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Sunday, February 26, 2017

If The Shoe Fits: Students And Their Digital Footprint

You take your shoes off when you get inside on a muddy day so you do not track dirt throughout the house. Muddy footprints on the kitchen tile may be relatively easy to erase, but muddy footprints on the carpet may be more permanent. Most of us have it engrained in our brains not to track footprints throughout the house, but what about our digital footprint?

What even is a digital footprint? Every time you log on or post something on the internet you leave a trace that you were there, like a tiny footprint. Just like a muddy footprint on the carpet, digital footprints are difficult to erase. Your digital footprint is made up of personal information, photos, post or comments you wrote, things you share, and much more. It is important to remember that you control how big your digital footprint is and what information it is made up of.

Let's begin with the realization that a digital footprint is not inherently bad. In reality, it is a good thing to have a digital footprint. When you are being considered for a job they will most likely google your name, and will you want to have a positive online presence. Having a positive online presence is two-fold. Your digital presence should be responsible and represent that you are a wholesome person. Having photos of your wild and crazy party days is not a great first impression for a potential employer. Having a tangible digital presence also shows you are a person who knows about technology and how to use it to their advantage.

So what does this mean for your elementary students? I'm sure they won't be applying to be lead engineer anytime in the near future, so why do they need to be conscious of their digital footprint? Well, it all begins with the idea that the moment a person begins using the internet they become a "digital citizen".  A digital citizen is just like a citizen of a city. As a citizen of the internet, you and your students have rights and responsibilities. Here is a short, kid-friendly YouTube video that shows what it means to be a "super" digital citizen.

Whether a classroom is 1 to 1 or not, it is important to teach your students how to be good digital citizens and about the footprint that they leave when they interact online. Children today are starting to build a reputation online much earlier than before, so it is even more pressing that they know what is acceptable to do and say on the internet.

Planning lessons to teach students what it means to be a good digital citizen early on can save a lot of trouble down the road. If students have spent time investigating the do's and don'ts of online interaction right off the bat, then they will know what to do when they come across a problem. I found tons of activities on Pinterest that you can use to teach students about being responsible on the internet. One of my favorite activity ideas was to have students trace their footprint on a sheet of paper and then decorate it with things they do online that might leave a footprint such as post videos, chat with friends, etc. Then have the students cut them out and display them on a bulletin board to show how all the footprints come together to represent their class. Each footprint will be unique just like each student and their internet habits are unique. After this activity is done have the class come together and talk about what makes someone a good digital citizen and how to leave a positive digital footprint. At the end of the lesson allow the class to make their own rules for online interaction.

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CC photo courtesy of Eleni Kyritsis (@misskyritsis) via her blog "Teaching in the Primary Years"

What do you think about the idea of having a digital footprint? Let me know in the comments.


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