Empowerment: The secret superhero in us all

Empowerment! What a great word! It sounds like a secret strength a superhero has…

                                                               

                                                                        E M P O W E R M E N T!

 

I feel like a superhero when I say “I am empowered!”  Sometimes I actually believe I am empowered and am making a difference, like a superhero

 

superman-149576_1280

 

https://pixabay.com/en/superman-hero-man-person-cape-149576/

 

……..other days not so much!

Sick day companion Photo by Mrs Duublu

                                                                  Photo credit Mrs Duublu

 

Google defines the word:

empowerment

ɛmˈpaʊəm(ə)nt/

noun

  1. authority or power given to someone to do something.
  2. “individuals are given empowerment to create their own dwellings”
    • the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.
    • “political steps for the empowerment of women”

 

https://www.google.lu/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=define+empowerment&*

 

The definition “authority or power given…” even sounds like something that is bestowed or granted just like a superpower.  “I grant you empowerment!” Imagine what you could do with that! …….

                Now imagine what your students could do with that….empowerment!

There is an amazing amount of potential wrapped up in that one word and as educators we have the ability to bestow empowerment on all our students no matter their age. The missing part of the definition is passion,  for empowerment to be successful there needs to be passion, connection. What are your students passionate about? What are they concerned about? What are their worries for the future?  Lee Crockett says to find out what your students are concerned about and then ask them what they want to do about it. What problems do your students want to solve? Turn problems into challenges and seek solutions, that is empowerment!

How to begin? Start small,  our Grade 1 students did a zero waste challenge for a term. In turn,  families started being more aware of their home garbage production and recycling options. With continued support there is intent to share this challenge with other grade levels within the school and then perhaps with other schools in the community and beyond, creating a bigger connection for our students. Small, simple with a long lasting impact, student initiated, adult guided, and empowering for our students who really felt they were making a difference in decreasing waste production and helping the environment. They felt empowered! 

We admire people who are empowered. Malala Yousafzai is an inspiring example of an empowered young person, at an early age she spoke out about equal education for girls in her home country. As a result of her actions she was violently attacked and left for dead. Instead of going into hiding Malala continues to speak out about inequality and education for women and girls. A Nobel prize winner she now travels the globe and inspires others to rebel against adversity, inequality and seek peace for everyone.   

Empowerment it is our secret super power we can bestow on our students!

 

The Digital Citizenship Disconnect: Starts at home, ends at school?

The following article I have copy and pasted from CBC news in Canada for me really highlights the disconnect that occurs between home and school, parents and teachers when it comes to Digital Citizenship. On the surface of it the article is highlighting the fact these parents are trying to protect their child from potential digital predators or cyberbullies by not allowing the child’s school to take his picture and use it on social media. At first read through it all seems reasonable: concerned  parents wanting to protect their 4 year old son from the dark side of the digital world versus political school board imposing a complete ban on the child from participating in any school photo as a result.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/no-photos-choice-for-their-child-in-school-is-too-limited-parents-say-1.3971084

No-photos choice for their child in school is too limited, parents say

Karim Korany’s parents want board to change consent process for photos taken at schools

By Stephanie Matteis, CBC News Posted: Feb 08, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 08, 2017 2:07 PM ET

Four-year-old Karim Korany's parents say they withheld consent for photos to be taken of Karim, because they didn't want them used on social media. They didn't realize he wouldn't be able to appear in his class picture.

Four-year-old Karim Korany’s parents say they withheld consent for photos to be taken of Karim, because they didn’t want them used on social media. They didn’t realize he wouldn’t be able to appear in his class picture. (Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier)

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Hanging in the kindergarten classroom at école élémentaire La Fontaine are the self-portraits of nearly 30 students. Each drawing is contrasted by the photograph of the child next to it.

Karim Korany’s art is there, but his photo isn’t. He’s not in the class photo, either.

His parents, Yasser Korany and Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier, said he’s being excluded from some educational experiences because they chose not to give consent to having his photograph taken at school.

Korany's art

Art work by Karim Korany, 4, and his classmates.

