It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

Digital Tiptoeing Along November 6, 2010

Filed under: Class reflections,eci831,New Learning — Jamie @ 4:44 pm

I have been starting at this sentence since Thursday: “After last week’s class, I was left with mixed feelings.” I know what I want to say, but I’m not sure how to express it.

When I signed up for this class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that learning and collaborating online would be involved. I have always had mixed feelings about my online identity. Given the warnings we have been sent by our board about Facebook and other online social media, I have always been careful of what I post online. I have been careful to keep my Twitter account as professional as possible and to keep things generally pretty positive.

Since starting this class, I have started to “open up” a little more online. I have posted about my sick leave, I have commented on some posts that may be considered “controversial” and I have begun to create and collaborate with other educators. I connect informally with 500+ educators daily and directly with 50-100 on a regular basis. I have involved my class in a few collaborative projects with classes across the country in the last few years. I keep two blogs, one professional, one as a student. This is the second year that my students have been blogging. I have created a wikispace and blog of my parents. I even took the plunge and agreed to lead a talk for our next class (which is very much out of my comfort zone!) I truly thought that I had started to create an online presence for myself; a professional identity that I could be proud of (in my small little world).

However, during class last week, Dean Shareski asked us to search ourselves on three different websites: Google, Spezify, and Persona MIT. Using all three of these searches and only my name, I found only one hit that was about me within the first few pages.

There are apparently a lot more popular Jamie Forrest’s than I. I have since tried many variations of my name. The only way I can find ANYTHING about myself on Google (the main go-to site for searches) is to quote my name and add my city. These are the top five entries:

This brings me back to the sentence I’ve been staring at since Thursday… mixed feelings. The “old” part of me is happy about being invisible. I now know that my employer, my parents, my students and their parents and others cannot find anything about me that puts into question my standing as a positive role model in my community. However, neither can they find anything about me to reinforce this either.

Dean posted this slide during his talk on Tuesday:

He also talked about the difference between contribution and creation. If you look at all five of the hits about me, they are all contributions I have made on someone else’s creations. Nowhere did I find mention of either of my blogs, my class wiki, or my students’ blogs… None of my “creations” appeared. This left me feeling actually a little sad…

So, my question to all of you is: what are your suggestions for getting your creations out there in a positive and controlled way?



12 Responses to “Digital Tiptoeing Along”

  1. I think that it is dependent on which search engine you use as google arranges their hits according to popularity and not relevance. When I googled myself, I got my blog for this class and my Twitter and a Facebook hit for another Danielle Stinson (which is good because that is what I don’t want people to find, my Facebook is private for friends only!). A further search into the pages got my school’s blog, an old Twitter account, EC&I class directory and mentions of me on other people’s blogs. Burried deep into the Google search are things I want people to find like my classroom website and I could not find my wikis at all. I wonder if there is a way to denote something as important for a google search and set what will be found when googled and what will not. If we’re going to always be on camera, we might as well have some control of what people see us do right? It’s worth looking into! I’ll Tweet it out into the tweetmosphere.

    • Megan Graff Says:

      Danielle – I have heard of musicians and the like spending hours googling themselves in order to move up the Google ranks but I suspect you are looking for something more efficient.

      Jamie – I Googled myself after reading your post and happily found that several of my blog posts are the first hits. I think it’s a result of a not-so-common first+last name combination and having my domain name as my name. Twitter also came up and LinkedIn but apparently there are 3 Megan Graffs there. Facebook was there but it was another Megan Graff. I use my middle name on Facebook which while not a purposeful attempt to keep it separate from my professional footprint has done so as an added bonus. As I went to the second and third pages I started to find various wikis and nings as well as GoodReads etc. This wasn’t the first time I had Googled myself but I think it’s something we should do regularly. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. […] Google yourself for digital footprint- the new paper trail. Posted on November 6, 2010 by Al Smith @shareski has written about digital footprint vs presence. He has affirmed the need to wisely filter your content before you post or upload. He’s emphasized the permanent nature of digital content and underscores comments on other sites etc. His student Jamie recently blogged the topic and describes Googling her identity. So let’s test it out and read her blog. Jamie writes far better than I. […]

  3. Ian H. Says:

    A lot of it has to do with longevity. The longer you (and your stuff) has been online, the more people have linked to it, so it gets higher rankings in the search engines. On Google, fr’instance, all the links on the first page of a search for my name, save one, are mine – either things I’ve created, or places I’ve left tracks digitally. Some of this has been deliberate – I moved to posting my full name beside every entry on my blog so that more of my content is associated with my name. I also have my real name available on Twitter, so my Tweets are indexed as well. I’ve gone back through a few of the places where I’ve posted content in the past and changed settings so my real name will show up.

