In an age where everything can be “Googled” and online privacy no longer exists, students have a whole new reputation at stake—their digital reputation, or their digital footprint. A digital footprintis any online information about a person that can be searched, shared, and seen by a large, invisible audience.
According to Educator’s Technology, “Managing one’s digital identity is a skill, so to speak, that we need to learn and teach our kids and students about. In a world digitally focused, the boundaries between the real and virtual are blurred.”
Students may not understand the implications of what is shared via social media, and parents and teachers need to be cognizant and start teaching students about the effects and how to manage their own digital footprints.
So how serious is this, really? In Tech Hub’s “10 Things Your Students Should Know About Their Digital Footprints,” the gravity is noted when it comes to college and job searching. “College admissions and employers do read your online profiles and they do make decisions based upon information they find out about you online. In fact, colleges will make decisions based upon many forms of questionable involvement.” In many cases, one questionable photo or post can change how the student is viewed, and then in turn, negatively affect their future.
It’s imperative that students understand how an online blemish can make a negative impact on their education and careers, and this learning must start in the classroom. Teachers should embrace social networks and incorporate best practice teachings into the curriculum.
Here are five steps to get started.
1. Google it. Ask students to Google themselves to see what and who comes up when they type their name into a search engine. It should be clear that anyone—from parents to teachers can do this and find the same information
2. Select a “safe” educational-focused social platform for students to learn responsible behavior in the classroom. GoEnnounce (www.GoEnnounce.com/about) is an example of this. . Understanding digital citizenship on an educational platform will translate to their other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
3. Help students create an online “portfolio” to showcase their work, best accomplishments, and the things that they are most proud of. A portfolio will help students curate their own identity and show the things that are appropriate for sharing.
4. Establish a “Golden Rule.” Ask students to ask themselves, “Is this something I’d be embarrassed about if my parents, teacher, or principal saw it?” before posting online. Students should know that everything they put into the “digital world” is public, and people that they don’t even know can see it.
5. Help students learn that their online persona should reflect their offline persona. Ask students to create a short video, blog or slideshow about who they are—something that reflects their good qualities and the things they want the public to know about them.
If social media platforms are embraced in the classroom rather than ignored, students will learn responsible online behavior from the start, which will carry with them through their educational and professional careers. And as the world becomes more digitally focused, they will be better prepared for what’s to come, and pass this behavior on to future generations.
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