“He sees in the classroom that there are pictures of his peers. He doesn’t see his,” Maheux-Pelletier told CBC Toronto, “Why is it that my child is put aside and being told, ‘No, I’m sorry but you cannot be part of the picture?'”

At the beginning of the school year at the French school in Kleinburg, his parents were given a form similar to the one used by all school boards in the province. It requests permission to take photographs, including videos, of their children at school and allows for their use on social media.

Karim’s parents didn’t want him in photos that might be used on social media, so they decided against saying okay. Otherwise, they said, they’d be giving “blanket consent.”

So why did his parents agree to the use of Karim’s photo for this story? They say that for them, the issue is about being able to control and manage how his image is used.

“We want our child to be included in all and every educational opportunity that you provide him with, just like his peers,” such as posting photos of children doing activities in the classroom, his mother said.

Since the practice of taking photos in classrooms predates social media, Maheux-Pelletier said the consent form should “distinguish between normal use of pictures for educational purposes versus using the same pictures for [social media].”

agenda note

Note in Karim Korany’s daily agenda responding to parents’ questions about the school’s policy on photos and videos. (Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier)

The family’s decision has caused confusion for the little boy. His mother said the school isn’t interested in the intent behind the family’s decision — which was to manage online exposure, which she hoped mitigates potential risks like “cyber bullying” or “predators.”

She wanted educators to apply discretion depending on when photos or video are taken and what they’re used for.

When the principal of the school told them this isn’t possible, they took their concerns to the director of education and superintendent.

Superintendent responds

After CBC Toronto inquired Tuesday about the family’s concerns, school superintendent Sylvie Longo responded, writing that the school couldn’t accommodate the request “to use and disclose your child’s images and school work in particular circumstances or locations only.”

She described a challenge like visitors who may want to take photos of their own child’s work but “there is a possibility of them capturing other students’ images and work that are showcased and share these on various communication platforms without consent.”

Claire Francoeur, the Conseil Scolaire Viamonde (school board) spokeswoman, told CBC Toronto this would be too challenging to govern, so the only option is a strict “no photo” policy when parents don’t give authorization.

“If we committed to the parents, ‘No, won’t be published,’ then we will do everything to enforce the decision of the parents that it won’t be published,” she said.

family Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier

Yasser Korany, Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier and four-year-old Karim Korany. (Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier)

According to the board, students aren’t excluded from school activities when consent isn’t granted. In cases where permission isn’t given, children could be asked to sit in an area of the classroom that wouldn’t be part of picture taking or videos.

Using the kindergarten self-portrait as an example, Francoeur said, the school work was unaffected by excluding the photo.

The board has approximately 11,400 students in its schools and Francoeur said it’s a minority of parents, perhaps 15 to 20 per cent, who do not give consent.

But she said the board can’t create an exception for the Korany family without doing the same for any of the thousands of families in that circumstance.

Maheux-Pelletier said with the widespread use of social media the forms used by the boards need to be revised.

“The form that they ask us to sign is a blanket consent. I said to them, ‘Your form needs to be more specific.'”

Maheux-Pelletier said it’s ridiculous that this seems to be all about social media — a concept difficult to explain to a four-year-old — not to mention the challenge of helping him understand why he’s “left out.”

 

Having read the article multiple times now I believe it is a non newsworthy article. For me it exemplifies how misinformed and disconnected many people still are about the digital world.  The story highlights what appears to be a nonsensical disagreement between overly protective parents and an outdated, rigid schoolboard. In the end we are expected to have sympathy for a four year old child caught up in what appears to be a  ridiculous response from the school board to a reasonable request from parents…..but is it? Are either parties really protecting the child? The parents didn’t want his photo used  on social media because they are concerned about being able to control the use of his image. Instead they agree to let his photo appear on Canada’s National News Broadcaster! On the internet!  And they are concerned about his photo showing up in social media? Really?  I get we as parents and educators want to protect our children and students from the dark side of the internet, potential predators, cyber bullies and do not want images to be used inappropriately. I also understand that schools need to protect themselves from being sued by parents not wanting their child’s image splashed on social media so have blanket release forms to cover situations where a student’s image may appear in connection with a school event. What I see as the true issues here are a lack of digital knowledge and poor communication on the part of both parties. I agree with the parents, a blanket permission form is not good enough and does not offer enough protection and certainly not enough clarity about how, when, where and why images of students may be used. The school board needs to be very specific about what they intend to use student images for. Will they be tweeting, blogging, instagramming, using YouTube? What is the intended purpose? to advertise school services, school events, information purposes, sharing learning with families, other schools, building educational partnerships? Will students be identifiable?, names published? I am not a fan of blanket permission forms. They tend to be vague and often times outdated which is obviously another issue in this particular situation. The school board has a point as well. The parents are saying they do not want their child’s image used on social media therefore the school has to have a no publishing rule to honour the parent’s wishes. Since these days it is hard to control any image once it is posted even innocently on the web, a complete ban really is the only way to make sure the parent’s request is fulfilled. This is why educators need to be digitally informed. We need to make sure the conversations about Digital Citizenship happen in school, at home and in public.

