Posted by: shineonali | May 1, 2010

Footprints and Friends

We have just begun our second COETAIL course. (Well, I’ve just begun my reflective blog posts for it.)

The topics for this course–digital footprints, cyberbullying, online safety, copyright, liability–are tough.  Once I start thinking about them, I end up with, at least, my head spinning; at worst, I’m tempted to delete my Facebook account (because they seem intent on finding ways to share my personal information with other sites and own every picture I ever post), turn off my internet router (so that my identity can’t be stolen remotely), and shut myself in my house (in case someone takes an embarrassing photo and posts it all over the web).  So I’m going to attempt to write this post without spiraling into any crazy Big Brother-Stalker-Frenemy nightmares.

The essential question for the first week of our second course was

When and where should we be teaching students about their digital footprint?

I think “digital footprint” is a fantastic metaphor for the concept that when you participate in the online world, you leave a mark.  And certainly we want to teach anyone, no matter what age, who is using the internet, that this is true.  Certainly, it is fundamental that our Grade 5 students, who have their own blogs, and are beginning to venture more independently into the virtual world, be aware of their digital footprint.

I think that questions about digital footprints, online safety, and copyright need to be raised in class, and problems or case studies presented, followed by in-depth discussions.  Beyond the discussions, the students and teachers should come up with a set of guidelines for protecting your digital footprint and being a responsible digital citizen.  The school’s acceptable use policy should also be considered in these discussions–guidelines created collaboratively can help students, parents, and teachers to interpret the AUP.

In our first face-to-face session, we spent a lot of time on the “to Friend or not to Friend” issue.  I’m uncomfortable with being Facebook Friends with students and former students.  Not only because they are so young, but because I need some separation between my work life and my private life. (I like Educational Origami‘s post on this issue.) However, MANY of my Grade 5 students are on Facebook.  Usually the friend requests come after school gets out for the summer–and students are simply (and sweetly) reaching out to keep in touch.  Jeff has made a great “let’s meet halfway” suggestion for teachers who want to let students connect to them via Facebook–create a “Fan” page for yourself.  (Here’s a link to Jeff‘s because I’m not ready to make this leap yet!)

I love our COETAIL courses because they give us an opportunity to learn some facts.  There’s so much information out there!  I learned that to create a Facebook account you need to be 13.  I learned this two days after my friend told me that her Grade 1 student has requested her as a friend SEVERAL TIMES.  Do parents know this?  I had many reasons for not wanting to Friend my preteen students, but this wasn’t one of them! (Until now.) There are two possible scenarios for under-13 Facebook pages: the parents are creating the profiles with/for the child, or the child is lying about his/her age when making the profile–because you have to enter an actual date of birth when you set up your account.  The first scenario, I think I can live with.  It even has advantages–I think it’s smart for parents to sit down with their children to create their first online profiles (email accounts, online game sites).  The second scenario worries me. (Here’s a straightforward article aimed at parents.)

Finally, we discussed the teachers (mostly of high school) who are now using Facebook as a means to communicate with their students.  So updates to assignments, or links to articles, for example, appear in students’ newstreams.  Akiko, our youngest class member, thought this was fantastic.  She basically said, that’s where I am–I like the idea that I can get updates so easily and without having to go to the course blog or web site, or check my email.  I said, no way…when I go on Facebook, that’s MY time.  I don’t want work/study infringing on my social space. Is this a digital immigrant/native thing?  Or just a difference in personal preference?



  1. I do think this is a difference. When talking to 11th & 12th graders they told me they’d love it if school was “in their stream” in Facebook. I much like you keep Facebook for me, creating the fan page for others. I think we still see a line between work and play and this next generation doesn’t? That could be why we see so many of the younger generation job hoping. Very few of Akiko’s generation are in a job for the 30 years. Many plan to do this for a while, then do that for awhile. They almost expect their job to be part of their lives in a way that you and expect them to be separate.

    It is interesting and we’ll see where this goes, but it could be a generational thing.

  2. Facebook is what you decide to make it. YOU choose who you share your information with, for now. This can and may change in the near future.

    I do think its an effective way to communicate with our high school students. That’s where they are, both as students AND teenagers. You want to remind your students that the big end-of-semester project is due tomorrow, NOT Friday? Remind them via Facebook. Most of them will get the message.

    Either that or BBM!

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