Digital Footprints and Students

With the increasing amount of elearning that is becoming part of schools across the world there are a growing set of skills and understandings that students need to develop.  An issue that is at the for front of my mind is the Digital Footprint that we all have and are we as teachers making sure that students understand the concept of a digital foot print. A digital Footprint is defined as…

digital footprint a.k.a. digital shadow, data exhaust An expression that refers to the way technology now pervades everyone’s lives, your “digital footprint” specifically describes the trail you leave in cyberspace and on any form of digital communication.

…and there are amazing resources out there to help students grasp the concepts in order to make better and more informed choices as to what they share and post on line.

Kid Smart in the UK

Net Safe in NZ

Mediasmart of Canada has created Privacy Pirates, an on-line game to educate younger students

With all these resources,  and the reality that many of our students are on-line most of the day, are we really preparing our students by co-constructing and scaffolding an understanding or are we creating a digital foot print for our students or in the worst case scenario are we just letting students go and explore and create a footprint without any assistance?

I would like to think that I am co-creating with my students. The majority of web searching that happens with my year 3s & 4s at this early stage of the year is on the IWB so we can name and notice any tricky situations – a pop up is no longer an annoyance, but a real teachable moment where the discussion aroStudent Bloggingund why they are there, who puts them there and why we do not follow the link is invaluable.

The class blog is run in the same way  on the IWB or in small groups on the iPad and thus we are able to name and notice how we write peoples names (No surnames, just initials, so I would be Luke or Luke D), what photos we are allowed to use, which raises the teaching around Creative Commons, and more importantly how we reply to a comment in a blog posting – In our class all people get a capital letter,  ”cool” is not an comment and if you have more than 1 exclamation mark your comment will not be accepted.

These things that I have outlined in the above paragraph are not hard, just a part of how we run the class and learn together. I would not read a book to a child and not let them touch the book then tell them to go home and learn to read by looking at books at home: this must be the same with digital learning. So often as a class we look at a classroom blog that has commented on our class, but we have to play 20 Questions to try and work out what country the class is from, the name of the school and what age they are. I truly understand that many schools are constrained my policy about what they are allowed to post and who is able to access the on-line content, but  is that teaching Digital Citizenship and co-creating a Classes digital foot print or are we doing it for them?

On the flip side my daughter came home at 14 and said “I have a blog now at school for Maths and English and Science” .  Now she knows about bloggingDigital Footprint and has contributed to our closed to close friends and family only blog many times, but do her class mates know and more importantly do her classmates parents know about what it means to publish on line?  Kelsey Herron’s article about ‘Why Parents and Educators Should Work Together to Teach Digital Citizenship’ points out many of the key points and highlights how many parents know less than their children with regards to on-line behaviour and how it is important that through workshops and discussions with parents and teachers that we raise parents levels of understanding so that there is not the blanket NO for children due to fear of the unknown or the YES with complete freedom due to parents lack of understanding.

In conclusion I believe that like reading and writing, responsibility and resilience, hitting a ball and shooting a hoop and all the other skills and subjects that are part of our curriculum we need to make sure that Digital Citizenship and an understanding of a Digital Footprint are part of our classroom every day and not just for those Tech Savvy teachers, but all teachers and all schools.

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2 thoughts on “Digital Footprints and Students

  1. Great post Luke. Amazing how teachers need to adapt and adjust. I spend half a class period the other day talking about this issue and the importance of creating an online profile that you control rather than letting others dictate how you appear online.

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