjoyed the incredible learning that took place. But I have to admit, I was a bit shocked at some of the comments and photos I saw in the #ISTE12 Twitter stream. In fact, I actually found myself wondering if any conference attendees got in hot water back home for things they posted during the conference. In the social media era, the famous marketing slogan "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" no longer applies.
As Connected Educators, we must always be aware that social media postings can have far reaching and unanticipated ramifications, and behave online accordingly. It is our responsibility to model good digital citizenship at all times. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy the social events at ISTE, just be careful what you post online. After all, how can we expect our students to make good choices regarding their digital footprints if we are not making good choices ourselves? Not to mention the damage that unprofessional postings can do to one's career. Teachers have been fired for less.
In the spirit of good digital citizenship, here are a few suggestions for ISTE attendees, both old and new:
1. Be careful about what you post online. Remember, what gets posted online stays online, in some shape or form. Informal conversations are fine, but there is a fine line between informal and unprofessional. Be careful not to cross that line.
2. If you take a picture of someone at a social event, ask their permission before sharing it via social media. You might not mind pictures of you singing karaoke floating around the internet, but someone else might. In fact it could cost them their current or a future job. If in doubt, don't post it.
3. If you are having a discussion with someone, don't append the #ISTE13 hashtag to those tweets. Better yet, use DM's or talk in person.
4. Don't drink and post. Period.
5. Remember: If you would be embarrassed to have something show up on the 6:00 news, don't post it online!
I look forward to a terrific #ISTE13 and the great learning that will take place!