    In addition to that, I also own the domain name associated with my name, so if someone ever randomly puts that in the address bar, I’m set there too.

    Surprisingly, if I add my city, I get fewer relevant results on the first page, not more.

    Anyway, my suggestion is, anything you want to have associated with your name, use your full name, and leave it online for a while. If it’s good quality, people will link to it, and your search ranking will go up.

    On the other hand, I know there are teachers who prefer the anonymity that posting under a pseudonym allows, either so students can’t track them down, or so they can rant without worrying about administrative vituperation. I have occasionally gotten in trouble over something I’ve posted with my name next to it, but I’d rather have the conversation out in the open than anonymously.

  4. Jamie, you asked how we can get our creations out there in a positive and controlled way. I think, by far the best way teachers can do this is to blog about our teaching. Sharing our lessons, reflections, and challenges is huge. Being a participant on PLN sites in addition to blogging will establish a positive footprint as time passes. Good luck and thanks for getting us thinking.

  5. Laura Pasquini Says:

    Hi Jamie,

    I think Ian H. makes some great points. I think your digital footprint increases as you become a contributor and begin to engage online more personally and professionally. I wouldn’t attribute Google’s rankings for SEO to your own learning or personal branding. If you were previously not as open online, there will be less searchable information out there for others.

    I think as you continue to connect and grow as an open, social educator from EC&I 381 – you will find more value in your online interactions and exposure. Your current Google search indicates that you are interested in contributing and sharing with educators and learners like yourself — which is amazing! At the end of the day, that’s what is most important for your online educational/professional experience and thinking about your digital footprint.

    Keep exploring & sharing,

  6. kelalford Says:

    I think you are already putting your creations out there. You are blogging and I think that is the best way to get noticed. I have read your blogs and they are great! Keep doing what you are doing and it will pay off!!!

  7. Um… I think you are overlooking the obvious. Did you realize that your name does not appear on the front page of your blog? In the sidebar, you welcome us and tell us what the blog is about, but you don’t include your name. You could put it there, or how about going to the settings page in the wordpress dashboard and changing your tagline from “Just another WordPress site” to “by Jamie Forrest”. Or both.

    Also, try starting every blog post with an image. And, whenever you add an image, take advantage of the title and alt tags to include your name. This won’t be visible to the reader, but it will be visible to the google search engine.

  8. Great article and extremely thought provoking! After reading, I also did a search for myself and was quite suprised by the results. I was expecting to find a much larger web presence as I am a registered user with hundreds of Web 2.0 utilities. Instead, some folks from the UK with my name infiltrated the search. So, I’m curious, is it the search engines recommended that were actually failing? The algorithms these search engines use to search the web are not necessarily designed to find people. Or perhaps, your name may be common enough that there are others with a similar or slightly stronger web presence. Part of the way Google ranks a page is based on backlinks (or how many people are linking to a site). I recommend you try a semantic search engine like or one designed to actually search for a web presence like and search for your name again. You can also use sites like or to see whose reading your blogs to make sure you are reaching your target audience. You may be surprised at the results! I know I was shocked to find someone had taken a great deal of information off my blog and posted it to there own with only one so link back to the original article.

    Additionally, you may want to look for websites that explain SEO (Search engine optimization) to get a better understanding of how to build a web presence. A great article can be found at There’s a whole industry focused on it.

    Overall, I wouldn’t be too concerned. I found this post thanks to your Twitter update about it which got it included in the Ed Tech Early Edition, which is how I discovered it: So fear not, as long as you keep posting great information – people will find you!

  9. Great post, Jamie. I agree with what you’ve said. I think when you write what you really think and feel there is part of you that wonders, is this going to come back to bite me? We have one of those occupations where you’re always a teacher, even when you leave your job. Hey, question. How did you get the pictures from websites onto your blog? It’s a great touch.

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