That’s One Small (Digital) Step for Man…

June 27, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

(Authored by Richard Gardner)

Today’s students are growing up in a digital age. YouTube, twitter, facebook, MySpace, and many other social networking sites are now all integral parts of the high school scene. Students of all ages produce and upload countless videos, photos, data, and text documents to share with their friends. The only problem with this is- where does the sharing end? In his June 22, 2009 posting on his blog “The Fischbowl“, Karl Fisch says this:

I talk a lot about how we should be discussing this idea with students and that whatever they publish – whether on a blog or a wiki or Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or. . . [fill in your favorite site here] – that it very likely will be able to be found later by a potential college, employer or spouse. I also talk about how we shouldn’t just be talking to students about not putting potentially compromising stuff out there, but that they should also be building a positive digital footprint, so that when they are Googled – and they will be – that folks will find really good stuff about them, that they should think of this as part of their digital resume/portfolio.

It is easy to imagine how today’s students may have a lifetime’s worth of documentation stored on their MySpace profile by the time that they graduate from high school. All of that information is viable to be copied, changed, and stored on any other computer by almost anyone in the world. This raises an important question: should we be teaching kids to be aware of, and monitor their ‘digital footprints’?

In this class we have talked quite a bit about 21st century skills, getting kids literate not only in reading and writing, but also avid users of the modern tools that surround them. But do these new abilities come at the price of safety and privacy?

I believe that teaching students to control their digital footprints would be a very necessary use of class time. I am a biology teacher at heart, and part of any good lab experiment is safety. Goggles, gloves, and other safety equipment are a usual and integral part of any lab experience. It makes no sense to me that web skills should lack safety lessons.

Where do we start teaching kids about online safety when participating in web 2.0 technologies? I’m sure that there are many answers but one may be the Digital Footprint Calculator. Put out by an internet data management company called EMC2, the Digital Footprint Calculator is a free program that gives you an estimated amount of digital information recorded about you from websites, credit cards, surveillance cameras, and many other sources. How valid this is for use in the classroom, I’m not sure. However, it is a place to start. Getting students to think about this important topic will generate new ideas and promote the safety of their online endeavors for years to come.

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