I’m Through… with Doubt, There’s Nothing Left of MSN to Figure Out…

A Reflective Walk Through My Digital Literacy Journey & Experiences

Check Stop #1—Balancing Our Plates

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After a few crazy weeks in the classroom, I can finally say that I am feeling a bit more relaxed and ready to take on my usual duties without feeling so strained, fatigued, or even burnt out. I’ve been spending my mornings a little less structured and trying to get items checked off my list. For the first time in my career I was feeling maxed out, a feeling so foreign to me. Although there were other factors in the classroom happening besides COVID that contributed to this feeling, I am really looking forward to a fresh start after the break and a renewed sense of energy and rejuvenation. So, before you get reading this week’s blog post, I hope Y’all are balancing your plates over the break and doing whatever you need to feel better. Grab a good coffee or beverage of choice, and cozy up for a lengthy read (or heck, skip to the end and leave some feedback—no judgment here… honestly.)

What Is Digital Identity Anyways?

During this week’s presentation, Kat gave us an opinion piece to read called What is Digital Citizenship?, which I found was easy to read and was just what I needed to get the ball rolling on this post. I enjoyed it when it said, “in some format, ‘consuming’ digital content looks pretty much the same as reading print.” That wasn’t something that I had thought of before, so that was a pretty interesting idea to get me engaged in the article. Kate-Lynn’s article The Digital Identity: What It Is + Why It’s Valuable also did a good job breaking down digital identity and summarized it as:

A digital identity is a collection of features and characteristics associated with a uniquely identifiable individual — stored and authenticated in the digital sphere — and used for transactions, interactions, and representations online.

Keith Medcalfe

In other words, a common term used for digital identity is “digital footprint”. I know using this term makes it easier for kids to understand what digital identity means, especially because we talk about ecological footprints in the middle grades quite often. Brenda suggests reading a SAGE article (you will need to have a username to access this one) about online identity vs. offline, and how young people’s perspectives of risks and rewards online, are greatly different than that of my experiences growing up with technology. To be quite honest, my online and office presence wasn’t that different. I mean, I guess I was able to talk to people outside of my town, or even maybe my grade, I was taught at a very young age about online safety and avoided chat rooms, webcams, social media (besides MSN), and all of the other scary things. And hey, being honest here, I’m pretty much a dinosaur in terms of age, so to the extent of what’s available today, surely wasn’t when I was a kid. Oh… before Durston reminds me (and all Y’all that listen to our podcast being published soon), my email I guess was my biggest alter ego-online/offline difference. You’ll just have to listen to hear it!

Past, Present & Future Practices

Like Brenda, Rae’s suggested reading (in the form of a video) also discusses the online presence and digital footprints, Identity in a Digital World, by our fearless leader himself. So before we get started through my past, present, and future practices in terms of my perceived digital identity, because let’s be honest, I’m probably missing out on something, take a quick 16 minute or so gander at the video.

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As I mentioned before, I am pretty much a dinosaur that was fortunate enough to have parents that understood the rapidly changing technology, and great computer teachers who also drove home the importance of online safety and digital footprints. Those teachings mixed with a goodie two-shoe kind of a kid didn’t fare well with risky behaviour… at all. I mean, I chatted on MSN to friends and friends of friends (which was probably the riskiest thing I did after verifying with my friends about who their friends were), burnt CDs on Napster, then LimeWire, using Microsoft Office, and played computer games without an online community. Sitting around one computer with multiple friends watching the one-person play and hoping it would eventually be your turn was pretty much the highlight of how computer gaming worked. I mean, the games I played were Rollercoaster Tycoon, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Sim Farm, Sim City, and eventually The Sims (which I still miss to this day—the other versions just aren’t the same). Oh shoot, I forgot to mention that I also was quite handy at navigating my way around the Encyclopedia of Britannica. Pretty crazy, right? As I got older, things honestly didn’t change too much. I was still hesitant, rather reluctant to use social media, and was signed up for a Facebook account by a friend.

Presently, not a ton has really changed. I mean, I’m no longer playing computer games (even though I wish that I could play the original Sims), but my reluctance to use social media is still pretty evident. I have Instagram but really took a hiatus on being present there as I got really tired really quickly of all of the curated material. I wanted to see more of the real people, doing real things, and not being so in love 100% of the time. Am I overreacting? Or is there anyone else out there that feels the same? I don’t want to hear your dirty laundry, and I really am not interested in stories of your daily life hour by hour. Maybe I’m crusty and old, but I don’t really have the time or headspace for it presently.

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So, because I am not super active on social media I find that I learn through reading about it, or through peers, friends, and family, all while trying to be a hip teacher that understands what the kids are talking about without being fully invested in the platforms myself. Hey, judge me if you will, but I am making an effort to connect to being in the know, without actually being in the know. I also like to limit social media activity for my own personal sake. I mean, I’ve had three separate credit cards frauded, and all three of them were ones that I had for a short amount of time and barely used. But that’s a whole other issue, but I guess it adds to my feelings of security and my online presence.

