Leveraging Your Digital Footprint

If I Google you, what impression would I get from your digital presence? Would it be positive or negative? Do you even have a digital profile that is easily found?  These are relevant questions when trying to understand about our digital footprints.  Everything that we post on the internet says something about us. So, it is crucial to be highly conscious of the messages that we want to send.

About four years ago, a coworker and I prepared a presentation about Digital Citizenship for students in grades 4-6.   The intention was to discuss their digital lives.  At that time, the general idea we had about students venturing online was that it was dangerous.  We talked about Cyberbullying, the Deep Web and how predators may entice minors.  Our objective was to deter students from behaving improperly online.  We presented the video, What Is Your Digital Footprint from Common Sense Media along with other resources, but we didn’t dig deeper into the positive aspects your digital footprint may have in portraying your passions and the meaningful things you consider in life.

It coincided that while I was reading about Digital Citizenship, The Office of Educational Technology in the U.S. featured Boston Public Schools in a Tweet. The focus was on some students who produced their own video as part of their Cyber Safety Campaign, and I was glad to see them mentioning how future university admission officials or employees may look at their digital profiles.

However, like I did when teaching students in the past, the message in the Boston Public School’s video didn’t emphasize using your digital footprint to your benefit.  However, if we start with the premise that when posting online, you have control of the kind of person you want to be, then the approach to digital footprint education shifts towards empowering the user.

In addition, not having a digital presence online could also raise questions about you, especially in this day and age when social media and communication play an important role in mainstream cultureAs Susan Ricker mentions in her blog, not having a presence online could also play against you.

When your social media presence is invisible to employers, you miss out on a lot of great opportunities to showcase yourself as a valuable and skilled employee.

Here is where I come to conclude that it is never too early to start teaching students about their digital footprint because the type of person we want to be online really isn’t any different than the real one offline.  The permanent nature of online postings and how viral the spreading of information may become are aspects should compel educators to teach students to think before they post.

Lisa Nielsen says it so eloquently in her blog:

The important lesson with managing your digital footprint is that everything we do online should represent who we are and what we stand for and we must have the knowledge that this representation will stick with us potentially forever.

Finally, before you start facilitating the discussion with your students, make sure you Google yourself and clean-up your digital footprint first.

Here is how:

Clean Up Your Digital Footprint by Family Online Safety Institute

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2 Responses

  1. Rory Bell says:

    Hi Carolin,

    Thank you for the engaging, interesting and well-researched post – I really enjoyed reading it.

    The positive side of our Digital Footprints is certainly something which I feel is underrepresented in the conversations that we have with our younger ones. We certainly have to protect our students, and should make them aware of things like boundaries or warning signs when online, yet the positive power of a well-managed digital identity should not be overlooked.

    If you haven’t already, check out this article from Will Richardson: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Footprints-in-the-Digital-Age.aspx. He is quickly becoming one of my most commonly ‘Googled’ names in edu-blogging, and his views certainly fall in line with ours. This quote sums it up perfectly…

    “(His fear is that) a quick surf through the top five hits (about his daughter) 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. I mean, what might “Your search did not match any documents” imply?”

    Brilliant! Thanks again for the fabulous writing 🙂


  2. Hi Rory,

    Thank you for sharing Will Richardson’s article. I will start following him on Twitter too. There were a few statements that I agreed with, but this one is what resonated with me the most:
    “More than ever before, students have the potential to own their own learning—and we have to help them seize that potential. We must help them learn how to identify their passions; build connections to others who share those passions; and communicate, collaborate, and work collectively with these networks.”

    Have a great week!
    Carolin E.

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