Have you ever done an internet search on your name? Were you pleasantly surprised; a little disappointed or horribly shocked? Your digital footprint is the legacy that is left behind in the vast digital environment. It is a trail of what you post online, have searched , clicked on, liked, tweeted and sites you have joined. Are you aware that your IP address (a numerical code that is specific to the device you are using) is also recorded? For most of us who pre-date the World Wide Web and the internet (or can still remember the VIC-20 Commodore Computer) our digital footprint might only date back some 25 years. Unfortunately, many of our boarders have digital footprints that pre-date their births as parents posted images online of their prenatal scans. As the digital world of tablets, smart phones, social media and information sharing become a part of our boarders everyday lives, there is a need to ensure that they understand how their online actions create their personal digital footprint.
Employers are now using external recruiting agencies to find suitable employees for their business, cutting out the middle man of HR and streamlining the recruitment process. Many of these agencies simply perform an online search of a candidate’s name to see what type of digital footprint they have. There are thousands of stories of people failing to secure a job because of a poor digital footprint. Most often this occurs due to a post, a photo, or a like, that took place during their secondary schooling or whilst undertaking further studies – usually many years prior to applying for the job. As boarding staff we are tasked with ensuring that our boarders develop life skills that will allow them to engage and cope in an ever change world. We must therefore encourage our boarders to fully understand their responsibilities as a digital citizen, and ensure that their online behaviour creates a positive digital footprint.
There is endless literature on teaching digital citizenship in schools and how to create and maintain a positive digital footprint. I have listed below some strategies that I will incorporating in our College’s Life Skills Programme to assist the boarders in understanding both digital citizenship and digital footprints.
- Encouraging boarders to attend afternoon “Internet Cafe” session on campus. These sessions will run for 30 minutes and are based on collaborative learning. Boarders will bring their digital device to the session where boarders and staff with similar interests will share how they use their device, talk about new apps they are using. This will assist boarders to understand how to better use their device for both social and educational purposes.
- All Year 12 boarders will develop a Linkedin account. Staff will then assist the boarders with the maintenance and use of this account listing personal achievements, goals and objectives.
- Boarders will be assisted to develop a Digital Portfolio. This is very useful for boarders involved in the arts or technology.
- Boarders will be educated on the positive use of Twitter in setting up a Professional Learning Network (PLN).
- Infographics (or Piktochart) will be used throughout the boarding houses as a way of educating boarders about digital citizenship and digital footprints.
The most important aspect of this learning process is to ensure that boarding staff role model positive and responsible digital citizenship. As we all know, adolescents are most likely to mimic the behaviour of adults. For many staff, it is likely that they will not have the same depth of digital literacy as some of the boarders in their care. Therefore it stands to reason that the educational processes outlined may well need to be taught to both staff and boarders.
Like many boarding communities, at SCOTS PGC College we use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to assist us in communicating with parents and the wider boarding community. I am always conscious of what I am posting and the digital shadow that this will create for the boarders who appear on these social media pages. What is your boarding school’s digital shadow saying about your boarders?
It would be great to hear from other boarding schools about what you do in relation to teaching your boarders about digital citizenship and digital footprints. Please feel free to contact me on twitter @BoardingSPGC or Greg.Wacker@scotspgc.qld.edu.au to share your ideas. I hope to develop a blog in coming months titled “Student Digital Welfare – the promotion, education, maintenance and provision of a conducive digital environment by educational intuitions, and provide students with the relevant knowledge and understanding of their rights, responsibilities and social well-being within this digital environment”. I hope to generate through this blog ideas and discussion on this very important topic within education and boarding.