EC&I 830

Whose job is it anyway?

Who is responsible for helping students create their digital footprint? After listening to and considering both sides of this debate, I would argue that schools, parents, and teachers all play an important role; it is our collective responsibility to work with young people to help them understand the complexities of the online world and how to exist within it. The digital world is completely intertwined with our everyday lives, whether we want it to be or not, making it difficult to differentiate between someone’s online and offline identities.

I have been thinking quite a lot about this debate topic since last week. Not only have I considered the importance of teaching young adults about creating a positive digital footprint, but I have also considered my own digital footprint and what that means for me as an adult and parent. I have considered this topic from multiple perspectives and the more I think about it, the more I agree with the idea that teachers have a responsibility to help students develop a digital footprint. 

What is my role as a teacher?

Although Jessica and Rahima brought forward a strong argument against this week’s debate topic, I still believe teachers should take some responsibility in helping students understand their digital footprint. This article states that “as learning becomes more digital, educators at all levels are instrumental in building students’ understanding about how their online presence impacts both their personal and future professional lives. Educators are also instrumental in helping students develop lifelong habits to create and maintain a positive online identity.” The article continues to discuss the importance of equipping students with the appropriate skills needed to manage their online presence. When I consider this responsibility, I don’t necessarily feel equipped to educate students on a topic that I am not completely familiar with; however, my lack of knowledge doesn’t mean I can just avoid teaching about it altogether. Moving forward, I will seek out opportunities to learn more about digital literacy so that I can provide students with a better understanding of the topic. This article provides a starting point for fostering digital citizenship in the classroom giving advice about how “schools can train students to be safe and well-informed, responsible digital citizens:”

  1. Design a robust digital citizenship curriculum. 
  2. Counsel students that “what goes online stays online.” 
  3. Craft an empowering acceptable use policy for students. 
  4. Teach students their digital rights. 
  5. Advise parents of new social media and online trends. 
  6. Provide an easy-to-understand guide for online behavior. 
  7. Equip teachers and parents with EdTech programs and practices to manage children’s Internet use.

Footprint in digital background / Concept of digital footprint

Do parents have a responsibility?

In addition to teachers, I believe that parents should also play a role in helping their kids learn about digital citizenship. In his TED talk “Accountability & Responsibility in a Digital Age,” Paul Davis discusses how parents and students need to take on some of the responsibility that comes with being a good online citizen. Parents, teachers, and schools can work together to help students navigate the online world. Davis discusses that we are all responsible for what we post and do online. Bringing in a speaker like Davis to address students and parents in a school setting would be a great way to help students and adults alike get a better handle on the issues surrounding digital citizenship. 

Analyzing my own digital footprint

After watching Keegan Korf’s TED talk I decided to go online to check out my own digital footprint. I don’t consider myself particularly active on social media or other online platforms but wanted to make sure I felt comfortable with my online presence. When searching my name on Google, I did not find anything too concerning. My name is fairly common, so only a couple of search results actually related to me. However, one thing that surprised me was a picture of me and my daughters that came up in the image search results. I am fairly thoughtful about not posting photos of my kids to any public platforms so I was surprised to see this particular photo show up. I realized that the image had been shared on a public Twitter account a few years ago. I tried to delete it from Twitter but I wasn’t able to clear the image from the search. Hopefully, my kids aren’t too upset with the fact that this photo of them is shared online for anyone to see (after reading this article, I am concerned about a possible negative reaction). I did find it interesting, however, that I couldn’t find any results online when searching for my maiden name, likely because I changed my name right around the time social media gained popularity.   

Navigating New Territory

So much of our lives are spent on our phones and computers. Students and adults alike need to gain a better understanding of how to exist as digital citizens. My husband is a journalist for CBC. I asked him his thoughts on this topic. This is what he shared with me based on his experiences: “I can find so much information about you so quickly…even if you’re not posting about a topic, it’s easy to find out what someone is liking on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s easy to find multiple examples per day of people not understanding their digital footprint. We are underselling how important learning this skill is.” Here is a news article that shows just how little some adults understand about their digital footprint. Students definitely aren’t the only people who need help navigating the online world. The devices we use on a daily basis can be incredible tools if we know how to use them properly. The technology we all have access to is fairly new, and as a whole, we haven’t necessarily been taught the best ways to use the powerful tool we have been given. Moving forward, it will be important to consider how we (re)educate people regarding their digital footprint, and I believe teachers have an important role to play in this.

My name is Catrina Hunter. I am an Arts Educator at Balfour Collegiate on Treaty 4 Territory. I work as part of Balfour Arts Collective, a high school program for students who are passionate about the arts. I am currently working on my Master's in Education Curriculum and Instruction.

One Comment

  • Amanda Stecyk

    Hi Catrina,

    I really enjoyed your take on this debate. I especially liked your wording when you suggested that we as educators, “Craft an empowering acceptable use policy for students/Teach students their digital rights.”

    Empowering our students to use technology and social media appropriately is exceptionally more valuable than restricting them. It is also certainly important to teach them about their digital rights when thinking about all of this.
    How great will it be if we can have a generation of empowered youth who can use technology and social media to their full advantage!


    PS to compliment the article you included…here’s a link to Lt. Gov McNally’s SNL Weekend Update appearance, where he chats about “publicly hating things that he secretly likes”

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