Help Develop Students’ Digital Footprint, They Said… It Will Work Out Great, They Said…

Do we need to help students create a digital footprint?

Upon reflection of the debate regarding this issue, I find myself stuck in the middle, but leeeeeaning towards YES it is our responsibility to help students create a digital footprint. As my focus for my future is in Educational Leadership, I often think of the role of administrators in promoting a self, welcoming, and inclusive school. For this to be accomplished, teachers and leaders are required to go above and beyond the expectations of teaching “just the curriculum” mandated by the Ministry. I understand that teachers are constantly asked to do more in their classrooms with less resources. Unfortunately, this has become the norm for us, and the burnout rate continues to be an issue. 

For years, it has been expected that teachers be aware of and teach the hidden curriculum, which focuses on the values that we would like to replicate within our community outside of school. I would argue that, because students spend so much of their time at school, it is our responsibility as teachers and leaders to help students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to use technology in a successful way. As our students are digital natives, it is clear that technology is not something that is going away, and will become more ingrained in society, post-secondary education, the workforce, etc. We as teachers would be doing students a disservice if we do not teach them the  impact their digital footprint can have on their future opportunities and how that can impact others as well.

As mentioned in one of the assigned articles, “students must understand how to use personal technology in ways that enhance their learning experience and lead to self-empowerment and awareness, and schools must ensure that they protect students while guiding their exploration of the digital landscape … By emphasizing the positive aspects of technology use in schools with broad, easy-to-understand language, administrators can show students that they encourage the use of the Internet and trust them to use it maturely. Empowering students with their digital rights and responsibilities by inviting them to use the network – consequences and all – helps shape them into the digital citizens tomorrow’s world will need.” 

As personal technology has evolved from luxury to life necessity, it is becoming more and more imperative that we provide our students the tools to positively use technology and have a digital footprint that helps them be successful in the future as we help transition them to post-school life.

Lets tip the scale back to the NO side

The arguments that resonate with me on the other side of this debate are: a) privacy and b) the role of parents in building a digital footprint. My eyes were opened while watching the TedTalk with Paul Davis and his views on students’ decisions with technology and the impacts that these hold on their futures. Davis argues that parents are responsible for the decisions of their children, but children also need to know how that can impact their parents in a negative way. Students that post inappropriate content, cyberbully, etc. are putting their parents at risk as they are the ones who technically own the device until they are 18. This is something to consider when teaching students about positive use of technology.

Digital citizens must also know their rights to privacy, especially when their data is easily visible on social media. Students may not be aware of the risks they take sharing personal information on the Internet, or they may not know the proper steps to take to ensure their information remains private. Students should be taught to always stop and consider before posting, searching or doing any activity online.

At the end of the day, the more we all work together with parents to educate students of their technological decisions can have a major impact, the more prepared they will be to respectfully and positively use technology. 


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3 thoughts on “Help Develop Students’ Digital Footprint, They Said… It Will Work Out Great, They Said…”

  1. Great post Mike. I like what you shared about the hidden curriculum “which focuses on the values that we would like to replicate within our community outside of school.” I agree that teachers have a lot on their plate, but that can’t be an excuse for not teaching about this invaluable life skill. Today, when filming our final video, my daughter who is in grade 4, and Will’s daughter who is in grade 3 could both explain the term “digital footprint” with total confidence. I was super impressed, and happy that my kid’s teacher had spent the time to introduce her to this topic. Based on my reaction to finding out that my kid’s teacher had taught about this topic, I know I have a responsibility to focus on this with the students in my classroom.

  2. Great post Mike! I particularly appreciated the idea that “personal technology has evolved from luxury to life necessity”. I think you’re on to a key point there. Technology is no longer a luxury (let’s leave out the equity issues for now) so we need to address who is going to teach the youth how to use it properly. I think some of the divide really comes down to how comfortable teachers are with this topic. If you are confident in your understanding of your own digital footprint teaching others seems easy but if you are not so confident I can see where this would feel like piling on to the teacher’s work. Still not sure where I land on this especially since you did a nice job of outlining both sides!

  3. You are right Michael, understanding how one’s digital footprint is needed to have students (and families) buy into the importance of this subject. I do worry that it will take something very bad to happen at a personal level for some to take the topic serious. In saying that, do I want to be responsible for ensuring the online safety of students now and in the future? In the words of the great Ron Swanson, “I’m not sure I’m interested in that. No, I am sure I am not interested in that.”

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