Posted February 10, 2013 for my course blog.
Check it out: The Digital Footprint
The digital footprint is aptly named as a digital shadow (Wikipedia, February 2013) because of the information left behind through our activities on the internet. We may be leaving behind information to a number of different parties based on our browsing activities. Private information could be collected without our knowledge, which might leave us vulnerable because anything put on the internet can never be erased.
Our activities are being recorded! I wonder if that bothers anyone… I know with absolute certainty that it doesn’t bother my seventeen year old cousin at all. Some of the pictures I’ve seen her tagged in, I’m not sure should even be circulating. Even if I talk to her about it, she always answers with, “it’s okay, everybody does it.” I know that this is the attitude of so many children.
In tracking my digital footprint through Discovery’s website, “What is Your Digital Footprint?” I scored 24 points – meaning I leave a moderate digital trail during the course of my day. It was not different from what I expected however, I do think I am becoming more and more lax each day, as I become more comfortable and less vigilant about my internet activities. What a scary thought.
I remember when I first started signing up for things online (mainly social networking sites), I always tried to use a pseudonym and made up personal information because I was so afraid of what was being tracked. I didn’t have a full understanding of the ‘world wide web,” and it scared me. Even today, I can say that although I feel more comfortable, the scope of my digital footprint and its impact is still difficult to fathom.
Privacy does not seem hold the same conceptual meaning as it once did. To me, the idea of privacy was more synonymous with ‘secrecy’ and holding my cards as close to me as possible. But now, I think that has completely changed. The whole idea of tracking cookies and my browsing habits being followed is so much bigger and beyond my own ability to comprehend. It is understandable why my students can’t even connect that there might be implications of their actions now to their behaviour/choices in the future.
I wonder what type of impact my digital life will have in the future.
This leads to the question of how to deal with it in the classroom. In reading Will Richardson’s (follow him on twitter: @willrich45) blog post titled, “Teach. Facebook. Now.”, he addresses this by discussing the fact that teaching about our digital footprints is something that cannot be ignored any longer. He lists the following points:
Upwards of 75% of the kids in high school use Facebook.
You need a manual to figure out how to appropriately set your privacy settings on Facebook.
Because of that (to some extent, at least), lots of your kids are doing not so great things in public that might get them into trouble.
Most of the younger kids in your system are going to be on Facebook when they are in high school.
No one is teaching them (about their digital footprints).
In surveying my class, it reminded me of something else I read in his post: young adults are more concerned about their exposure in the digital world than adults (He actually got that from another blogger whose fantastic rant can be found here). Anyway, I asked my class a few questions about social networking and about web browsing. Amazingly, none of my students have Facebook accounts (They all have Twitter!). Maybe it’s their age (Grade 6/7), maybe they are very obedient children – but their main reasons were because they didn’t want their actions now to impact their future job prospects. What?!?!?! Unfortunately, their understanding of a digital footprint only focuses on Facebook and not on other social networking platforms or web-browsing activities. I think my students are aware of what could happen but are not fully informed. Yet.
I’m going to have to change that. Somehow.