Digital Footprints


Well, I just spent the last several minutes googling myself.  I will admit it is not the first time I have done it, but with all the blog posts and reflections from this course showing up, I have many more hits on my name.  I guess I could say my digital footprint is growing.

Googling someone’s name can lead to some interesting discoveries.  I now wish I had run those few road races a little faster.  I guess there is no way I can exaggerate my race times by saying I ran the half marathon in under 2 hours when my times are clearly evident on the web for all to see.  Two of my children are in their 20’s and for the past few years, whenever I hear them mention someone they ‘like’, I google that person to find out what I can about them.  I have given some of my young student teachers advice about cleaning up their facebook when they are job hunting.  It is advice I also pass on to my children, but instead of “cleaning up facebook”, we need to be more careful about what goes on the web about us in the first place.  I tell my children not to post the pictures taken at the grad party unless you are fine with everyone having access to them.   More and more employers are checking out the digital footprints of potential employees.

Our students need to see the importance of having positive digital footprints and not be scared to use the internet.  I do think that teachers need more professional development in this area so that they can pass on internet safety to students in a better way.  In his article, Positive Digital Footprints, Ferritier says, “Although some students are at risk because of careless choices—openly talking about sex in digital forums, posting inappropriate pictures of themselves or their friends to the Web, or failing to act when confronted with dangerous situations in social media spaces—those risks are often poorly understood by teachers, who receive little training about how to effectively introduce Internet safety and new media literacies to students (Online Safety and Technology Working Group, 2010).  Scare tactics like those my 7th grade informants described are not only ineffective at changing student behaviors (Online Safety and Technology Working Group, 2010), but they also prevent students from seeing digital footprints as potential tools for learning, finding like-minded peers, and building reputations as thoughtful contributors to meaningful digital conversations.”

We know that potential employees, boyfriends/girlfriends, coworkers are googled, and as a result we need to showcase ourselves by building up our digital footprints in a positive way. 

As technology expert Will Richardson (2008) explains in the same article, “One of my worst fears as [my children] grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. … that when a certain someone (read: admissions officer, employer, potential mate) enters “Tess Richardson” into the search line of the browser, what comes up will be less than impressive. That a quick surf through the top five hits will fail to astound with examples of her creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work. Or, even worse, that no links about her will come up at all. (p. 16)”

The term digital shadow is new to me.  It does make you think about how important it is to make good daily choices and it is a realization that nothing that happens is truly private.  As Sarah Perez’s article, Calculate Your Digital Footprint with New Tool from EMC reads, “But this new research shows that we need to be aware of much more than just online mentions. What we need to concern ourselves with now, is the other half of our digital footprint. This “ambient content,” the research team concluded, comprises of passive contributions, something termed as your “digital shadow.”  Your shadow includes things like images of you on a surveillance camera, your bank records, your retail and airline purchase records, your telephone records, your medical database entries, copies of hospital scans, information about your web searches, general backup data, information about credit card purchases, etc.”

We expect our students to demonstrate all the traits of the Learner Profile, but we as their teachers need to be role models to them by consistently exhibiting the traits ourselves.  This is not just at school, but in all aspects of our lives.  It is our job to educate our students so that when they are googled they will have information show up about them that they are proud of and shows their true character.


3 comments for “Digital Footprints

  1. Avatar of Karen Robb
    March 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Parents of very young children often ‘baby-proof’ their houses to keep kids from getting into stuff they shouldn’t and sometimes they forget to gradually un-baby-proof the same space to teach their children how to cope with all the potential dangers in their ‘safe place’. I feel the same way about creating a digital footprint. We cannot just remove access to the internet until it becomes safe. This is the 21st century reality. We need to educate, inform, guide and mentor safe internet practices for our students while they are still at a young age before the hand-holding is dismissed with dramatic eye-rolling and the classic “whatever” response.

  2. Erik
    March 28, 2012 at 2:59 am

    Janette, you are right that teachers must educate their students about the importance of safe and “moral” internet use. The ole, “Skeletons in the closet,” phrase comes to mind, but now its, “Skeletons in your browser/cookies/history.” How horrible for a young teenager to post something in a spur of the moment, and then have it haunt them for the next decade… The Google name search is a nice exercise to actually conduct with the students. Most students won’t find anything, but that will quickly change. One of the reasons I took the COETAIL course was to create a more positive and technology based “Digital Footprint” for myself. I admit the footprint is a small one, but at least it is a positive imprint and represents me in a good tech light. I am Googling myself again right now!

  3. Avatar of mmorse
    March 28, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Excellent post. It is interesting to use Google to find out what we don’t know about ourselves based on our web use. I have checked the profile that Google created based upon my ‘cookies’ and web search usage, and it seems fairly accurate, though it emphasizes an overriding interest in Youtube that I was not aware of (I download subject area videos for use in the classroom for teachers as part of my job). As a teacher here in Bangkok, I am surprised at how much information students share about themselves on Facebook and other social network sites. I don’t think many of them are aware of the permanence of what they put out on the web. It never really goes away, even if they choose to delete posts or close their social network account. With my students blogging on a regular basis, I have given them pretty much free reign to write what they want (within boundaries of appropriateness) but there have been times I have had to explain to certain students that their posts could come back to haunt them and to keep that in mind.

    Digital Fingerprinting has also figured into school life here as well. There has been an ongoing debate within our school community about online bullying both inside and outside the school campus–and the fact that what is written on social web sites such as Facebook follows students around far longer than some negative statement made by one student to another–once it is out there it is out there for all the world to potentially see, thus exponentially increasing the potential damage some negative posting might engender. Therefore I try to let students know that they need to be aware of the fingerprints they leave behind whenever they go on the web and the potential that hurtful statements can have, especially out in the vast spaces of the internet.

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