Since our world started becoming more and more digitally linked, I think that most people have some sort of digital footprint. I guess the real question here is, how many people have kept track of their footprint?
In life as in teaching, I have learned that if it doesn’t bother us (the proverbial squeaky wheel) it is often not in the forefront of our thoughts. I for one, need to change this mode of thinking. I need to get better at recognizing where opportunities lie and where information and digital access is taking our world.
As an international educator, I believe that a digital footprint is of fundamental importance when presenting yourself to others and in job searching. This being said, I am just beginning to embrace the idea of a footprint that I have created in contrast to a footprint that has been created by data that I have given someone. Since international schools are international places, isn’t it best to show a prospective employer that you are a global minded person who understands and embraces the Internet and all that it can do for education? I would assume that in today’s world, if someone was interested in hiring you, they would “Google you”. I know I would- or at least I do when I am sitting in a conference and someone is presenting or I have to choose a presentation.
The implications for students are also huge. Lately, thanks to my trusty Google reader and Flipboard, I have been reading about how children today have a digital presence even before they are born as their parents post sonogram photos. This is not their choice, but growing up in a digital society, it has become the norm. Most adults have been able to choose what their footprint looks like by slowly adding more and more information to their digital identity. Students of today are starting to create their footprints at a much earlier age when they don’t understand the implications of all of their actions.
Just as digital citizenship is an important topic that all teachers should be teaching, so is the concept of a digital footprint. Students need to understand that they are judged by what people read about them online. Often the people who judge do not know the whole person, so they can only make judgements based on what they see. Students need to understand this and also understand how to check their footprint and remove damaging information.
While at EARCOS, I met a woman who has a good friend whose job it is to add people (mostly college students) on Facebook and check out their Facebook page. Using the information on their page, she then tells the company whether or not they would be a good hire. This woman described her friend as “a cute blonde” and it seems that she has no problem adding people to her Facebook page that she does not know. To me, there is a lot wrong with this whole scenario, but the fact remains, it is happening out there. Students need to be aware of the information that someone may know about them before they meet them- for a college interview or a job interview. Just as educators need a positive digital footprint, so do students, as one day, they will be the ones searching for employment.