Meghan Douglas Dowling digital footprint


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  • Presented by Meghan Douglas-DowlingOur principal has asked me to speak at tonight’s meeting about our digital footprints, how we can best manage our own online reputation and our responsibility to educate our middle school students to do the same.
  • A digital footprint is all of the personal information that exists about an individual online. It can include personal data such as name, birthday, workplace, relationship status, banking or credit card details , and memberships and accounts with different organisations and websites. Increasingly, it also includes photographic, video or written content generated by or about a given person on social networking sites, blog posts, forum comments, and collections of resources, such as diigo or livebinder accounts (“Cybersmart - digital reputation,” 2011, para. 3).  All of these pieces of available data combine to create an image that reflects the online identity or reputation of the individual in question. If managed proactively, a digital footprint is a way of representing oneself positively, including one’s beliefs and passions, online (Nielson, 2011, para. 1). This need for active ownership of our online identities is made more pressing by the ubiquity of technology in our world. Many of us, particularly our students, are almost constantly connected to others through various devices and social networks (James et al., 2010, p 237). This amplifies the need to take ownership of,and responsibility for, the image that is being projected to known and unknown audiences.
  • Photo Attributioncc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Sean MacEntee: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Whiskeygonebad: licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Patrick Q: licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by deflam: licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by deflam: licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by SuziJane: licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by JRPhoto12: young people in our care, like the generations before them, are undertaking “the major task of adolescence”, identity formation. They are forming their identities through experimentation, while exploring and challenging the values, norms and expectations of our society. This is an inherently social undertaking, in the sense that our young people seek and receive feedback from others in their community on their fledgling identities, beliefs and values (James et al., 2010, p 230).  Today’s youth are doing this not only in the physical world, as we all did before them, but online as well. Arguably, these online communities are places that fosteridentity development by encouraging self expression, self reflection and peer feedback (ibid, p 242). However, the difference from previous generations is that our students are forming their identities online amidst what James et al. describe as a “culture of disclosure” (ibid, p 237). Encouraged or emboldened by the (partial) anonymity provided, they are ‘oversharing’ without a sophisticated understanding of the permanence and searchability of the data provided, nor of the long term ramifications of forgoing privacy.
  • boyd (sic) (2007, in James et al., 2010, p 239) identifies four ways in which this new medium can have long term effects for users: persistence, searchability, replicability, and invisible audiences. Our students need to understand that what’s posted online continues to exist indefinitely. It is permanent and even if we select certain privacy settings, or close down accounts, the information we post continues to exist and, in many cases, becomes “owned” by the site we post it to, meaning it can resurface in the future or in unexpected contexts. Furthermore, despite the abundance of information online, it remains very searchable and easy to obtain by anyone with an internet connection and basic search skills. Information posted online is replicable. It can be reproduced and shared rapidly and easily, making it difficult to remove or conceal information. Finally, the internet is a public space and the audience is not just who we envisage accessing our data, but potentially any person in the world. These unintended viewers are often called the invisible audience. Naivety about privacy is a dangerous trap. By assuming that unwanted visitors will not search for or view ‘private’ information online, we shift the onus for appropriate management of online data to the viewer, a member of the invisible audience, a personwith unknown intentions and values, rather than the creator, ourselves (James et al., 2010, p 241).
  • Information online can cause others to question our integrity or judgement, particularly when taken without context by unintended audiences (Harris, 2010, p 77). O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson (2011) identify that adolescents’ “limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure” put them particularly at risk. In addition, they identify that offline social behaviours common to teenagers now manifest online as well. This includes bullying and sexual experimentation (p 800).  Adolescents who are not aware of privacy issues may post inappropriate pictures, messages, videos or other personal information without considering the ongoing ramifications (McBride, 2011, p 498). Recently, 24 year old Australian au pair Sammi Strange made headlines in Australia and the UK. After she was hired as an au pair by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, a tabloid explored her background. At 19 she had completed a survey on a social networking site in which she flippantly admitted to drinking, shoplifting, smoking and swearing. Her actions have brought widespread condemnation from the British public and caused embarrassment to her family and employers, as well as to Samantha herself (Levy, 2012). It is safe to assume that she did not foresee the consequences when she took the survey five years ago. Similarly, our students may not foresee the consequences for themselves or others of uploading photos of an unsupervised party to Facebook, sexting their current boy or girlfriend, posting a rant on their blog, or responding on sites such as Rate My Teacher or Hot or Not.
  • These hypothetical scenarios will sound familiar to many people in the room. The solution, however, is not to engage in ‘technopanic’ or refusing to engage in online communities. The internet and social networking are strongly embedded in our society, even more so for young adults. As our own school ICT policy recognises, merely blocking these sites at school is not an effective solution because our students (and we ourselves) will continue to engage with this world, outside of school hours or, increasingly, within school hours on our other devices. Furthermore, the online world can be a place of great self development for adolescents, providing a forum for socialisation, communication, access to information, and enhanced learning opportunities (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011, p 801). It can be a place to document accomplishments, share successes and foster self-expression ("Reputation —iKeepSafe", 2011, para. 5).  We therefore need to equip students and ourselves to understand, navigate and craft our digital reputations, ensuring that we are active participants in shaping our online identity, rather than passively allowing others to shape it for us. Since being a responsible member of a community does not mean being invisible or undetectable in that community, I will discuss some strategies for helping our students and ourselves to forge a positive, proactive online presence.