Is this national news? No, at best it highlights how school boards need to make sure they have relevant digital use policies in place that are regularly reviewed and updated. How educators really need to be digitally informed and share that not just with students but parents as well. How parents need to make an effort to be knowledgeable about current technology trends and the digital world they are raising children in. Discussion worthy?, yes it certainly is worth discussing, sharing and provoking widespread conversations that do lead to increased knowledge about Digital Citizenship for everyone.

 

Sharing the Spark: A Digital Story

 

Creating digital stories is an enjoyable, learning opportunity I love doing with my little kindergarten students. My favourite technology platform for creating

Book Creator

digital stories is usually Book Creator.  It is easily one of the essential apps when working with young students because of its versatility, ease of manipulation and non-intimidating technology. Students are quickly able to work the app independently and just love to use their creativity to write their own stories and make their own pictures on it.

For this blog post though I thought I would take a risk and create my own digital story about  a recent significant event in my life. Just for fun I decided to play with the app Adobe Spark to create this story. I have only used this app with my students once so wanted to have more experience with it so I can encourage my students to use it more. To make it more challenging for myself I created the video on my phone then uploaded it to YouTube before publishing it here. I wanted to use my phone because I had been told by other techies that you can’t create good videos on your phone. I have seen students create everything on their phone from documents to videos and figure if they can do it, I can do it…..maybe!  I was up for a challenge. Adobe Spark was little bit more time consuming to use than Book Creator and not quite as new user friendly either but slowly, slowly I figured it out. Playing with this app highlighted for me the difference between digital dinosaurs like myself and today’s digital citizens. They play and explore with technology uninhibited by any errors they might make and figure out how it works, then they start using it for whatever they can imagine. I think this is the point where educators often get lost as what to actually do with technology and how to integrate it seamlessly into their planning.

Adobe Spark

 Digital story telling is perhaps the easiest ways to integrate technology into lesson planning. Using apps like Book Creator, Adobe Spark, Skitch and Puppet Pals make it easy for students, even very young students to show their thinking in a visual format. They can even be used for math and science lessons. The beauty of using one of these platforms is their inclusivity. It doesn’t matter if the student speaks the same language or requires differentiation to meet their learning needs, using a digital visual story aid allows all students to participate and create a story that will reflect their thinking. Other benefits are digital story telling promotes collaboration,  sharing and communication. The only limitation to digital story telling is imagination .

Course 2 Final Project: Digital Student Agreement for K2

For the final project of course 2 I linked up with Erin Williams and Michelle Beard to write up a Responsible Use Agreement for my Kindergarten students.  I was a bit later partnering up with Erin and Michelle but they very kindly shared their research and quickly caught me up. We shared information about each other’s school’s technology policies in a common Google doc. I then continued researching and looking at other formats of RUAs online. I also used the 2016 ISTE Student Standards as a guide for developing the actual agreement.