I remember chatting after one of these courses one time and telling someone to Google my name. 7 hits come up. Out of those 7, one is a contest-winning that the person I share a name with here in town won, so really there are 6 results. Even further, 3 of those 6 results are the same obituary posted on three separate but affiliated funeral sites. So of the 3 remainings, one is my Twitter handle, my blog site for this course, and my staff directory list. Taking it further, I looked into the image search and found 21 results—10 are Twitter retweets, 3 are obituaries I was mentioned in, 1 was my Thesis I wrote, and 5 had nothing to do with me but had my last name. So out of all the pictures, only 1 was my face, and it’s the face on my blog’s main page. Is that sad, or impressive? At this point, I’m not sure, but somehow, I feel proud of it. And no, I’m not hanging in incognito mode or using an alias name. So, what does my future look like? I guess a lot of the same while keeping safe, but current with the times—both for my professional role and for my students and family. In a world where everything is so public, it’s a bit nice to know that life can still be a bit private.

Students’ & My Kiddos’ Digital Identities

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Okay, okay… I get it. You’re asking yourself, “how did I get this far in this gal’s blog without quitting by now?” Well, I’m glad you’re still here. You almost need a medal for sticking around! Anyways, so what does this all mean for my students and my kiddos? Firstly, I think schools and more specifically, divisions and the ministry need to do a better job of making digital literacy and citizenship mandatory learning through the grades. For now, Jill reintroduced a great guide for schools that I mentioned in an earlier blog post, to use in the meantime. While educators wait for schools divisions and the ministry to hop on board, they too can read more up on good pedagogy practices and digital footprints which Dalton found a great article on here. Over time, even the smallest steps cover the distance. Making a planned effort and sticking to it is key for student success.

Even more than being a teacher, I am a mom first. Therefore, I need to learn balance with my kiddo and technology, all while teaching him the skills he needs to explore, learn, but to be safe all at the same time. At the same time, I need to also not be too limiting or structured, where my kiddo wants to break through the guidelines and break the too many rules that are in place for the sake of being free. Asking my parents for advice on how they did it is helpful, but in no way is it comparable to the technology of today’s world and how kiddos are engaging with it. I am so glad that Leah B found this quick easy to read guide for parents here. It is definitely worth the read. Also, I highly recommend checking out Kara’s article Digital Citizenship and Ethics does a great job of linking digital citizenship and literacy, and because this blog is already realllly long, I highly suggest it!

What’cha Thinking About?

Gosh, I sure hope that you were able to take some kind of a break over the reading week and enjoy some time to yourself. As always, thanks for popping by and reading through my usual lengthy post (and if you skipped to the bottom, no judgment here!). Feel free to answer one (or as many of the prompting questions below) or hit the like button. All constructive feedback is important for growth, learning, and thinking about something through a different lens.

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  1. If you are a parent/caregiver, did your thoughts on digital identity change after you had kiddos?
  2. If you could go back to your past digital literacy experience, would you?
  3. Do you think Digital Literacy and Citizenship should be explicitly taught in schools?
  4. What is your comfort level around digital literacy and citizenship? Do you have the same comfort when teaching these concepts?
  5. Any great song suggestions that you think would make a great title?

12 thoughts on “I’m Through… with Doubt, There’s Nothing Left of MSN to Figure Out…

  1. Great post as always, Kelly! And thanks for the shout-out! I loved those games that we could get in cereal boxes… great game demos! Haha. I also hate the curated content online; seeing people’s stories is sometimes very exhausting. I always wonder, if that is how you imagine your life, then what is missing in your life in order to portray the most excellent, perfect life??

    I do think that digital citizenship should be taught in schools, but should be better than how we are currently expected to do it. There are so many great opportunities we are missing out on with the inauthentic ways that the content is delivered to students. When we grew up, even if we had a few uncomfortable posts online, they could be deleted (though things are never really deleted) however students today have to worry about screenshots where information is passed around and can be saved without their knowledge. I think that is one of the key elements that students today face (with or without knowing) vs. the use of technology that we were thrown into with no real knowledge of the platforms (and the same with our parents, like you mentioned).

    Great post! Lots of things to think about!

    1. Dalton! I am so glad that I am not the only one feeling that way. Gosh, it can be and usually is so tiring for me. I wonder if those people ever get tired of having to portray a life so unrealistic, or maybe it’s like Inventing Anna where you just actually believe it.

      As for teaching Digital Literacy and Citizenship in school, I too think it is so important and needs to be explicitly taught. If we’re not doing it at school and parents/guardians/caregivers aren’t doing it at home, we are then setting our kiddos up for big mistakes instead of little ones where they were able to critically think their way through it, avoid it, etc. It’s a pretty scary concept to think of really. I wish our curriculum writers and our ministry would step in and realize the importance of explicitly teaching these concepts. At the very least, our divisions. Thanks again for stopping by, I always appreciate your feedback.

  2. Hi Kelly, wonderful post. I appreciated your honesty and analysis of the situation. I feel we are similar as I too am good with tech but it often just feels like not my jam. My major project (@Ins.PEER.ation on Insta and Tiktok) has been a neat and somewhat uncomfortable experience really putting myself out there on social media. But like you stressed, all the comments and likes don’t add up to much for me, a coffee with a good friend would be worth much more. My opinion is also affected by how enthralled my children seem to be with tech, likely because of the limits we place as parents but it also seems the modern way. Good luck with your professional balance, I too feel maxed out until hockey season ends in the near future!

