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Blog #5 (Debate #1) – Digital Footprint – Walk This Way!

Welcome to the final week of blog posts for EC&I 830, spring semester, 2022! Today we break down our final two debate topics. In this blog, we will look at the topic of: Educators and schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. My initial take on the topic was a resounding, YES! Considering how technology has evolved and is woven into society, I believe that education has a responsibility and duty to educate students on their digital footprint. Both positive and negative consequences in relation to their choices made online. As some of our colleagues brought up, as teachers do we have a responsibility to develop their digital footprint? That, I’m not sure about and am conflicted with. As educators, are we developing our student’s digital footprint by posting their photos on Twitter? Or, having them sign up for a program that they will be using for a project? To me, this is so conflicting, and like every debate, I am left second-guessing my initial reactions!!

Our school division is very proud of our brand and encourages the use of Twitter to ‘promote the brand’. If you had the chance to check out my Twitter (shameless plug: @AKauf), you will see many photos of students engaging in different tasks, assignments, and activities. Primarily, I am doing this to share with my students’ families and our school community. Don’t worry, all students featured on my Twitter have parental consent (I’ve verified this many times over the school year). That’s another great point that was brought up. Do parents know what they are signing? Do teachers fully understand the consent form and the language used in the document? #conflicted.

Rae and Funmilola shared many great points that aligned with how I initially felt. As students are currently growing up in the digital age, educators are called to adapt and integrate 21st Century skill development into their practice. In the classroom, we are able to teach digital skills in a controlled environment and in a safe manner. From basics such as password protection to diving into digital literacy, we begin to engage our students in conversations and experiences of positive and negative consequences related to our actions in the digital world. Tammi Sisk and Richard Stegman (2015) share “schools should explore ways to help students intentionally build a positive digital identity. Student portfolios, blogs, and other online tools provide avenues to assess learning while simultaneously allowing students to develop a positive online presence.” In our school division, we use SeeSaw as a digital portfolio to reflect on learning. Furthermore, I have mentioned that I’ve introduced blogging through Kidblog as a means of connecting with other students in our school division in an English Language Arts unit. What guides this safety? Our Connected Educator program also invests in professional development that explores the ISTE Standards. As Sisk and Stegman explain, “ISTE Standards for Teachers can be used to help guide educators and other stakeholders as they consider their approach to appropriate online behavior within their personal and professional lives”. However, what is a digital footprint and how is it related to digital citizenship?

Gertrude and Kim shared their position on why educators and schools should not hold the responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. In our breakout room, many great points were brought up, including not wanting their 10-year-old self to define their digital footprint. As educators, are we unintentionally developing our students’ digital footprint? Is it not the parent’s responsibility to educate on their child’s digital footprint? The Webwise article explains the issues of posting student pictures and offers eight suggestions to include in an Acceptable Use Policy:

  • Staff will educate students about the risks associated with the taking, using, sharing, publication and distribution of images. In particular, teachers will recognise the risks attached to publishing their own images on the internet
  • Staff are permitted to take digital/video images to support educational aims, but must follow school policies concerning the distribution of those images, which should only be taken on school equipment
  • When taking digital/video images ensure that students are appropriately dressed and are not participating in activities that might bring the individuals or the school into disrepute
  • Students must not take, use, share, or publish images of others without consent
  • Pictures to be published on the school’s website, or elsewhere, which include pupils will be selected carefully and will comply with good practice guidance on image use
  • Pupils’ full names will not be used anywhere on a website or blog, particularly in association with photographs
  • Written permission from parents or carers will be obtained before photographs of students are published on the school website
  • Student work can only be published with the permission of the student and parents or carers

We must also consider ‘user-friendly’ language when crafting our policies and permission forms. For those educators in schools with a high EAL population, how are we engaging and furthering an explanation so that our families understand what they are signing? I feel this is most important!

As I considered both sides, I am reflective on how we teach digital citizenship and our role in developing our students’ digital footprint. I believe we should educate on what a digital footprint is and the potential positive and negative consequences of our actions in the digital world. Like all of us, students must be accountable for their actions. We all make mistakes and we all learn from them. I appreciate that schools can offer a safe way of learning and making those mistakes without magnifying issues into larger situations. We are in the business of education, which includes educating ourselves and ALL of our stakeholders.

3 thoughts on “Blog #5 (Debate #1) – Digital Footprint – Walk This Way!

  1. Hi Arkin!

    Such a great blog post, thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

    I agree with you on the topic of concerns and questions about the school media release form. Every year I send this form home to my students and their families to be signed. However, often I am following up with families ensuring that they return the form, check off the box and provide their signature at the bottom. I question if I have several of these forms not returned because families at home do not fully understand what all it entails. Then again, as an educator I am not even sure if I fully understand all of it. What are the supports that we can provide our immigrant families or illiterate families to help them understand this important matter, better? An answer that unfortunately, I do not have.

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  2. I feel similar to how you do. I think we can help kiddos learn how to make positive digital footprints, and the basics like search engines and strong passwords, as well as appropriate versus inappropriate sites, etc. but when it comes to social media and engaging with students using social media to help them make positive digital footprints, that’s where I draw the line. Teaching them about it is one thing, but a responsibility to build them with them is a whole different story.

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  3. The Benefits of Online Learning on Social & Academic Development
    Debate 8
    In Canada is there too much digital access their play places and people still using the Internet with electronics. I agree there is a degree of health impacts and concerns. For example, distractions are a great concern for elementary students with too much electronic Internet use. This in turn creates issues of isolation and it also leads to lack of outdoor physical activity. Especially for elementary students. It is also said to be an imperfect substitute for online learning. There is a level of inequality for online users. I see the level of distractions with my own grandchildren period it is becoming a bad habit to be so engrossed by the internet period i also agree with the disagree side because of the areas of flexibility, small groups, time, fewer distractions/ are key to adult learning online I’m not versed are informed for students and their children because they do not see it first hand or daily

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