 At my school we currently do not have a common formal RUA for the Lower School or for the Early Years section where I work. A few years ago when the Early Years first invested in iPads the teachers  felt that the young students would not be using the iPads for anything online and would always be directly supervised by an adult during any activity conducted on the iPad. Our vision then was to use the iPads mainly for photos, videos and some interactive activities for student learning. So we had common agreements for usage among the teachers but did not develop one for the students. Note here is at that time we also did not talk about what RU was for the adults either! We were all digitally challenged at this time, we had no idea what we were doing or where we were headed as far as technology goes in the Early Years section. Fast forward 5 years and we now recognize that we need to have some sort of common RUA for our young students. We are still a bit disjointed and chaotic about our technology use. Some teachers are blogging as a class, some have each student blogging, some classes are Tweeting while others are using Google plus but we are all using technology in some way during our teaching day. It is important to start building common agreements for both students and teachers, we need to start building our Digital Citizenship. Currently, we still have many debates over what this agreement should look like. Part of the reason for the continued discussions is because everyone is doing something different with their students and the iPads.  We are all still experimenting and trying different things to see what we like and what works for the students and each teacher. Some people are very keen to integrate technology into their regular classroom routine and others feel it is just adding screen time to the students day unnecessarily. So small steps, but I feel it is really important to try to future proof our young charges and set them up for a positive digital experience by setting a positive example and giving them purposeful guidelines to follow.  

 To that end when I started developing this RUA I decided to align the language and format of the RUA with our Student Profile. I felt it was important to use vocabulary that the students were hearing and being taught about for consistency but also to let the students see how using technology fits into their role as a student and ultimately as a Global Citizen. My intention is to share this with my K2 students and post it in the classroom with our student profile. I would like to see this or a modified version of this RUA adopted by other colleagues in the grade, and potentially throughout the school. At present I believe the school is doing a good job at teaching good Digital Citizenship but as always I think there is room for improvement and growth. Hopefully this will work as a springboard for development and collaborative discussion.

 

Nothing to see here…..

Visual Literacy

 

Slowly I am beginning to understand what it means to be a Digital Citizen, what my digital impression (aka footprint, tattoo) is and have been actively working to improve and increase this. Hence, participation in CoETaIL! I had really hoped that by now into course 3 I would of been a little more technologically finessed! Yes I have nearly mastered creating links in my blog posts, I did set up my own YouTube channel but for the life of me can not figure out what to do with it next! And I do Tweet but not really sure anyone hears them (or is that sees them!)

But WordPress is by far my biggest frustration! I have a love/hate relationship with it; on occasion quite frankly it makes me cry! I regularly peruse other coetailers’ blogs and blogs on the web and am awed at how amazing other blogs look….and work! What amazes me even more is that the vast majority of these blogs are created by WordPress! Yet here I am holding back my course 2 final project because WP and I are not communicating! I don’t know maybe it’s me, maybe my expectations for simplicity are just too much, too complicated, too high! I have tried speaking WP lingo, followed the instructions, watched all the self help videos and yet…..yet I continue to struggle to make this relationship work! For instance these “themes” I don’t get them! I have tried them all but I have had to settle for one  simply because I could finally get it to take the picture I wanted to use, my own photo! I can’t get it to give me credit for the photo but it is mine from my trip to Nepal.

Why can I not just copy and paste my course 2 project from Google Docs and have it look the same??? Why does WP keep morphing it into something that makes me look like a W newbie?!?  A technologic disaster??? What happened to all my formatting, carefully chosen text, colour and font size? All I want to be able to do is post my project just the way it is, is that too much to ask? Apparently so, we are at an impasse, WP and I. I thought I would look professional like it says in all the visual literacy articles I read but here I am alone back to the Blog With No Pictures, WP isn’t even trying to communicate back to me today. My frustration knows no bounds but on the bright side I ran 5.4kms today, got all the laundry done and completed my first post for course 3, up next another gentle discussion with WP, maybe we’ll watch a self help video together on uploading. Small steps…….

