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March 19, 2012 Teaching Students About Their Digital Footprint (or How Do You Know This About Me?) By Jeremy Rinkel
Grades 9–12

    With the affordability and accessibility of mobile devices, teens can be “connected” most of their waking hours — and it seems my students are!  However, a lot of them do not understand the imprint they are creating with the pictures and messages they post to social networking sites.  Read on for four activities to teach your students about their digital footprint.




    Large Group Discussion

    The concept of the digital footprint was new to my students, so I took two days discussing what it is.  I also discussed how you can positively and negatively influence your digital footprint.  The Web sites below were very helpful as I planned what I wanted to cover with my students.


    • Koppel on Discovery: Koppel provides an interactive way to calculate the digital footpring you create in the course of your everyday activities. He also suggests ways to reduce your digital footprint.
    • The Digital Footprint Project: This Web site provides a basis studying the impact of your digital footprint. It provides links to articles about the creation of your digital footprint. 
    • The Digital Footprint Page at 21 Things for Students: This resource provides ways to positively impact your digital footprint through activities that the students complete.


    Small Group Discussion

    For this activity, I provided each group with a blog post or article from the following list to read and discuss:

    Each group answered these two questions:

    1. What is a digital footprint?
    1. What are some ways to negatively and positively impact your digital footprint?

    Each group was required to nominate a spokesperson to report their answers during the class discussion.


    Class Discussion and Bulletin Board

    During the class discussion, the spokespeople reported each group's answers to the above questions.  As each student presented, I took notes to assist the class in creating our class bulletin board.  I made suggestions on the bulletin board, but students designed the overall look of it.  The only requirements I had was that the board have a title and that each student be represented by two footprints, one discussing the positive impact and one discussing the negative impact that a digital footprint can have.

    You can download the "My Digital Footprint Student Handout" template from Common Sense Media.


    Social Networking Essay

    I also assigned students an essay specifically focusing on social networking. Students do not understand that their online life can paint a very vivid picture of who they are. Colleges and workplaces are researching their potential employees before admitting and hiring them. Your online social networks (Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, etc.) can negatively or positively impact your life. 

    Download my social networking essay assignment.


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Susan Cheyney