Debate #7: Do Educators Have a Responsibility to Help Students Develop a Digital Footprint?

Our last week. This is the first time I’ve taken a spring class, and although I knew the pacing would feel quite different than my previous fall and winter classes, I’m still surprised we’re here already. Within this debate, I once again got hung up on the word responsibility. Developing a Digital Footprint can certainly be beneficial, but is it the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that this happens and that it happens efficiently?

As Rae and Funmi explained, your Digital Footprint is the virtual trail left by your interactions in the online world. As the debaters mentioned, it is important to realize that your digital footprint includes both purposeful and passive data- in other words, data you mean to post online, and data that may be collected about you based on your behaviour, interactions, etc. I appreciated our discussion around the importance of teaching students how this information may stay present online forever, and therefore educators should do their best to help students learn about how to act appropriately online. Dan Spada explains the basics wonderfully in the first few minutes from his video titled Teaching Students About Digital Footprints and Digital Citizenship.

Those interested in his video should definitely go through and watch the entirety. He has links to a Teachers Pay Teachers lesson that allows you to go through numerous digital citizenship related skills that are important to teach to students, as well as numerous videos on related topics.

However, getting back to the debate, as mentioned, I continue to get hung up on the term responsibility. Gertrude and Kim indicated during their portion that topics such as a digital footprint is encompassing all areas of a student’s life, and therefore requires a ‘global village’ to assist. Government and family involvement are important in doing their part to allow students to find success in developing their digital footprint. These sectors are extremely important, particularly when we consider data and privacy. As screen time increases in our society, the potential for data to be farmed from our interactions does not slow down when a child is behind the screen.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Sydney Morning Herald published an opinion piece about TikTok and the need to protect children’s privacy, in which they quoted an expert that estimates

“by a child’s 13th birthday, advertisers will have gathered on average more than 72 million data points about them.”

https://amp-smh-com-au.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.smh.com.au/national/tiktok-time-s-up-to-protect-children-s-privacy-20210726-p58cyx.html

With the mind-blowingly large amount of data being collected from our children and students, should we put the responsibility of increasing a child’s online presence onto teachers and teachers alone? To me, it wouldn’t make sense to. The online world is a topic that far exceeds the hours in the day that educators have control over. Participation from the government and family sectors are pivotal to support children throughout the entirety of their childhood.

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

On a slight tangent, educators, administrators, and school division personnel should be wary of the collection and storage of student data, both within their own systems, and on the systems of the applications that they roll out within their schools. While it is known that there are several school divisions within the province that are wary of or will refuse to allow teachers to use software that lacks data storage transparency, school division use and distribution of student information or photos can also be debated. Colin Anson-Smith wrote a thought-provoking article, that includes discussion on the common ‘all or nothing’ photo/media release consent forms that are common on the first few days of school/at registration. He writes:

“If schools are collecting parent consent using a bundled ‘all-or-nothing’ approach, they are unknowingly breaking the law. Privacy regulators and industry experts generally advise against bundled consent because it will rarely ever meet the test of proper consent; that is, consent that is voluntary, informed, current, and specific.”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-ok-share-student-photos-online-heres-why-colin-anson-smith/?trk=public_profile_article_view

Through the debate and preparing for this blog post, it’s become more apparent to me where I stand on this issue. Rather than curating an online profile, platform or digital footprint, educators and policy makers should focus on facilitating quality digital citizenship education, particularly in elementary aged students. Creating good habits early, through the teaching of appropriate digital skills, will allow students to learn how they can stay safe online, while also allowing them the opportunity to decide if they’d like to expand their digital footprint as they age.

3 thoughts on “Debate #7: Do Educators Have a Responsibility to Help Students Develop a Digital Footprint?

  1. Great blog, Colton! Very thought-provoking. I, too, think schools have more responsibility to teach students digital citizenship than to help them develop a positive digital footprint. Your sentiments about school divisions’ management of school data is also interesting. While that is certainly not my wheelhouse, it makes me wonder if school divisions, themselves, are taking the appropriate measures to help protect student data. I can’t help but wonder what was compromised within the Regina Public School Division’s data breach; officials have been very “mum” on the event. It just goes to show that even adults and public officials are experiencing great “growing pains” within our ever increasing technological world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree with you on this topic. As educators, we need to focus on digital citizenship to teach them about appropriate behaviours online and how to be safe. As for their footprint, educators can not be responsible for that as there are too many other factors that play into it which are out of our control. It is important to remember that educators may be parents too, and our number one priority is ensuring our own children have a positive digital footprint. We can only hope the parents of our children take the time to work on that at home. It does take a village, and educators will do their part, but parents can not rely solely on schools to ensure a positive digital footprint.

    Liked by 1 person

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