Copyright and Me

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeblogs/3020966500

Copyright is a word that often causes many a teacher to groan inwardly and breathe deeply when attempting to explain it to students. It is a topic that one needs an advanced law degree and the backing of a team of highly trained lawyers to navigate. At some point it is a topic that is going to arise with our students no matter what age they are. The remix culture has changed and challenged traditional copyright laws adding to the difficulties of attribution and right of ownership. So what’s a teacher to do?  How do we teach our students about copyright even when not all countries are following copyright law? The best answer is to model responsible and appropriate action for our students even in countries where copyright law is openly disregarded. By demonstrating to our students due diligence in recognizing creative right we are showing our students the importance of acknowledging the creative process and honouring the creator’s contributions. Sounds easy doesn’t it? But what about that work sheet you just created, you know the cut and paste one for the sorting activity you are doing with your Kindergarten students, that doesn’t count……does it? Hmm…. this is again where we enter into murky water. Those pictures I used, is it really important to show copyright? I mean I created the sorting activity … technically, right? Besides they are just cutting out the pictures and sorting them, is it really important to acknowledge that I didn’t actually draw or take the pictures myself? In the past I always justified to myself the use of pictures I have taken off the internet by the facts that I was using them for educational purposes, and I wasn’t making any money from their use; two perfectly reasonable and sound justifications, right?  For the most part these are true and justifiable but there are always exceptions and it is better to be safe rather than sorry. Besides I have always felt a little twinge of guilt when using work that is not my own because I don’t have enough of an understanding of copyright as it is such a huge topic and most of it isn’t really clear until tested. So I am careful to use photos that have creative commons agreements, I will often use my own photos and I make sure to include credit whenever possible, even on a worksheet.

photo by MrsDuublu
photo by MrsDuublu

My students will sometimes ask  “what does this writing mean?” They are always surprised when I tell them that I didn’t draw or take the picture being used so I am giving the original creator a thank you for letting me use their work. Young students understand the concept of saying Thank you and this starts to build their understanding of creative use and copyright. I am setting the example and demonstrating the importance of acknowledging others work as a result I have had some very enlightening discussions about recognizing other people’s work and saying Thank you with my Kindergarten students. Hopefully,  this is beginning to set my young students up as responsible, enlightened Digital citizens.

Course 1 Final Project

Photo by MrsDuublu
Photo by MrsDuublu

For my final project in course 1 I chose to work on digital portfolios. Every year we produce a paper portfolio of collected works and photos for each student in our class. However,  over the past couple years  we have really moved away from product and have focused more on process, that is what was the thinking involved to the final outcome and what was the understanding that occurred. As a result there is much less paper product to put into a paper portfolio and great deal more photos and videos stored in Google photo. Sometimes we get the children to comment about some of the photos but more frequently it involves a lot of late evenings of me collating, organizing and commenting on random photos for each of 18 students to share their learning with their parents at the end of the school year. So this year I decided we needed to make a shift and put the responsibility on the students which is most fitting, it is their learning after all! In the past I have used Kidblog and Blogger Jr with older students but I have found them to be a bit cumbersome to use and fiddly  to set up plus it takes a while for the students to get comfortable posting on these platforms. For students 5-6 years I was looking for something that was simple to use and quick to become an expert at utilizing. SeeSaw fit the bill. It is easily set up, is user friendly and can be shared with parents privately or opened to a wider audience if we choose to. There is no password sign in but a class QR code so students can easily post to the sight whenever they want during the school day. Eventually I hope to be able to open the sight up so that students can post to their blog from outside of school as well but that is a future, future goal. Currently students are enjoying taking pictures of their work and posting to their folder. Now that they are becoming experts at this phase, it is now time to move them on and ask the students to now explain why they have taken the photo and what it shows about their learning. This will take a bit longer and more coaching from both myself and the classroom teacher. Currently we are working out a rubric to use to help the students with making their reflective posts. We are using the language of the school’s student profile to keep things inline with the school philosophy.

Teaching my son to read with a GameBoy

 

 

 

I am a proponent of 1:1  technology for students to have access to their own device in the classroom. Many of my reasons come from my own personal learning experiences with digital technology. Being able to set my device up my way, have access to the apps I enjoy exploring, adding and bookmarking what is important to me and having access to the internet when I want it or need it are just a few of the pertinent reasons why I like having my own device; and are just a few of the reasons why I insisted my husband have his own device. Not that I mind sharing, it just allows us to freely explore what and when we want as well as to communicate more easily when he is away in Afghanistan for months at a time. These are also just a few of the reasons why I support 1:1 for the classroom as well, even in Kindergarten where I work.  Unfortunately, many of my colleagues do not support my thinking, surprisingly some of whom work in the tech department! One of the most common arguments against 1:1 I hear is the students don’t need all that screen time. I find this a bit confusing because it’s not about screen time. If the device is being used for actual learning, it is filling a vital role and quite frankly the screen time involved may actually be quite limited depending on the learning activity. Another common argument I hear especially in regards to Kindergarten students is they need to develop their reading and writing skills. Well, why can’t they do that on a device?

