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Debate #7- Toe Be or Not Toe Be- Who Is Responsible for Helping Develop Digital Footprints?

I never had to worry about my presence online until I became a teacher. I didn’t use much technology growing up, so I didn’t have a lot of my information online. However, I also think about perhaps the reason I didn’t worry much was because I was not taught about my digital footprint. Now, students have a much bigger presence online and they need to understand how to develop a positive digital footprint.

The wording of this topic was very specific. During the videos, I kept thinking about digital citizenship. During the discussion, I realized we were only talking about digital footprints. The topic also used the word “develop” and not “understand” or “learn”. That being said, it was difficult for me to decide if educators had the responsibility to develop or simply teach about digital footprints.

Agree- Yes, We Have a Responsibility to Help Develop the Digital Footprint of Our Students

Rae and Funmi started us off with a great introduction. Here is what stood out during their video, articles, and our class discussion.

1. 21st Century Skills Need to Be Taught to our Students

Some skills are needed to make it in today’s world successfully and safely. For students to have a positive digital footprint, they need to know about it at a young age so they may first learn what it is and make their own positive digital footprint. With an early start, they will be able to develop a digital footprint that will be ideal to have to be successful and safe in their future. Like Sisk and Stegman explain: Having a positive identity that represents their authentic self will be valuable when the student applies to college or for a job”. With a lot of your identity online due to social media and pictures that can stay online, students need to make sure that they make a good impression. Their future is counting on it!

2. Safety is Key

If educators and schools do not teach students to develop a digital footprint, how will they know how to be safe online? Although technology is great, it can be scary and overwhelming. Just googling my name brings up my social media accounts and blog. Thankfully, I stay private on social media and I know how to act online. However, young children may not understand how dangerous technology can be. I really enjoyed reading EdTekWhitePaper’s approach about teaching and developing our students’ digital footprints. It talks about being safe sharing information, using strong passwords, knowing your rights, clearing your cache, and everything in between. I am definitely going to save this to use when I teach my students about digital citizenship (which includes their digital footprint. EdTekWhitePaper finishes off by saying: “Technology will continue to evolve and provide countless new opportunities to connect and learn. It is our responsibility to equip students with the skills they need to protect them and maintain a diligent practice of identity management to inform and facilitate greater learning”.

Digital Footprint Teaching may not Happen at Home

Technology might be new for some families or they might not feel comfortable teaching it to their kids. Even though I think it is a skill that should definitely be taught at home, this simply isn’t the case for some families. First of all, some families might not know enough about digital citizenship or positive digital footprints (some put so many photos of their children up without their consent). Like the agree side said in their video, the lack of teaching at home could also be due to the digital divide. Not every family has a computer or more cellphones than people. They do not have the means to teach this. However, schools can hold workshops for families and educators can teach it in the classroom.

Disagree- No, We Do Not Have a Responsibility to Help Develop the Digital Footprint of Our Students

I loved the criminal case video by Gertrude and Kim. Here is what I took from the disagree side!

1.Our Digital Footprint Starts Before School

How many photos of young children do you see a day on your Facebook or Instagram posted by your friends? Do you think parents think about any negative effects before they post? By the age 5, many children have hundreds of photos of them already online. While reading this article in TheGuardian, it had me thinking about how it is a blessing in disguise that my mom was not able to put those embarrassing photos of me online for the world to see. I can’t imagine how kids feel today. It’s not just embarrassing but could cause privacy safety, and cyberbullying issues. In TheGuardian, they explain: “Given the relative youth of social media, it’s hard to say exactly how growing up online could affect children but there are concerns around infringing privacy, safety and security“. Helping develop a child’s digital footprint should start before they reach school age since they probably already have one started at home.

2. Teachers do not feel equipped to teach about digital footprints

I don’t know about you or if it’s just my June brain, but wow, I.Am.Busy. First of all, we are expected to cover a curriculum in 10 months, teach social skills, basic life skills and educate them on important life lessons that are not in the curriculum. There’s also everything in between that happens on a school day. How are we supposed to fit even more into our day? I do understand that developing a digital footprint is important and should be integrated when using technology at school, but it’s so overwhelming if we put all of that responsibility on teachers whose plates already overflowing. We also need to take into account that EdTech isn’t taught often during an undergrad education degree. ( I would not be aware of any digital citizenship and media literacy without my graduate tech classes). Without resources, teachers simply do not know how to start and how to teach and help develop positive digital footprints simply because they were not taught.

3.Schools are not Helping to Keep Kids Safe Online

How can we ask schools and educators to teach and develop digital footprints when we are not even doing our part in keeping them safe and private online? The disagree side spoke about policies and media release forms. Colin Anson-Smith explains in their article the reasons why schools must be careful when posting photos of students. Anson-Smith explains how schools should be cautious of policies put in place when it comes to minors, thinking about how a child might feel when a photo is posted for the school and community to see, and just how easy it is to access information about students from photos. We spoke about media release forms and even though my students have one, I always ask them beforehand if I can print photos and hang them up in the classroom. If I post on my social media about a trip or something fun we did in class, I will always cover my students’ faces with an emoji. It’s easy and makes sure my students are safe.

Final Thoughts

At the beginning of the debate, I agreed that educators have a responsibility to help develop the digital footprint. After considering this is simply one part of digital citizenship, I struggled to pick a side. The words “help develop” seems like a very big role to take on as an already busy educator. However, I believe that we have a responsibility to set our students up for success. So yes, this means teaching and helping them create a positive digital footprint. Do I think it is solely the responsibility of teachers and schools? No way. Families must also step up and learn how to teach and have a positive digital footprint as well! They also need to watch out about what they post of their kids on their social medias! No more Youtube Family channels who exploit their children for money! (I’ll leave you with this and this if you want to take a look ).

  1. Do you feel prepared to teach and help your students develop positive digital footprints?
  2. Do you think schools are being safe enough when it comes to our students’ digital footprints?

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