Digital Footprints, Connectivity and The Trails Left Behind


Commuter Belt photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

This morning as I have been getting back into the blogging groove I have started to think about the digital footprints my students are creating as they grow up. The artifacts that they are creating now will be there forever. As such it is important as ever to educate students about digital citizenship and the footprints they are leaving.

I have made it a conscious effort to have open and honest discussions with my students about digital footprints and connectivity since the start of the year. In fact one of the first conversations we had about our digital footprints in my classroom centered around Facebook and the importance of privacy settings. It takes a few deep breaths and a lot of courage to start the conversation bu in the end it is well worth it. I asked my students what they knew about privacy settings and what we should and shouldn’t share on the internet. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me and my students alike. I was very pleased that although they were only starting grade 4 many had clearly already had the same discussions with their parents and knew the protocols associated with sharing and digital etiquette. Some however clearly had not had these conversations and told me the next day that they had checked their settings and closed up their accounts.

It’s no secret I love using tech in my classroom to help deepen my students learning and I have had them create accounts to enable them to use various tools in our classroom. Because I teach grade 4 the accounts I have had my students sign up for are accounts that are connected to a central classroom account and are easily monitored by me. E.g. Kidblog and Edmodo. This gives a cushion for mistakes and learning to occur in a safe space and when needed important conversations can be held with students. My somewhat conservative approach to sharing in my classroom fits in with my comfort level as a new teacher and perhaps will change as I gain teaching experience.

In my classroom the rules around account creation and sharing are pretty simple:

  •  Usernames consist of first name plus a number.
  • Pseudonyms are okay as long as everyone in the class knows who it is.
  •  We don’t give out personal information. E.g. First and last names, location.
  •  We don’t post pictures of our faces despite having all our media releases signed. (This also goes for sharing pictures of students on my blog and Twitter account, I don’t post them)
  • We use appropriate language and tone when speaking to communicating on the internet.
  •  I have scaffolded the use of Twitter in my classroom so students are able to Tweet once we have reviewed what they are sending out. The account is locked and we only follow other classrooms.

Although I know it is just is a start, it is my belief that if I empower my students with knowledge and the tools to navigate and share on the internet safely they will be proud of the footprints they leave and hopefully be able to avoid some long-lasting mistakes.


Next up I am going to tackle proper attribution and creative commons with my students. Any ideas or suggestions are most welcome!


Related Resources:

BrainPop Internet Safety Video:

Common Sense Media: Digital Citizen Poster


5 thoughts on “Digital Footprints, Connectivity and The Trails Left Behind

  1. Hi Mary,
    So glad to know that you and your students are working on and having conversations about their Digital Citizenship and Footprints. As we introduce our students to social media tools like Kidblog, Edmodo and Twitter, it’s important to instruct them about proper and safe behavior on line. For many, this will be their first exposure to such tools. Setting a good example and modeling appropriate use now will prepare them for the day when they will be using other tools like Facebook or Tumblr on their own.

    I applaud your efforts to work with your students about proper citation and creative commons. I have compiled many resources in this area that may help you. I have shared these during professional development around student blogging. Hope you find them helpful.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and process.

    Nancy Carroll

  2. Thanks for the comment and resource list Nancy! It is definitely a tough but important area to broach and teach about to students.

  3. Mary, I’ve been thinking about some issues you discuss with respect to our students’ digital trails. While my students are older, they still have a great deal to learn about the consequences of their digital scribings. I’m reading Viktor Mayer-Schonberger’s _delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age_. You might like it, too. Here’s a link to one of my blogs, one that I use to introduce college instructors to the virtues of blogging: Please feel free to comment liberally.

    Best, Ethna Lay, Hofstra University

  4. I am so glad you are having these conversations with your students! We were discussing appropriate use of technology and teaching students about privacy and digital citizenship the other day and I said, “Students need to be talking about this BEFORE high school”. When I was student teaching, only 1/2 of my students knew that Facebook had privacy settings that could be changed and most didn’t know how to do it. Now-a-days students are using their parent’s accounts or creating their own accounts in elementary school for Facebook, Twitter, etc and they need to realize the implications of online sharing and how to do so safely and appropriately. Our students digital footprint wont start at age 20 the way some of ours do, it may go all the way back to Kindergarten!

  5. Thanks for the comment miss L! I agree with you that these discussions are important to have right from the start with students. They are difficult to have as a new teacher but well worth it in the end. It is mind blowing that students will have digital footprints that span their entire lives before even stepping into a classroom!

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