 

When my oldest son Cody was in early elementary school he struggled to learn how to read. Basically, he wasn’t interested in the reading books provided to him and just didn’t see the point to reading when others could read to him. We had daily stand offs just getting him to practice reading even for 10 minutes. All that changed when Cody got his first Gameboy. Dare I say it, thank goodness for Pokemon and Zelda! They ended the daily reading fight and helped to develop my son’s personal love of fine literature! No more stand offs! Reading became the after school activity of choice. The beauty of the original Gameboy games is they were mainly text driven. In order to play the games and collect Pokemon or capture treasure in Zelda, you had to be able to read what the characters were saying on the screen to be successful at the game. Voila! Instant motivation for a 6 year old boy to learn to read. His Grade 2 teacher was astounded at the rate at which Cody moved from a beginner reader to an advanced reader. But it wasn’t just Cody’s reading ability that increased, his comprehension and vocabulary expanded   as well. The spillover effect didn’t end there though, Cody’s writing also took off as he let his imagination run wild with capturing Pokemon and having adventures to discover treasure. Cody’s regular interaction with that little handheld device opened a whole new literary world for him, one that he continues to appreciate 20 years later. I have first hand evidence how the right device with the right program can help even young students to learn.

Cody's first GameBoy
Cody’s first GameBoy

 

Of course, it isn’t just about the device, it’s what the students do with it that really matters. Alan November prefers to refer to it as “one-to-world” suggesting that this simple change of wording opens more opportunities for both students and teachers to engage in more meaningful digital learning. Recognizing that students will be connecting with a wider audience having a “one-to world” approach shifts the teaching from merely incorporating technology into a lesson to designing learning opportunities for students that are empowering and supported wherever, whenever.  Having a ‘one-to-world” attitude changes the whole concept of using technology in the classroom. We can engage our students in a multitude of activities from developing a positive digital imprint, being responsible digital citizens to having educators in other countries grade our student’s assignments and students actively participating in global projects. If each student has a device to engage with it is another way we can empower them to take over their own learning and potentially take it to a level that we may not consider possible by being overly concerned with screen time and making technology fit into the lesson.

Me, Myself and 3 Billion Other People

 

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey Flickr via Compfight cc

The term ‘online privacy’ seems so contradictory to me. If you are online in my mind you are utilizing a public venue, whether it’s a social sight,  for shopping  or  a weather check you are employing a very public platform to perform these activities. To me online privacy is like going out on the street without your trousers on, you don’t know who is watching at any given time of the day  so how private can that be? Quite frankly, if you don’t want people to know what colour your underwear is , then don’t go there, don’t post it! I always tell my children if you wouldn’t say, do it or show it to your mother then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it and it certainly doesn’t belong online. Perhaps I am the naive one but I am always wary that when I go online I am not alone even if it’s just to see if I need my umbrella or to make a restaurant reservation; I know that someone, somewhere has tracked that activity.  No, I am not a conspiracy theory person I am just aware that my online activity is tracked for a multitude of reasons. Think cookies on websites, check out your news feeds on social apps, Amazon recommendations, even stories on your Flipboard all examples of tracked activity. That being said I don’t believe that everything I do online should be public fodder.  I do expect to be able to conduct searches or complete transactions privately and securely. I should  be able to decide who sees what, so it does bother me that social apps such as Facebook randomly change their privacy agreements in the guise of an ‘update’ and my photos can and do show up in one of my friend’s, friend’s friend’s friend’s feeds on the other side of the planet, whom I don’t know in a crowd of one! While I recognize it is my responsibility to check my privacy settings I also believe social apps should be much more open and obvious about privacy settings so that the general public can maintain some anonymity without their posts making a round the world circuit. From a teaching perspective this is when it is important to emphasize with students that even if you are in your bedroom with the door closed, the lights off ,under the covers, you aren’t alone when you are online, and someone, somewhere is aware of what you are reading, watching or posting, even in the dark. We have all seen those photos that teachers post on Facebook to show their students how fast their photo can travel and the number of unknown people who will see it. But does that exercise really have a big enough impact on our students to make them think about their online presence and privacy? As an educator I think we need to address online presence much more holistically and like Yuhyun Park says in his article “8 digital skills we must teach our children” equip our children with digital intelligence.

