When I first heard the term “digital footprint”, my brain immediately went to the dark side. Internet predators, google location settings, controversial comments, risque photos, embarrassing family collages, moments from my 20’s that should be lost and forever forgotten…you get the idea. In reading through this week’s articles, though, I have a new understanding of the importance of creating, maintaining and preserving that very footprint. I see it now as a powerful tool that we can use to propel us into the limelight, rather than, as what I had previously thought, a tool to seal our infamy.
Just for fun, I googled my name. I’ve done this in the past, but this time, to my delight and surprise, a whole new list of items came up. (My Coetail blog, incidentally, was at the top of the list.) Just in the past two months, my digital footprint has gone up in stock. Now, if a potential employer googled me, they would find that I have built a professional name for myself. And all this in only 6 weeks!
This week, I begin the blogging unit for my 10th graders. Our focus is on narrative writing, and we’re going to use blogging as a means to tell our stories. The unit is planned already, but after watching Daniel Pink’s video “Two Questions”, I’ve decided I have some tweaking to do.
In Lisa Nielson’s,Teaching Kids to Manage their Digital Footprint, she suggests starting off the lesson by posing students three questions: “Who are you? What do you stand for? What are your passions and beliefs?” I love this idea and have already added it to my lesson plan. The questions not only lend themselves to the idea of creating an online profile that is meaningful and representative, but they also happen to fit perfectly with the narrative lens of our unit. Nielson goes on to write that the key idea we want our students to take away is that our digital footprints should be 100% reflective of who we are, what we believe and what we are passionate about. AND, the caveat – that this profile that we create is everlasting. No erasing, no rewinding, so no regrets.
My hope is that, through this unit, I will be able to foster a culture of responsible, proactive and thoughtful internet use and that my students will view the internet as more than just a means to endless (and often mindless) entertainment. They will also, more importantly, begin to see the potential that their own digital footprint can bring. As William Ferriter mentioned in his article,
students who see social media spaces as forums for learning begin to paint complex digital portraits of themselves by networking with like-minded peers, joining groups committed to studying topics of deep personal interest to them, and creating products that are an accurate expression of who they are and what they believe in.”
It is Ferriter’s last sentiment, that students create who they are and what they believe, that resonates with me the most. This is the idea that I will do my best to convey to my classes on Sunday morning.