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Digital personas integral to teaching — WASPA

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South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) recently helped equip a group of local teachers with the skills they need to create, safeguard and develop their digital personas.
A digital persona is the personality one projects across digital platforms that can be accessed via the Internet and mobile web.
WASPA is tasked with self-regulating the mobile content and applications industry that produces much of the country’s digital content.
“With learners comprising a significant proportion of cellphone users who are able to access social media and the worldwide web using their mobile devices, it is critical to start talking to teachers about the importance of managing their own online personas,” says WASPA GM Ilonka Badenhorst.
She attended the digital persona training along with WASPA chair James McNab and Kobus Vos, head of WASPA’s membership portfolio.
WASPA is ideally-placed to sponsor online digital safety training for local educators as it has over 15 years’ experience looking out for mobile consumers while also representing the interests of some 400 providers of mobile content and applications that can be accessed on cellphones.
WASPA has been a past sponsor of digital safety training at the annual iWeek Internet industry event and exhibition. This most recent round of digital persona skills development was aimed at the ten finalists who participated in the ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year Awards held at iWeek 2017 in Durban during September.
Facilitating the training was Maggie Verster, an ICT in education expert attached to the Digital Education Institute. She led the participants in considering a number of questions that are increasingly important in a connected world where the lion’s share of learners and educators alike are online.
Why does a teacher need a digital persona, does it need to be public or private, what are the best ways to establish an effective online presence, how is this presence best managed, how do teachers ensure their own online safety and that of their learners, and how does one manage all the demands being made on one’s time following the creation of an online persona are all questions needing answers.
Verster explained to the workshop participants that the first step in creating what she termed a ‘rockstar’ digital persona was to undertake a digital audit to determine what online footprint currently existed. She helped the ISPA SuperTeacher finalists, and the WASPA participants, undertake this audit before using ‘gamified’ workshop tools to help them build their digital personas using the main social media platforms available today.
A quick digital persona audit using an online search engine can shed light on any harmful content currently on display in seconds. In addition, any potential security vulnerability through the disclosure of personal information should quickly become obvious.
“While citizens are protected from defamation, for example, to some extent by legislation, it’s difficult to enforce local laws in cyberspace. It’s much more effective to equip our educators with the appropriate tools so they can reduce the probability of themselves and their learners being unfairly targeted on the web,” says Badenhorst.
“The end result of this valuable training sponsored by WASPA was a fantastic set of digital personas that portrayed the ISPA SperTeacher finalists as the rockstar educators they most definitely are,” Verster adds.