 

 

 

Digital Footprint: one size does not fit all

The whole concept of having a digital footprint is not something I can honestly say I ever gave thought to, until a couple of years ago when I was finishing my master’s degree.  I took a course in using technology with EAL students to enhance language acquisition when I first came across the terms ‘digital footprint’, ‘digital immigrant’ and ‘digital native.’ To give a bit of perspective to where I am coming from I remember when the “internet” first became a household “thing” waaaaay back in the 1990s. My husband was away at sea with the military and we could communicate via email for the first time ever. We would send our electronic message which had a 200 word limit, to a central email address and the messages were then downloaded by the ship once every 24-48 hours. Sailors could then send a reply back the same way, the turnaround time being similar. Our communication cycle went from once every 4 weeks when at sea to once or even twice if you hit the message cycle right in 7 days. Pretty impressive! We were able to share outdated news faster as opposed to saving it up for weeks or even months at a time. We couldn’t send photos in those days unless you had access to a scanner and forget social media, email was it! We didn’t even have Google back then, you had to know the www. address if you wanted to connect to someone or  find something aannnd ….there was no such thing as online shopping! Using a computer back then was kind of like using a rather large, non-portable (unless you had a 25lb laptop!) clunky Star trek communicator without the teleporting! In those days you were leaving a cybertrail, not creating a digital footprint. All this occurred ‘out there, somewhere’ in the cyber universe with relative anonymity. Flash forward a decade (or less!) and we are talking about digital citizens, immigrants, footprints and tattoos. Not to continue to date myself but you will often see jokes around how people were glad there wasn’t any Facebook when they were teens so that the only people who knew what they got up to was those that were there when it all took place. So this then begs the question should we have a digital footprint? Really? Is it necessary to report on every random thought we have about what colour the dress is? every chocolate dessert we indulge in? Every cocktail we sip on a tropical island?Is it really therapeutic to express our anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness or joy on the world wide web? Do the friends of my friends of my friends really care to see my new shoes I bought just because?? Does it really make a difference in anyone’s life to know what is happening right now with the Kardashians?? Probably not, but as someone who has seen the digital age grow from pocket calculators to today’s unlimited digital universe I have a small understanding of  how this cyber evolution has changed life immensely. It literally touches everyone, everywhere even if they aren’t connected to the web.

my new shoes. 2015
my new shoes. 2015

 

Back to the question then do I need a digital footprint? Nowadays chances are you already have one even if you aren’t aware of it. If you have ever sent an email, perused Amazon or done a Google search you have already created an imprint. Small though it may be, sites are using the inconspicuous information you left behind to increase productivity, increase marketing and develop new products. If you are using online shopping or any sort of social media that imprint is bigger. And what that imprint says about you is reflected in the what and how you use it. As someone who lives far away from family and friends I use the web to stay connected. As an educator I use the web to inform and teach. I try to keep my professional and social circles separate but after awhile the lines do tend to merge together, it is inevitable. As a result, I do tend to carefully edit what I post. I admit I wasn’t always so thoughtful and I have gone back and changed posts, removed photos, and been careful with privacy settings. I am concerned that something that I may post could prevent me from gaining employment and I don’t like the fact that people will make judgments about me based on a photo or statement I may make without knowing me or my story. These are the risks we take as social media consumers and Web users. Rightly or wrongly I really am not sure but I feel obligated to be socially responsible even as a proponent of freedom of speech that my postings be considered and reflect the true me. Since my imprint is out there my digital footprint should be my size and not someone else’s size.