Scare tactics at work.
In a day and age when schools are still looking backward to see what footprints look like behind them, forward thinking educators are coaching students to curate their digital footprints and to imagine what footprints could look like.
For years, schools have watched over students to ensure they are safe. This protective stance is what still informs how we take care of students as education tries to evolve with technology. Many of our digital citizenship programs teach students about the evils of technology and how they can avoid these monsters. A YouTube video created by Romero Benjamin in 2011 is an excellent example of how we continue to teach our students about digital citizenship. Watch out for hackers and bullies! Especially watch out for what might be associated with you out on the Internet! And for god’s sake, don’t post anything that might hurt you in a job interview some day! Cyber bullying has reared its head as being the latest and greatest in bullying issues. Bullies can have long-lasting effects as they spread slanderous tales about you across any number of social media. As well-meaning educators, we tend to solve these problems by either ignoring social media by blocking student access at school or we confine our discussions to dealing with the direct problem at hand.
Proactive educators are seeing digital footprints as an opportunity. Certainly, we need to educate students about the perils of a negative footprint. But forward thinking teachers and school leaders are teaching students to curate their digital footprint. A blog written on the subject by W. O’Byrne, who is a professor of educational technologies, gave advice that can be distilled into one sentiment: “I would rather be proactive and create online content that people will be directed to when they search online for information about me.” In researching additional thinking on the subject, Jason Ohler’s youtube video on digital footprints held my favorite advice. Meaningfully post media on a regular basis to create the footprint you want. I teach 6th graders. I usually have them post media under an account set up by me. Why not teach students to set up accounts for themselves? The projects we do could be posted under their names. This would enable them to think about and maintain control of their digital footprints at a young age. I can imagine critics arguing about age limits and other obstacles. Whether we like it or not, students set up accounts prior to the allowed age. If they are old enough to be on social media, they are old enough to curate their digital footprint. I envision a school with a forward thinking plan would have parent meetings to explain the school’s thinking. I am specifically thinking of the school I currently work at. Almost all of my students are on Facebook. None of them are yet 13. Projects they create could be posted on Facebook, with parent knowledge. It would be another way to include the community in virtual school activities. Brilliant!
Benjamin, R. (Producer). (2011, August. 11). Computer Ethics: Online Privacy [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIFfYxgDpRo
O’Byrne, W. (2012, March 19). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://wiobyrne.com/creating-and-curating-your-online-brand/
Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.
Ohler, J. (Producer). (2014, Feb. 03). MOOC spr2014 digital footprint [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQq-k3E6A3s