A Reflective Walk Through My Digital Literacy Journey & Experiences
Check Stop #1—Balancing Our Plates
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.
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.
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
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.
- If you are a parent/caregiver, did your thoughts on digital identity change after you had kiddos?
- If you could go back to your past digital literacy experience, would you?
- Do you think Digital Literacy and Citizenship should be explicitly taught in schools?
- What is your comfort level around digital literacy and citizenship? Do you have the same comfort when teaching these concepts?
- Any great song suggestions that you think would make a great title?