Are Digital Footprints the New Sexual Education?

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I googled myself to see my digital footprint.

 “Scare tactics…are not only ineffective at changing student behaviors (Online Safety and Technology Working Group, 2010), but they also prevent students from seeing digital footprints as potential tools for learning, finding like-minded peers, and building reputations as thoughtful contributors to meaningful digital conversations.” This guy is exactly right, instead of teaching students to be afraid of their footprints, we should teach them to form authentic footprints. We should have learned from teaching sexual education, avoidance and scaring students doesn’t work. 

Our education system has scared students into digital footprint phobia. I’ll be the first to admit I was in the wrong, but now I have seen the light. In the past when I discussed digital footprints with my students I focused more on the negatives than the positives.  Be careful what you post. You never know who is looking.  Watch out for stalkers. Etc. Etc. Etc. Could this be because as a society we focus more on the negative news than the positive news? We are inundated with stories of online predators or people losing their jobs because of a stupid twitter or Facebook post.  What we don’t hear about is the 68% of candidates that were hired because of their digital footprint. In addition, the article Footprints in the Digital Age points out that “Publishing content online not only begins the process of becoming “Googleable,” it also makes us findable by others who share our passions or interests.” It all goes back to connectivism. We should teach students how to do what we are doing as well, figuring out as Jeff said in the intro to Course 2 video  “a system to make sense of the chaos.”

Social Network Screening
https://mashable.com/2011/10/23/how-recruiters-use-social-networks-to-screen-candidates-infographic/#59u9Hg0VyPqb

This week I also learned about my digital shadow. Of course I always noticed that the outfit I looked at online seemed to follow me around or when Netflix suggests things I would like based on my last binge watching session, but I didn’t know there was an actual term for it.  I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this.  The parts of my shadow I see (Amazon suggestions, etc) make my life more convenient, but have the parts I don’t see (bank records, purchase history, etc) exposed is a little frightening. In terms of schools, it is imperative that they mirror business IT departments.  “As people’s digital footprints continue growing, so too will the responsibility of organizations for the privacy, protection, availability and reliability of that information. The burden is on IT departments within organizations to address the risks and compliance rules around information misuse, data leakage and safeguarding against security breaches.”(https://readwrite.com/2008/03/24/new_tool_calculates_your_digital_footprint ) Student medical records, parents’ tuition payments, and so on need to be protected to make schools safe havens. The digital shadows fly over my head, and I may seem naive in saying this, but I am sticking with the theory ignorance is bliss.

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Can you tell I’ve been looking for finger paint and my son’s next year’s Halloween costumes lately?

Another thing I found interesting and kept asking myself was, as an educator should we have digital footprints? After reading a fellow COETAILER’s Top 5 reasons educators must have a digital footprint I went to Twitter to ask some of my PLN the reasons they have a digital footprint and the resounding reason why was to model for their students. For me this is one of the top reasons I have a presence online, like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Who you are speaks too loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying”.  I have to walk the talk and by doing so it also led to another reason for creating a digital footprint. We need to model what to do, not scare students with what not to do.

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While modeling responsible digital citizenship is great I didn’t start because of that, my primary reason I started was to learn from other educators. A few years ago I felt like I was in a teaching slump and didn’t feel like I was growing in my profession. I read books and implemented new strategies, but I felt like I was on an island. So  I began lurking on Twitter and learning from the safety of behind my screen.  Then I became a little braver and began to post.  I was nervous and didn’t want to put myself out there, but then I realized that in order to get something I have to give something.

I think having an online presence helps in the job search.  Innovative schools want educators that are running to push the boundaries in education, not educators that are tiptoeing around in fear of making a footprint. If a school doesn’t want to hire me because I tweet about my students’ learning or pose questions for other educators I’m okay with that.  I want to be at a school that values intrinsic learning and connectivism.  

Another question I kept pondering all week was what is the distribution of my digital footprint.  Last month I wrote about my voice in social media, and this is along the same lines. I primarily only tweet about education, and use Instagram and Facebook for personal tweets.  Does that enhance or degrade my digital footprint for recruiters?  I mainly do this because of function–almost all of the people I follow on Twitter are educators and this is where I go to learn. However, would I learn more and expand my educational footprint if I posted on all social media fronts?