Highlighting Digital Footprints in an Elementary Setting

Just like your credit rating (or credit score) has the potential to open and close doors and have a serious impact on your life, so too does your digital footprint.  The ideas and discussions around digital footprints really captured my attention this week as I reflected on my own footprint both passive and active.  Then I started to move my thoughts to my students and the importance of teaching them about their digital footprint.  While we have regular conversations about our online safety and privacy, thinking about digital footprint is much broader than that.

footprintPhoto Credit: Katelyn Kenderdine via Compfightcc

As a cheerleader of my students, I’m always encouraging students to broaden their audience by using the internet to publish their work online. I want them to extend their audience beyond me and their immediate peers as I believe they have much to share.  In doing so I’ve been unknowingly increasing their digital footprint without having conversations about what it is and how we can manage it.

 So, I’m really thinking about what digital footprint means to elementary students.  They as yet do not have social media accounts (like Twitter or Facebook), but my students do have an active online life through blogging and commenting, collaborative projects, online games, subscriptions to accounts, researching, e-Portfolios, and creating digital media projects.  A lot of resources and discussions on digital footprint out there are really focusing on internet safety and privacy or are more geared towards teens.  But I want to look at this from a branding point of view and start conversations and develop some key understanding about the larger topic of digital footprints with my students, because it’s not all bad.  Creating the ‘right’ digital footprint can open doors, connect you with the right people, and get yourself heard.  I like the idea of starting conversations with our younger students and being proactive about their digital footprint. These will form the foundation of their thinking and provide a strong base on which to make digital decisions throughout their life.

One way to get the conversation started is to use Daniel Pink’s question ‘What is your sentence?


This will get them thinking about what image they have for themselves and is it portrayed or perceived by others. How great would it be for kids to be involved in periodic reflections about their digital image throughout their life and look to see how their values and persona changes. How great would it be for students to track their sentence over time?  What was my sentence when I was 9? 14? 19?

In elementary school, we devote significant time to knowing ourselves as learners.  If you work in an IB PYP school, you will hear students describe themselves with the learner profile and attributes.  How great to extend this and incorporate this in conversations about their digital footprint.  If a student has described them self as a knowledgeable, empathetic inquirer then they can ask if their digital presence reflects this.  Or the reverse; ask students to look at some of their online work and ask what learner profile or attributes are reflected in their work.

Here’s another good place to start the conversation:


I also think it is powerful to do some analysis of the footprint of others.  We can use the question “What does their online presence say about them?”  For example, if we googled Super Awesome Sylvia we’d come to her webpage and other sites.  Have kids explore her sites and content and pose the question ‘How about the digital footprint of Sylvia?  What does her online presence say about her?

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You’ll notice you have to search a bit to find her name.  Mostly she is known as Super Awesome Sylvia, but with a bit of looking around you can find her full name.  This is an interesting discussion in itself to have with students.

I’m very mindful of presenting a balanced view of digital footprint to students.  One which is relevant and appropriate to the age of my students (9 – 10 year olds).  We are educating not scaring.  So I’ve been searching for elementary appropriate material to use.  There’s not a ton but enough to get started.  I like the questions posed in this video:[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwFE25f50P4[/youtube]  I like the questions: Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?  as these are important questions to ask not only in a digital context, but in our daily actions.

So rather than scare kids into an appropriate digital footprint, let’s empower students with skills, knowledge and attitudes through authentic and relevant discussions and experiences to building a positive digital footprint that reflects who they are.

PLN & Learning Landscapes

I’m excited to be participating in my first global collaborative project (GCP).  I’m just as excited as to how it got started as it really reinforces one of the central ideas of Course 1.  This is the idea around the connectedness of the internet, and the power and opportunities that it provides. The opportunity to participate in a global collaborative project presented itself through a Twitter post.

Now we are in Week 1 of the global collaborative project If You Learned Here and I’m sitting back in awe at the level of organization, collaboration and communication involved in setting up and facilitating such a project.  When you stop to look at the level of detail, planning, and time management you can see how participating in such a project allows students to also engage in these skills.  In addition to that, the project facilitators exhibit the technical knowledge and attitudes promoted through the IB Learner Profile and attitudes.  Again, providing wonderful models for all those involved in the project. 

I’m realising that global collaborative projects are multi-faceted learning experiences with powerful benefits for all involved both teachers and students and when well planned have the power to promote the PYP transdisciplinary skills and attitudes as well as many of the ISTE Standards for students. Given that, I’m wondering why I’m only now involved in a global collaborative project.  Some of you may have guessed already.  Lack of a ‘working’  PLN.   I hadn’t previously taken PLNs and social network sites seriously nor realised their potential.  Thanks COETAIL & Twitter.  I’ve seen the light.

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This current project has really inspired me to learn more about global collaborative projects.  As a participator I’m going through step by step just following the prompts and any directions given. But I’m also really paying attention to processes and structures that support these projects.  It all starts with small steps and I feel like Course 1 is a series of small steps in the direction I want to go with respect to the use of technology in teaching and learning.

