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Teaching Students About Their Digital Footprints

This year my high school added a new course that is a survey course for computing. One of the first lessons we did covered what a digital footprint was; how it could affect them, and the consequences. Some of the material was pulled from the ECS curriculum, some from Common Sense Media, and other was gathered resources including some YouTube videos. It was amazing how much the students didn't know about the technology they use every day. I think I took it for granted that since they are "digital natives" that they would know more about how long information is maintained, who can see it, and what data is actually stored. One of the things most students didn't know is that photos on their phone can also store the date, time, and gps location of the photo taken. It was amazing how quiet the room became and how large some of their eyes were.

So I have learned something about my students. I have learned that they are all about flashy gadgets that get them what they want and have no interest in the consequences of privacy they give up for it. This reminds me of the many jokes about people not reading directions and just putting something together. My students do not know the "directions" or fine print of their technology. I will admit I guessed that they didn't and it is one reason we have this new course. We are trying to teach all the things they may need to know about computing and technology or need to experience that we as adults think they already know. A mouthful I know but I promise that is not the class description.

The final wrap up of the unit was a paper that answered different things about digital footprints, social networking, textings, effects, etc. My warm fuzzy feeling came when I was reading the section of their papers where they had to talk about if they would do anything different. Here are some examples of what I read......

"But knowing that what you say can be documented and kept for years, coming back to haunt you at any time, is enough to keep anyone on their toes about what they say."

"After seeing all the information about posts, texting, and online presence, I will change some of the things I do. I now will watch what I text to people."

"Yes i do think i will be more careful with what i text or post because it could change my life." This is a direct copy. Obviously I didn't emphasize that the computer would not automatically capitalize their i's. :)

It didn't matter if my student was male, female, affluent, poor, had an iphone or had an old flip phone. I was reading similar responses from all of them.

I am not claiming this will change them all and that they won't still do things they shouldn't online; but I have opened their eyes. There is no greater feeling when you teach to know that your students eyes have been opened. That day I got paid back.

So next time you have a day or two and looking for something to teach in between a unit or a vacation break, I urge you to teach something in the realm of social networking and digital footprints. Open their eyes as it will open yours.

Stephanie Hoeppner
Ohio Cohort Leader
Ohio Chapter Vice President

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