Digital Citizenship

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My digital footprint. Of course, I had heard of the digital footprint before now. But what I didn’t consider is its longevity, possibly its permanence, and its insidious nature. What does this mean for the kids today? Teens, by their very nature, do not clean up after themselves. What’s more they take pride in their very teen-ness. There’s the loud, sloppy, indifferent, ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ version …let’s say teen 1.0; and then there’s the quiet, secretive, head down, maybe in a book or plugged in, ‘can’t you stop bothering me’ version…let’s say teen 5.0; and then there are all the ones in between. But regardless of where they fall on that spectrum, worrying about their digital footprint is not in their top 100 list. Understanding what a digital footprint is, discovering that you have one and what it looks like, and then deciding to do something about it is a process.

Take me for example. I do care about my ‘brand’ (now that I know I can have one), but I needed to learn to get past the rock that I live on. The idea that since I live rurally and remotely nothing I do on line will come back me. I mean, who cares about what I say or think anyway? No one knows me, right? I am not suggesting for one moment that I have ever been cavalier about my behaviour or the words I have used online. It’s just I really didn’t believe that anyone was listening. And then along comes the Flat Classroom Certified Teacher course and its expectation that students (that’s me) get out there. No more lurking folks. Rev up that Twitter engine and tweet and retweet and join tweetchats. It’s time to create content. I had run into Storify some where along the way and thought, “well this looks like a nifty little tool that students (the teen kind) would really like to use”. Pulling content together on a theme from social media sources to tell a story for marks might just make a few kids cry with joy. The trouble is that I don’t have any students. Sure, I can pitch Storify to my teacher colleagues, but I had to know what I was talking about. The opportunity arose with a quad-blogging assignment (more about that in a future entry) for which I suggested, quite quickly to my partners, “Let’s do a Storify”. They graciously agreed, and we were off.

You know that rule that says, ‘if you suggest an idea, you get to do it?’ I set up the Storify and my partners worked diligently to pull the social media to it, so I could assemble the final product. Et volià! We were done.

It’s what happened next that stunned me. Our Storify generated a topic for discussion in a global tweet chat, which got embedded into a blog promoting the topic, and the little Storify assignment took off. In ten days, over 800 people have viewed the Storify. And all of a sudden, I felt the responsibility of the work that I am doing online. I hoped I was proud of the work because it was too late not to be.
Let me be clear. I was in good hands. Both of my partners are global educators and professional educators. They knew what they were doing, to be sure. And the Storify was co-created—it was their work as much as mine. This experience only happened to me because the Storify was in my name. It was my profile on the page. Somebody was listening, at least for a moment. And if that person was curious and wanted to know more about me, what would he or she have discovered?

For our students, we must explicitly teach the implications of their behaviour online, and we must keep at it until they hear us. Someday they will care about where those digital breadcrumbs lead.

Here are a few sources that can help:
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr11/vol68/num07/Positive-Digital-Footprints.aspx
http://www.granvillecsd.org/webpages/lgrandjean/using_the_internet.cfm?subpage=635376
http://schools.spsd.sk.ca/curriculum/techyteacher/tag/digital-footprint/

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