I Can Almost See It, That Dream I’m Dreaming, But, There’s a Voice Inside My Head Saying, It’s Not Your Responsibility…

Debate #7: Educators and Schools Have a Responsibility to Help Their Students Develop a Digital Footprint

(Week #6: Post #1)

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Feeling the Calm-er Vibes

To be quite honest, I quite enjoyed this debate topic. Even though people seemed to really be on one side or the other, it wasn’t heated at all. I wasn’t fired up, and I was able to communicate ideas quite clearly. There were a lot of great points that were brought up on both sides, but something that kept coming up over and over again was the idea that teachers are unprepared for teaching kiddos about digital citizenship and footprints, and many people are using the two ideas interchangeably. However, before I get too far into summarizing my own thoughts on the idea, take a quick peek at some of the main points I gathered from the debate.

Hip-Hip-Hooray Debate

On the agree side, we heard from Rae, and Funmilola, who presented us with the following resources: Teaching Students about Their Digital Footprints (article), Teaching Students About Digital Footprints and Digital Citizenship (video), and Post no photos, leave no trace: Children’s digital footprint management strategies (article). You can check out their opening debate statement here.

Some of the main points that the group addressed are the following:

  • We can’t assume that students are learning about positive digital footprints at home.
  • Educators and communities need to work together to educate the community about digital footprints.
  • Students need to learn safe online habits.
  • Teachers have a duty to protect students and keep them safe online.
  • Students need to learn that online spaces are real spaces, and what they put online matters.
  • Students will learn digital citizenship while building a positive digital footprint.
  • Educators can help students make a positive personal brand.
  • Digital footprints are started younger and younger all of the time—therefore, they need to learn how to create a positive digital footprint, especially if they aren’t learning about it at home.
  • Provides a safe environment for learning and understanding with people who are trained in teaching and educating students.

No Way! Debate

On the disagree side, we heard from Gertrude (no blog link available at this time), and Kim, who presented us with the following resources: The Digital Well-Being of Canadian Families(article), “Sharenting”: Precautions and Consequences of Creating a Child’s Digital Footprint(article), Why Kids Are Confronting Their Parents About “Sharenting” (video), and It’s Not Okay to Share Student Photos Online. And Here’s Why… (article). This group also included many additional resources as well. You can check out their opening debate statement here.

Some of the main points that our group addressed are the following:

  • A child’s digital footprint has been created long before they enter school.
  • Expectations of educators are already too high
  • Educators feel unsure of their knowledge base about digital footprints and do not feel supported by their divisions.
  • Schools and divisions aren’t doing enough to protect students’ data, privacy, and other personal information.
  • Forms that families are signing are not accessible to everyone, and often are highly literacy based.
  • Lack of communication between schools and the home on the topic of digital footprints.
  • Parents, guardians, and families need to be held to a higher standard around protecting their kids online and being more involved in their digital footprint and online presence.
  • Schools have an overwhelming abundance of information, pictures, and other personal information on their websites, classroom blogs, etc. that are not password-protected, and will often get tagged and circulate around without even thinking about it.

A Few Thoughts & Interpretations

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Something that came up several times throughout the debate was the idea that digital citizenship is important to teach in schools, which is something that I don’t disagree with. However, the problem I had was with the idea that digital citizenship and digital footprints are the same things because, in fact, they are two very different ideas. In no way am I disputing the importance of teaching digital citizenship in schools. In fact, I think it should be a stand-alone subject, and teachers should be regularly trained in how to incorporate it into their teachings, and for them to have a better understanding of the concept itself. I struggle with the idea of reactive teaching, instead of proactive teaching and learning, and digital citizenship seems to be one of those things, unfortunately. Anyways, another rant for another day.

Moving forward, the prompt itself was one of those prompts that were worded in such a way that I couldn’t look past it… “educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint”. I have several issues with the prompt itself, and maybe I am totally out to lunch, but hear me out. The first issue I have with the prompt is that being a middle year’s teacher, most of my kiddos already have a digital footprint long before they have stepped into my classroom. Another thing that is bothersome, is that it implies that I need to play an active role in their social media and everything they are doing online. I agree that I need to teach kiddos how to be safe online, but when it comes to helping them make a digital footprint, the social media side of things gets me. I can help them establish a good digital footprint in terms of what we are doing in the classroom—the email they use, Google Classroom, interacting in the classroom online and so on, but when it comes to playing an active role in what they are doing outside of school makes me feel really uncomfortable.