Designing my own GCP is on my to-do list, and quite near the top.  Thanks to Kim Cofino for the useful step by step guide.  That really helped me; especially to see the process framed through the lens of UbD – Backwards By Design, as that is very familiar to me.  I’ve got tons of ideas for projects centered around our PYP units of inquiry and literacy units.  I can’t wait to engage with those around me including my grade level colleagues, and tech coordinators both as supporters and contributors. The more I read the more excited I become, and the more ideas for projects I get.  Being intentional is important to me so I appreciated the laid out plans suggested by Kim Cofino to ensure alignment of teaching objectives, the place of assessment and how it fits into the purpose of the project.  It’s my normal style to make sure everything has been planned, cross referenced and aligned especially when embarking on something new.  This is great practice, but on the down side it sometimes takes a long time to get new things started.  I learned a few years ago that sometimes you have to dive into new things with a few question marks and uncertainties lurking around.  For example, when I shifted to my current school all students were expected to own, contribute to, and manage an ePortfolio.  I wasn’t new to using portfolios as a tool for students to reflect on work, track growth, or showcase specific work; just the electronic medium part was new.  Initially I found myself stuck: new school, new class, new portfolios.  After a couple of weeks of grappling with it, I just decided to block a regular time on the schedule, list a few criteria (when, what…) and jump in with the students and figure it out. And we did.  My point is sometimes it is okay to get the feet week and jump in.  There are safety nets.  That’s real life.  Sometimes you don’t have all the answers or information and you learn to problem solve in areas of uncertainty.  It’s good for students to do that too with the safety and support of the teacher and their learning environment.

The Flying Trapeze - Amusement Park

Photo Credit: Robin Kanouse – https://www.flickr.com/photos/15327252@N00/4341928156/”>Rockin Robin</a> via <a href=”https://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a

As my experience with using social networks grow, I’m beginning to understand that such networks can powerfully contribute to my own professional development and to the learning of students.  I no longer have to wait for the yearly conference or workshops or wonder if the PD budget will stretch to another course.  There is literally people, ideas, and information right at my finger tips.

LegoTeamMe with my PLN

Here’s a quote that I like to keep close in my mind.  While maybe not written with our technological decisions in mind, I like to use it in most aspects of my life and given the changing nature of our learning landscapes I think it fits well:

“When you are faced with decision, make that decision as wisely as possible, then forget it. The moment of absolute certainty never arrives.”  From the poem:  Live each day to the fullest by S. H. Payer

So readers, what’s your next step for GCP?  Ideas, thoughts?

Same, but different

A major goal for me over the past two weeks has been to build routines and habits around the use of digital tools (Twitter, Flipboard, Feedly) with the purpose of getting informed and connected.  I knew early on that this would be important for me if I wanted to maximise my growth from this course, and to internalise new practices and for these new practices to continue in my life after the course has finished.  It has become my habit to flip through Flipboard, Twitter and Feedly on the commute home each day.  I look forward to skimming over the ‘cover stories’ and seeing what catches my eye; reading some articles in depth and scanning others; scrolling through the twitter feed, and in some cases exploring the links to more information.

It was while I was out for my evening walk (the time away from iphone, ipad, and computer – the time when I start joining the dots with what’s happened in the classroom and what I’ve been reading and learning) that a realisation hit me.  That is:  forming routines and habits around information is not a new phenomena at all.  I thought back to my childhood and clearly remember dad coming home from work every night around 5:30.  His routine was to grab a drink and sit and read the town paper.  There was even a procedure about this.  Start with the headlines, sport section, weather, birth and death notices, and who’s selling what.  A little later it would be time for the 6:00 news – a chance to get the most up to date information on the headlines and of course more information about the weather.  The next morning, the radio would be on while we got ready for school/work and on in the car on the way to work; again more information.  Dad was staying informed and connected to his immediate world around him and beyond.  Seeing the parallels in my dad’s habit and my own felt reassuring.  But I also began to look closer at what’s changed?  What’s different?

What’s changed is that information it is now a two-way process.  We can now participate in producing news and content; no longer only a consumer.  Another change is the volume of connections between the information, and people and the doors that open as a result.  It was on a ride home this week that a door opened as the most recent tweet caught my eye.

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Three words stood out:  globally collaborative project.  I’ve been looking for something meaningful,  that fits in with existing curricular objectives and suitable for my age group.  This ticked all the boxes.  I’m signed up for this project and excited to be starting.  But the aha moment was that this opportunity came as a result of a system and routine.  System:  Twitter – set up to follow people working in my profession and areas of interest.  And a new routine – reading Flipboard and Twitter on the way home .  Had this came out three weeks ago, I would’ve not seen it.  Had I not started a new routine with checking in to Twitter I would have missed it.  I did no go looking for it.  I did not spend hours searching the internet for such a project; it found me (with the help of the system and routine).  Now I see the potential in these social network sites.  A real purpose and reason for using them has formed.  And for any learner this is key.  It has to be relevant and meaningful and with purpose.

Twitter is still a little alien to me.  I’ve been browsing a lot not only to see who’s saying what, but to see how.  I’m still in the deconstruction phase of Twitter: meaning the phase of the learning cycle when students are considering “What is the social purpose of this genre?  Who uses it? and Why?  What are some of the language features?  What is the relationship between writer and reader?  I have tons of questions.  There are heaps of good resources to help, plus willing colleagues (@morzh @MumbaiMaggie) who answer my questions.

Same but different.  The new feels more comfortable when you can connect it to the old.