At an early age, I went to boarding school. Coupled with the fact my father was in the military, it meant we were often split as a family unit. At school, I would wait for the postman each morning, in the hope of letter from one of my folks or come that special day – birthday cards. Telephone calls were once a week. University was spent a 6 hour drive away with visits made during major holidays.
Fast forward 22 years later, communication with family and friends looks very different. Social media allow me the luxury of daily communication (multiple times!) with the ability to keep in touch far and wide. My digital footprint on a personal level has taken some time getting off the ground, but I will say, it’s now moving at a pace and – it’s pretty handy! Today, I leave my mark periodically by using facebook as a tool to make connections or send greetings to loved ones. It’s a means to arrange where and when I am meeting someone, or even ask for a book recommendation. I kind of use it like a phone I suppose, without the chat. I post infrequently, and when I do it’s usually a quick update on where I am in the world and with who. But all this means that my footprint is taking form. I am aware that as people, we may share different views on life which includes the issue of privacy. Amy Mulvihill states in her post, “It’s just thinking smart.” That is how I feel I am addressing my use of social media. It’s a huge bonus in my life, and due to my choices of usage, it still allows me to feel that my world is still relatively ‘private’.
As an educated individual who is working with technology and students, I am able to think smart and address these issues as both parent and teacher. I am not sure I can say the same for everyone in what is a big, wide and very different world outside my own four walls. This goes for adults as well as children. The risk of ‘putting stuff out there’ can and has led to job losses due to the ‘mishandling of social media’. Crazy stuff happens over that one email, or a photo of a ‘good night out’. The web has given people a free rein to post or voice whatever they see fit. Therefore, it’s also given the world the tools for information to be found again, and along with this, opinions and decisions to then be made.
As I believe my mark on the digital footprint has not been huge, I have been pretty slack about taking steps to ensure I am protecting myself and loved ones. Just a quick google of online privacy for kids gave me some great links with solid tips of what even a non techie can do to put simple but effective steps in place. As an educator my attention to my digital footprint is very different. I need to tread carefully in what I post for professional reasons. Googling the line “school teacher fired for social media’ had me scanning through an endless list of individuals who this has been a reality for. My classblog and Coetail blog are already putting me out there professionally. This is a great forum for prospective employees to check out individuals without ever actually reaching out to them personally. Your CV may not even reach their table based on your digital footprint. Kind of scary too! Do I even have a chance to represent the ‘whole me’ if this is the screening process they use? Erica Swallow’s article on “How Recruiters Use Social Networks to Screen Candidates” stated that 90% of recruiters and hiring managers have visited potential candidate profile as part of the screening process”. It’s something I need to be mindful of.
I am currently lucky enough to work in a school which believes in integrating technology into our curriculum both safely and meaningfully. In my grade level alongside my colleagues and our tech integrationist coach, we deliver the REC program, which takes students through discussions on respect, ethical and collaborative behaviour. All students in our elementary school Gr. 3-5 are required to take part in this program, and sign a Technology and Responsible Use Agreement contract that states they will be Digital Citizens. Students, parents and teachers are all on the same page with regards to our expectations, and it has guided me as a teacher (still new to the tech age) to better my practice with technology.
As I read over my colleague Bettina’s blog post, I found myself nodding in agreement at her words – “Sharing strategies with students from a young age, about how they can develop a digital footprint that can highlight them in a positive light, alongside what safety precautions to take on the net, would educate them on the best way to get the most out of their digital interactions”. We need to revisit these precautions as we teach to ensure we are reaching out to all students, their levels of maturity and understanding. In a recent integrated tech session my coach and I introduced ‘Today’s Meet’ – a chat platform for learners. As we discussed the subject matter of digital citizenship, we modelled responses and talked about how their comments were producing digital footprints. We took the time to make this a teaching moment. It was a small but valid moment and one that I need to keep revisiting.
The struggle of course for us as teachers, is our students go home…. Lifestyles and parenting look very different from one household and or culture to the other and this includes the usage of technology. As educators we must be even stronger in our commitment to educate students in what are effective and responsible ways of using technology. Due to age and maturity levels, many children lack an awareness of privacy issues. Mistakes will be made, as they are made daily in the classroom and playground. The implications of the long term mark a digital footprint leaves however, is very hard for many youngsters to truly grasp until they have the maturity too, or, have been directly affected by it. Parents should be included when we are introducing the use of technology in our schools. There are a huge number of parents who are monitoring their kids online access to the web. Yet not everyone is fortunate enough to be as informed, connected or have an awareness of the ‘dark side’ that the web can bring. Whilst basic guidelines such as these can be found on the web, people still need to be directed to these. As educators it is not only important to model best practice to our students, but include the parents on this learning curve.
The article by Tony Anscombe states ‘the convenience that technology brings often can come with privacy implications.’ I loved the video below. I feel it goes hand in hand with Bettina’s advice. As an individual I am happy with the balance to date of my ‘personal digital footprint.’ As an educator, I believe If we choose to put technology into the hands of our young learners, then we also need to have conversations with them about the what and the why of their digital footprint. As teachers we are in the unique position to inform, guide and model best practice for creating a healthy digital learning environment.