As teachers try to suss out how to integrate Google+ with their Facebook and Twitter networks in and out of the classroom, the line between public and private posts becomes that much more the focus of discussion.
Google+ has made it somewhat easier by making users decide specifically which circles to post to. That function also works on Facebook, but it's not as transparent (the prompt is hidden next to the "share" button when you click on the lock icon, which allows you to customize which groups see your post).
While Facebook has its own dynamics (read the dos and dont's of using Facebook in the college setting), Twitter is another animal altogether. By its very nature, it's almost always used publicly. Though you can send private messages, most people use it to broadcast news, links, and briefly described ideas to anyone and everyone willing to read.
Indeed, educators have found creative ways to teach with Twitter. But just as we, as individuals and parents of kids who want to join the socially wired world, must decide what's appropriate to Tweet (and Facebook and Google+ and all of what else is to come), teachers have to consider yet another layer of what works and what doesn't.
Knowing that their public 140-character missives can be read by both teachers and students, how do they decide what information to share? Do students want their teachers knowing they went out with friends instead of studying for their exams? Do teachers want their students to hear about their workplace frustrations?
Phil Bronstein, editor at large at the San Francisco Chronicle, recently interviewed me about the subject for an article about guidelines for teachers. We had a long conversation, but the gist of it was this: "Educators have to find a way to walk the line between their professional persona and their personal opinion." It goes without saying that students do, too. It's all about learning to define digital footprints.
We recently conducted a small poll to gauge how students and teachers felt about their Twitter habits. We asked just one question: If your professors or students follow you on Twitter, do you feel you have to censor yourself when you Tweet?
Most responders -- 62% -- said yes, "Using my Twitter account for school makes me think twice about what I Tweet." A quarter of responders, 25%, said they don't feel any pressure to edit their Tweets. But here's what's interesting to me: 13% said they've created two different accounts to keep personal and academic feeds separate.
Teachers, students, what kind of information do you broadcast on Twitter?