Walking the positive path with digital footprints, App #3

Digital citizenship must be taught. Period. And, teachers must act as advocates for positive change. However, what should digital footprints consist of? This is where educators tend to fall blank.

To begin, you should set up an alert for when your footprint has been altered. To do this, simply create an alert through Google Alerts.

In the search query, enter your first and last names. Set the frequency and the recipient address of the alerts. Now, whenever new sources with those names appear, you will be notified. Hence, you will be notified when your digital footprint is altered.

As professionals, you want to build a different digital dossier than your students. However, the principal is still the same.

Rather than steering students away from online activities, writing, commenting, and building profiles on the Web should be encouraged–but, in a positive manner. By avoiding an online presence, a student or professional is limiting their resume. Avoiding it in the classroom is skipping an essential skill. And, it is mainly avoided in the classroom because educators have not been taught how to build an effective professional footprint for themselves.

So, let’s begin with 10 starting rules:
1. Don’t be afraid of social networking–use it to create change; however. Remember, if you post about changing your hair color from yellow to black, that will become part of your digital footprint. That said, it is a powerful tool. Imagine if you created posts–to a professional or classroom account–about your school’s collaboration project or charity drive? Yes, that would become part of your digital footprint and, therefore, your resume. If social networking is avoided, so too is the positive information that can come from it.
2. Set up a Google alert so you know when your name appears in new search results. This will allow you to edit your footprint if links appear that are not representative of the you that you want to portray.
3. Google yourself. Find out what others see when they search you.
4. Link your online presences together. If you have a Facebook page, a blog, an email, and a Diigo page, reference those pages within each. You may even put them on a business card. This will create a stronger presence and tie your work together. Think of this as putting your resume down on paper.
5. Blog, write, blog. Whether or not you have an audience, blogging is a great way to create an online presence. The key is making sure it is a positive one, representative of your professional work. Therefore, challenge yourself and your students to write for a purpose and an audience. Blogging is not a negative source by default. Rather, it can be used for positive or negative purposes.
6. If you’re a professional, get a LinkedIn. If students are seniors or above, let them know about LinkedIn. It is a great way to tie together your online presence.
7. Start small. Do not try to get into every online source at the beginning. Work on perfecting one or two sources before you dabble into others. If you string yourself too thin, you will not be able to effectively maintain a positive online presence.
8. Remember–a digital footprint is permanent. Use the Wayback machine–as a way to check archives. Even when you think a page is gone, it is cached/archived and can still be searched.
9. Use privacy settings, but remember that your information can still be forwarded on to others. If your friend A comments on a picture of yours, it can appear in one of their friends’ newsfeeds. Or, that friend can share that photo or download it. Privacy does not truly exist in an online format.
10. Figure out what Web presence you want to create and develop your own digital portfolio.

Now, be sure to replicate this with your students. Once teachers can effectively understand and build their own digital footprints, they can begin to guide students through the process.

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