    1. Well, let’s try this reply again. I went to click ‘reply’ and accidentally clicked on something else, and poof. Gone. Just my luck.

      Anyways, thanks so much for stopping in and giving me feedback! I always appreciate what you have to say Dylan. I am so encouraged that you are going outside of your comfort zone for your major learning project and learning something new. Yes, it can be uncomfortable but I bet there is some serious learning that is happening right now. Like you, I too am at the point in life when I would rather have a phone conversation or a face-to-face conversation over a coffee. I want to catch up with people who aren’t trying to be anything but themselves, and I want a time where we put our phones away and just chat, catch up and talk about real-world matters without being tied to our devices. I am relieved to know that there are others who are in the same boat as I am, feeling maxed, but at the same time concerned with the sheer amount of people who are in this boat treading water so fiercely. I hope that you can take in the fresh air, or a sunrise/sunset on your drive to and from work or hockey, and really take time to reflect on all of the things that make you amazing. I always appreciate reading your well-written posts, and you always have so much wisdom to share. I hope you can get through the next few crazy months stronger than ever, and then take the well-deserved time to take a break. As always, thanks again for stopping in. I always enjoy your feedback.

  3. Hello Kelly,
    You are right, it is so important to take that time to reset and recharge. It is hard to take a step back, I relate to you feeling for the first time that you are “maxed out”. I love the idea of Googling ourselves, and even teaching students to Google themselves to see their digital footprint. As for question #2 at the end of your post, I know you read my blog, so I would definitely go back and change my content. I’m so far removed from where I was it feels inauthentic to have it there. I agree that there should be curricular outcomes addressing digital identity. Would you rather it be integrated into all subject areas or separated into it’s own content area?

    1. Leah what a great comment. Feeling inauthentic to have older material hanging out is such a feeling that many people have. At the very least it should be in every subject, but in an ideal world, I would prefer for it to be its own subject. Why? Because I know when things get stuffed into the curriculums that are already packed full of outcomes and indicators, things that are uncomfortable or tricky often get overlooked or time runs out before getting to them. I also think it would be a better subject on its own so that when going through university, future teachers studied that specific curriculum and how to implement it, hopefully helping other teachers that have already been teaching for a while. I also know that when I went to school and had a great experience with learning computers in a specific class centered around it, we learned so much more than the basics. What do you think? How would you like to see it?

  4. Great post, Kelly! I found myself connecting personally to several parts of your post, especially the ‘age of the internet’ that you grew up in, and the ‘goodie two shoes’ personality that kept you out of trouble online (those are both SO me!).

    This got me thinking… Do you think kids with certain personality types are more/less likely to dabble in risky behaviour online? I have commented on several posts about how scare tactics worked on me (as a ‘goodie two shoes’), but how I also see some students seeing this as a challenge – telling them not to do something makes them want to do it more. It makes me wonder if, despite teaching a classroom of students the same things about digital citizenship, if it will manifest differently in their lives and the choices they make regardless.

    1. Kara, I am glad that you were able to resonate with my blog post this week. Yes, I definitely think it’s easier when kiddos buy in and have the personalities that fit the buy-in method. I think kiddos in the middle years are at such a stage where they want to question things, and experiment, but providing the learning prior to kiddos engaging in exploration is key for kiddos to be able to make good decisions. I think too, there are always going to be a handful of kiddos out there that will disregard their learning and experiment without considering potential consequences. Also, if kiddos are learning about DC throughout all the grades and levels of development, it would be beneficial as they may unconsciously be considering their learning before they are engaging online. Reinforcing learning is key.

      1. Good points! I like the proactive approach you are talking about – giving kids information before they are already entrenched in the digital world and social media. I think this is an area we are currently lagging in (at my school, anyway). We are only giving these learning opportunities to Middle Years and High School students who are already using technology independently.

        1. Kara, it seems to be a common feeling that most of us are feeling. There are major gaps that our schools, divisions, and especially curriculums are missing. We are missing the mark on providing such essential education for our kiddos of tomorrow, as well as allowing them the opportunities to teach their families about it as well.

  5. Hi Kelly, I am always blown away by your posts. Reflecting as an educator and a mother, I’m reminded that starting is the key. Beginning with some lessons and normalizing the conversations is critical. As I listen to the students learning and engaging in conversations, I see the importance of digital literacy in schools. I have been a classroom teacher for 15 years. This is my first year out of the classroom, and it is such a nice shift in perspective. However, I am all about supporting teachers and students, so seeing your progress and growth is inspirational. Thanks for leading and helping me in this critical area. Take care.

    1. You are too sweet, Kola. Starting is ALWAYS the hardest part for me, however, after I get started I wonder why it was hard in the first place. I guess this applies to everything except a consistent exercise routine, but hey, it’s somewhere to improve upon! With every new experience in life, comes a lot of learning. So take it in stride and remember that sometimes the process needs to be more in the spotlight than the end result.

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