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Another issue I have with the prompt is that it implies that teachers are responsible for the student’s digital footprint entirely, taking ownness and responsibility off the families/caregivers/parents, etc. almost entirely. I can only control what is happening in my classroom, and being the referee, social worker, teacher, parent, and more outside of the classroom is an unrealistic expectation placed upon already overworked teachers. There has to be a certain point where households are responsible for the actions of the kiddos in their care when it comes to their digital footprints. Do I think that every family is equipped and educated to do this on their own? Absolutely not. However, developing community programming would be beneficial for all parties to learn more and to have a better chance of understanding how to establish a good digital footprint. But what I am saying is that it needs to be a combined effort to educate people about being a good digital citizen. Kiddos and community members need to take that learning and apply it to have a positive digital footprint, as I don’t think that it is my job to ensure that their digital footprint is positive. They have to use the learning and apply their learning to their online interactions, with support and constant revisiting of the learnings.

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What Are Your Thoughts?

Feel free to leave a general comment, hit the like button, or answer one (or however many you’d like) of the prompting questions below. I appreciate all of your support and interactions and it doesn’t go unnoticed! Thanks again for stopping in, and I can’t wait to hear some of your thoughts!

  1. Do you feel the need to shape your kiddo’s personal digital footprints?
  2. Is it the responsibility of educators to ensure that community members understand the concepts of digital citizenship? Why or why not?
  3. At what point are boundaries blurred when educators are taking a primary role in developing student digital footprints? Is there an ethical line that seems to be crossed?
  4. Prior to the debate, did you think that digital citizenship and digital footprints were interchangeable?
  5. Should educators play more of a role in developing positive social media accounts for students? Why or why not?

5 thoughts on “I Can Almost See It, That Dream I’m Dreaming, But, There’s a Voice Inside My Head Saying, It’s Not Your Responsibility…

  1. I don’t think this responsibility should be entirely up to the teachers. I also agree that we shouldn’t have to develop it (ex: their social media) but teach them to be safe online. As educators, I do think we can help families and communities learn about the idea of a digital footprint, but there’s only so much we can do, especially since our digital footprint starts at such a young age. As you said, we can only do so much at school. I will do my best to teach my students and help them develop a positive digital footprint, but this shouldn’t be placed on only our shoulders.

    1. Megan, thanks for popping by! It’s a tricky thing, really. We have a responsibility to teach our kiddos about being good digital citizens and to use technology properly and wisely, but we can only do so much when it comes to being involved in creating their digital footprint. I aprpeciate your feedback!

  2. Hi Kelly,

    I like the reflection questions you provided at the end. I agree with Megan said that I don’t think the responsibility should be solely on teachers. Community members, including parents/caregivers, social workers, school counsellors, etc., all have the responsibility to educate students on this topic. As the disagreed said mentioned, children have already had a digital footprint before entering school, but I think teachers and other community members all have the responsibility to re-shape their digital footprint if they have a negative one. Community members definitely need to understand this concept. Probably schools could provide some workshops or information sessions to teach community members about this topic and how they could collaborate with teachers to monitor students’ digital footprint. I think there might be a responsibility boundary between teachers and community members. For example, teachers could be responsible for that during school hours. Community members could be responsible for that after school hours. Great post and great reflection questions!


  3. Thanks, Kelly! I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I’m glad you brought up the difference between digital citizenship vs digital footprint during the debate; at one point, they seemed to be used interchangeably and although they are similar, they are by no means the same thing.
    I also thought how the debate topic itself was worded was interesting… “educators have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint, not “educators have a responsibility to help their students understand the CONCEPT of digital footprint”. Therefore, the debate topic seems to imply that, like you said, teachers are responsible for helping their students develop a positive digital footprint online. Does this mean actively cultivating their digital footprint via school activities? At this point in my career, I have not designed school activities to help student cultivate a footprint; I have only designed school activities that help students UNDERSTAND what a digital footprint is. This debate definitely provided me with some food for thought!

  4. Thanks for your post Kelly. While I see what you’re saying, that they are not the same thing, digital footprint is at the center of digital citizenship, just like daily interactions and choices are at the center of citizenship. So, for me, trying to teach digital citizenship without working with students to develop their digital footprint would be like trying to teach the concept of swimming without getting into the pool. This doesn’t necessarily mean bringing social media, like Instagram into your classroom. It means showing them how to do a google search while sifting through misinformation, how to create a blog post and then constructively respond to a classmate. It means any online presence…not just social media presence. If we don’t actively work with students on their digital presence, we aren’t really teaching digital citizenship because learning is experiential.
    I also understand why you see the value in a stand alone subject. It adds clout and ensures that it is mandatory. But again, how can it be separated from ELA (digital literacies), Social (broad areas of learning), Science (research, demonstration of leaning), Health (Well-being and decision making)…and really every single thing we teach. I think that if we taught it as a stand-alone, it would be reduced to definitions, lessons and disconnected assignments. Our physical and online environments are no-longer separate, so I truly believe that in everything we teach, we are guiding children in developing the whole person, which includes their physical presence and their digital footprint.

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