Can you see me? Transparency in Teaching and Learning


I’ve been teaching for 15 years…I’ve been learning my whole life.  My passion is the process of teaching and learning together.  I love learning from others, sharing ideas, and collaborating.  It is a part of me…an extension that is so natural, that I don’t even think about it.  Recently, I was sharing and collaborating with a group of teachers on twitter about a google maps lesson when a fellow teacher, Zoe Branigan-Pipe,  wrote this on her blog about me:

Well – I feel pretty engaged. Today, I thank @mrspal, a colleague in Philly that I met through twitter and blogging. Just read her blog: and you will see that she has a passion for education that is viral. She is transparent in her teaching and makes it a priority to share and support others.
After reading her post “take a walk down memory lane”, an interactive, inquiry based activity using Google Streets View, she inspired me to try it out on my own students. Within the hour, she emailed me her lesson plan/student instruction sheet and seemed as excited as I was. Now that is open source, open content, free, creative commons, license free at its GREATEST.

This absolutely blew my mind.  Zoe was able to see me as a person and a teacher within moments of our initial contact.  I wondered if others could see me as well without ever meeting me in person…I really thought about how she was able to do that.  When mulling this over in my head, I realized that everything I do online is an extension of my authentic self.  My digital footprint truly represents the person I am in “real” life.  So, what are the implications of this lightbulb moment?

  1. We need to be transparent in our web 2.0 lives in order for authentic learning and collaboration to occur.
  2. We need to make sure that our digital footprints are reflective of ourselves.
  3. We need to teach our students that it is vital to preserve their own digital footprints by being authentic and transparent.
  4. We need to be transparent in the classroom on a daily basis by being open, fair, accountable, and flexible.
  5. We need to be transparent in our learning.  Our classrooms are not limited to the four walls that hold it up any longer.  By collaborating and sharing, we are modeling transparency in learning for our students.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to step outside yourself  to see what others see.  I no longer see a divide between “real life” and “online life”.  I am the same person…I am transparent.  Thank you, Zoe, for reminding me of the importance of that.

8 thoughts on “Can you see me? Transparency in Teaching and Learning

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Can you see me? Transparency in Teaching and Learning | middle school 101 --

  2. Dr. Jim Karustis

    The word that ties all of this together for me is “integrity”. I know what you mean by ‘transparency’, but I’ve learned in the privacy of the therapy room, that young people so often interpret that as open book, that there is no corner that should remain private. I see integrity as first KNOWING specifically what matters to oneself, and fully manifesting that in actions, words, and attitudes. And declaring same deliberately. This is a superb topic and discussion – thanks Mrs. Pal.

  3. dougpete

    This is a very thought provoking entry. In education, more than anywhere else, there can be a big difference between the person who is in front of the class and the person who leaves the building to manage family, etc. Becoming engaged in these activities can break down this barrier. Among us adult learners, this can be very helpful in knowing “who” we are when we communicate. Yet, that barrier still has to exist between teacher and student. Do we want to be friends with students on Facebook? I think that Dr. Karustis makes a very valid point when he refers to “integrity”. Among colleagues, it makes the conversation authentic and of value. By the same token, integrity helps define the line between teacher and student.

    I am so intrigued by those of us from Ontario who work the web in the manner that we do. We’re a small cadre but it’s amazing how when one of us engages in a conversation, many of us end up either being in or following the same conversation.

  4. mrspal1 Post author

    Jim and Doug,
    Thank you both for your thoughtful responses.

    I agree, Jim, that integrity is the key here…especially when talking about tweens and teens. I am always shocked with just how much kids are willing to share, and how far they are willing to push each other and themselves to be something that they aren’t in such a public forum. It is so important that while building character in our youth, that we frequently remind them that everything they do online is trackable, traceable, and printable. I make it a point to discuss this type of digital citizenship on a regular basis in my classroom. Thank you for tying integrity into this conversation.

    Doug…I also believe there should be a line that is defined as well. We need to be transparent, yet responsible in that openness. I am also intrigued by my Ontario twitter/blogger friends! You are an amazing group of educators! I’ll be chaperoning a trip to Canada in two weeks, and I just might jump off the bus and stay! Is this something that you’ve always seen in the Canadian education system, or is it something more recent?

  5. Tony Fish

    Good post and comments – however I believe that it is worth making sure that we all appreciate that my digital footprint is more than just what you say about yourself.

    Your or my digital footprint is what I say, and it is what others say and it is how we react to our content within the community. Further my digital footprint is also about information that my electronic devices automatically add to my content which includes location, attention, how I reached something, who sent me the content, who I send it on to.

    On it’s own your digital footprint has little value – yes it provides a representation (if open, honest and transparent) of the physical you.

    However you trade yourself and your data in the exchange for free web services (search, email etc) However, knowing how to reach you and your interests and who you influence is the value from your digital footprint. I love the topic and write about it a lot.

    Tony – Author

    1. mrspal1 Post author

      Thank you, Tony, for furthering the discussion on digital footprints. As an educator, it is truly important in this day and age to have these conversations regarding digital citizenship. I’ve used some of these resources to discuss their own digital footprints.

      I love this infographic, Tony, that you have about the duality of digital footprints. I’d like to try to create something similar that is in tween language. Not only is it vital to be
      authentic about oneself, it is imperative to be authentic about others. I look forward to reading your book and your blog.

  6. Sue Tapp

    I discovered your blog on Friday night Megan and spent most of the evening madly reading and bookmarking and writing myself idea notes.I then spent Saturday morning going deeper and reading your other blogs with equal excitement. ( Sounds like I am stalking you when I reread this!!) I teach year 8s and, like you, have been determined to teach using the best of technology, to allow the students to explore their ideas and those of others. I have been blogging and tweeting for several years now, but that moment of finding someone who is doing what you do and writing about it and having such inspiring ideas, never ceases to amaze me. You have given me fresh inspiration to keep trying new ways and, like your original comment that inspired the post, I am so pleased that I found your work. Thank you and don’t stop!! This is all such student centred teaching and learning, and when in my 30th year of teaching I can be so excited about going to work on Monday and sharing these ideas, you must realise the power of what you are doing and its value. I am sure your students and colleagues do!

    1. mrspal1 Post author

      What a wonderful way to wake up! It is the end of the year and I’m tired, drained, and emotional…you have just given me the wonderful gift of motivation and inspiration. This is what it is all about isn’t it… globalization, connection, and transparency. I believe that these are the 21st century skills at their very core. Social media is what connects people half way around the world….it is what can spark an idea…bubble up passion…and begin a conversation, a collaboration, or even a start of something you had never expected. I spend most of my time focused on my students and their learning…but I started this blog to share with other teachers the trials, tribulations, and sheer joy of student centered, project based, authentic learning. Thank you for reminding me of why I do this. I would love to connect with you and your students next year to create our own “flat classroom”. It is one element that I’ve really been tinkering with that hasn’t come to fruition yet. Sue…I think you have just created an amazing opportunity for us and our students. Thank you for taking the time to read, explore, and connect!

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