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Long IslandEducation

Building brands and managing online reputations, in high school

Al Pisano, the administrator for instructional technology in

Al Pisano, the administrator for instructional technology in the Comsewogue school district, lays out the purpose of a conference attended by students from five school districts in the Wang Center on the campus of Stony Brook University on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Students from five Suffolk County high schools are learning to build their own brands and manage their online reputations in a new elective course created for the digital generation.

The curriculum, designed by local educators, highlights the growing importance of digital media to both personal branding and business, as well as what a social media profile ideally should look like. That means that every tweet, post, picture and selfie could stick as something that a potential employer or college admissions officer sees.

"It is built around creating a positive social footprint . . . to promote themselves and show themselves in the way that they want to be seen," said Timothy Hearney, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in the Bayport-Blue Point schools.

Students in his district are participating in the course with those from the Comsewogue, Half Hollow Hills, Northport-East Northport and Westhampton Beach systems.

The five districts, Eastern Suffolk BOCES and Stony Brook University's Department of Technology and Society helped create the Long Island E-learning Project more than a year ago in the hope of developing something that was innovative in design and focused on the 21st-century student. The program was modeled after a Stony Brook course called "Digital Generation," which focuses on creating a positive web presence, said Al Pisano, administrator for instructional technology in Comsewogue.

Teachers from the five districts designed the course for the high school students. Google and Driven Local, a Melville-based digital marketing company, were partners in the effort.

"It is pretty amazing when you think of all the different pieces that had to come together," said Pisano, who also is the off-campus coordinator for educational technology at Stony Brook.

About 90 students in the five schools are enrolled in the half-year program. They will use such Google tools as Gmail, Hangouts and Drive to work on documents and presentations and stay in touch via email, chat and video forums. Upon completion, they will be eligible for college credit.

While those in the course already have debated current events online and have searched each other's social profiles, they had not met in person until Friday, for a conference at Stony Brook.

Nicole Pusateri, 16, a senior at Northport High School, said the class "is definitely making me more aware. I am applying to college soon, and it is the perfect time to be in this class."

Northport senior Brandon DeFeo, 16, said some of his peers "impulsively upload." He finds the class very useful.

"You want to make the best of your digital footprint and want to know how to take the right steps," he said.

Students have looked at material online from their counterparts at other schools, including postings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram -- "and they are looking at how many things are positive and how many are negative," said Silvia Francese, who teaches business and social studies at Bayport-Blue Point High School.

One hoped-for result is students' creation of a website that could tackle topics such as digital citizenship and cyberbullying, Hearney said. The website would be shared with students in lower grades in the participating districts.

"We would love for students to create video messages for the younger generation," Francese said.

Hearney anticipates expressions of interest in the program from other schools.

"One of our goals is this will become more than it is now," he said.

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