A footprint is a mark left after we have been somewhere. A digital footprint or a digital tattoo is the imprint that is left behind when using the Internet.
Your digital footprint can also characterize your future online behavior, experience, search results, etc. in a positive or negative way. It is important for educators to reinforce and model ways for students to intentionally create a digital footprint that they can be proud of. When students actively think about and take into account concepts like privacy, empathy, and safety, they are able to post, shop, and search respectfully and responsibly. Negative posts and search results tend to happen when people in general aren’t thinking about the consequences of their actions. If we can teach students to think about what they are posting or sharing before they actual do it, they can start to create the digital footprint that represents who they are. Unintentional digital footprints happen when the comment, post, picture, or video is used or shared without our knowledge and possible in a different context than what was originally meant which is why it is so important to be mindful when we are online.
I feel naked without my cell phone. At times, I feel like it is my lifeline. Phone numbers, email addresses, pictures, and conversations all wrapped up in one pocket sized device. It has a huge impact on my life, but I can remember a time before it when I was not so dependent. I know I need to unplug throughout the day, but I find it difficult, like I’m going to miss something. I’m fairly certain that my students, who are 5-11 years old, don’t feel this way…yet. Seeing that they are growing up in a technological world, they will feel even more dependent than I am, and at an earlier age. The educational opportunities that have arisen are tremendous as well. I have a job because of it.
While researching my digital footprint, I Google, Yahoo, and Bing searched myself. When I searched just my first and last name, I had results of a bankruptcy attorney in Chicago. I’m definitely not an attorney!
I decided to research with my middle name included. I found it surprising that the first result was on Rate My Teachers! I’ve never even heard of that site. I went back and looked at the other teachers listed for my school. 3 had reviews and all were positive. The second site I looked at was a site for a family tree that I am a part of. I’ve never even heard of the family names at the top of the site! The majority of the search results were sites related to heritage.
I then searched my name + the town I live and work in. That reaped a few more results. My teacher webpage for Corsicana ISD, the link to view a Facebook search, and a Corsicana Daily Sun newspaper article all appeared on search results for Google, Bing, and Yahoo. My ePortfolio came up on a search through Bing and Yahoo. My profile for Edmodo came up on the Google search.
I have a digital/social profile on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Edmodo just to name a few. I believe my digital footprint is something I could be proud of. There is nothing that I could find that would be negative. When I searched myself, half of my social media accounts didn’t show up. I’m not sure if that’s because I use them on my cell and not my laptop so they wouldn’t be accessed regularly, or if that’s because I set my privacy settings somewhat high. On a score of 1-4, I would give myself a 3 for proficient.
Teaching students to be responsible digital citizens includes teaching them about the impact their digital footprint leaves in the online world. Their online world and their reality are one life. They have to learn that the footprints they leave online are just as influential as the ones they leave in real life.