  • As significant adults in the lives of our students, we have a duty to help guide them into becoming well informed and responsible digital citizens. The first strategy I will implement is digital citizenship education, to be incorporated into the term three welfare program.  Our students already engage in some protective strategies, including the use of privacy settings; selectively disclosing and withholding particular personal information; having different personas for different audiences; and sometimes using deception to camouflage private information (James et al., 2010, p 240). This is not consistent, however, and in some cases is problematic. Using deception as a strategy, for example, encourages a culture of dishonesty on the internet and is not a responsible form of citizenship (ibid, p 245).  I will be working with welfare leaders at each year level to design age appropriate programs for students introducing them to the key elements of digital citizenship. We will be making use of ‘Cybersmart’, a cybersafety education program managed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. They have compiled a rich collection of lesson plans and resources that are appropriate for students and their parents as well as professional development tools for school staff.
  • The second strategy that I will be encouraging staff to implement is modeling the creation of a positive digital footprint. This is a useful professional development tool for staff, as well as a pragmatic way of teaching students how to control their image online. In her blog post ‘Controlling your digital identity is as easy as 1-2-3’, Nielson (2010) outlines a range of strategies that are relatively simple to implement. Suggestions include establishing a wiki or a blog that covers topics of interest to you personally or professionally, going public with your twitter account, commenting on blogs and discussion forums in a way that reflects your passions and beliefs, and for the more advanced, she suggests unifying your web presence using a site such as We will dedicate a portion of next month’s professional development day to upskilling all teachers so they are able to fully participate in this plan.  
  • The young people in our care, who on the whole have quite large digital footprints, need guidance and skills to help them navigate the online world. I ask you to reflect on the following questions and ask them of your students in your welfare group time: Are you proud of the way you are represented online?Who has control over your online reputation? What do you need to learn in order to take control of your digital footprint?In conclusion, I hope that you go home tonight and consider the mark that you have left in the digital world. Is it positive, negative or non-existent? How does this reflect on you as an educator and as a member of our community? I also encourage you to pose these three questions to your homeroom tomorrow morning. In turn, I will run the professional development program and assist with the planning necessary to help you implement the strategies I’ve outlined. Thank you.
  • Reference List   Childnet International. (n.d.). Digizen - Home. Digizen. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). (n.d.). Cybersmart - Internet and mobile safety advice and activities . Cybersmart - Internet and mobile safety advice and activities . Retrieved April 19, 2012, from Cybersmart - Digital reputation . (2011, June 2). Cybersmart - Internet and mobile safety advice and activities . Retrieved April 22, 2012, from Harris, F. (2010). Teens and privacy: myths and realities. Knowledge Quest, 39(1), 74-79.  James, C., Davis, K., Flores, A., Francis, J. M., Pettingill, L., Rundle, M., & Gardner, H. (2010). Young people, ethics, and the new digital media. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, 2(2), 215-284., M. (2012, April 27). The nanny named Sam: Melbourne backpacker cops it after landing plum job with British PM. The Age. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from, D. (1996). Risks and Benefits of Social Media for Children and Adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 26(5), 498-499. Nielson, L. (2010, July 18). The Innovative Educator: Controlling your digital identity is as easy as 1-2-3 [blog post]. The Innovative Educator. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from Nielson, L. (2011, August 19). The Innovative Educator: Discover what your digital footprint says about you [blog post]. The Innovative Educator. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from O’Keeffe, G.S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800-804.  Reputation —iKeepSafe. (2011). iKeepSafe. Retrieved April 22, 2012, from 
  • Meghan Douglas Dowling digital footprint

    1. 1. What have you left behind? cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Jordan Brock:
    2. 2. How doyouspendyour timeonline?
    3. 3. Identity Formation All photos are attributed in the notes section of this slide
    4. 4. persistence / cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by The Pug Father: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Asha ten Broeke: audiences cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by josquin2000:
    5. 5. Negativeimplications
    6. 6. Navigate, craft and manage our onlinereputations cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Calsidyrose:
    7. 7. Strategy one: teaching digital citizenship as part of our welfare program accountability privacy education Digital citizenship
    8. 8. Strategy two: modeling responsibledigital citizenship through the proactivemanagement of your digital footprint cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by krismc2011: licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Old Shoe Woman:
    9. 9. Are you proud of the way you arerepresented online?Who has control over your onlinereputation?What do you need to learn in orderto take control of your digitalfootprint?
    10. 10. Digital Citizenship Resources ReadingJames, C., Davis, K., Flores, A., Francis, J. M., Pettingill, L., Rundle, M., & Gardner, H. (2010). Youngpeople, ethics, and the new digital media. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, 2(2), 215-284.Nielson, L. (2010, July 18). The Innovative Educator: Controlling your digital identity is as easy as 1-2-3 [blog post]. The Innovative Educator. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from, L. (2011, August 19). The Innovative Educator: Discover what your digital footprint saysabout you [blog post]. The Innovative Educator. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from