Learning to Love Your Digital Footprint

What do universities, employers, and your girlfriend’s overprotective mother all have in common?  They all want to know you, without the messy and time-consuming business of actually meeting you.

Discussions around digital footprints tend to be, by and large, filled with gentle threats and dire (albeit kid-friendly) warnings.  I find this to be unnecessarily negative and reliant on a fear-based approach to convincing students to be conscious of the tracks they leave behind.  Even the term itself is negative–I’m reminded of national parks urging you to stay on the trail to avoid leaving a footprint!   It also has a vague implication that someone is going to stalk you, using your tracks in a menacing and involuntary way.  I believe we should avoid using fear as a motivator, and instead, focus on the positive side of a digital “impression”.  After all, as Tanya Leclair points out, “footprints imply you are going places”.

4382868610_15661c71d4 As we all know, modeling is one of the most important ways we can teach our students.  However, it seems that many teachers have adopted an ultra-conservative precautionary principle when it comes to their internet presence.  The thought of “It might make me look ___” seems to paralyze many, stopping them from making valuable connections or authoring content that the world might appreciate.  If the classic, “Google yourself” exercise is done by a teacher, I would hope that it would be immediately clear that this teacher has a well-established, professional (without being flat), interesting and <insert other positive adjective> result.  The lack of a negative digital footprint is not the same as the presence of a positive one.


I have always taken the opposite approach to my online presence, and I can credit my open attitude to my first days of the internet.  I was born in 1982, which put me in high school right during the explosion of the internet in the late 90’s.  Dial-up 14.4k modems, AOL, and ‘bulletin boards’ were my thing.   I learned to type (a skill I still consider totally undervalued and undertaught), I learned to connect with people via text-only, and I learned that the internet was a friendly place, most of the time.  I spent hours and hours posting on AOL’s reef aquarium forums, and I have very fond memories of the relationships I formed.

[On a side note, I am actually a bit disappointed that those ancient posts seem to have disappeared!  I spent the better part of 30 minutes trying every type of search I could, including the Way Back Machine–and nothing could be found! So much for the “anything you post never goes away” mantra]

Photo Credit: gerq via Compfight cc

As a result of COETAIL’s urging to expand my PLN, I have genuinely enjoyed the process of increasing my online presence and ‘personal branding’.  It has even provided inspiration to get my personal website up to shape, because maybe (just maybe!) someone might even visit it.  Twitter has been the greatest addition to my networking abilities since email, and I am even using one of my least favorite site’s (LinkedIn) chemistry education communities–though I must admit, I still adore my NSTA listserve the most!  Buoyed by the positive experiences I’ve had here, I’ve dipped a toe into the once-intimidating Google Group “Chem-Ed”, which is more aimed at university professors.  The point is–assuming you are a reasonable, decent human being (as most teachers are!), leaving a positive digital footprint is actually really easy to do, and you should stop worrying about it and just get out there.

I’m worried we may go a bit overboard in cautioning our students about the possibility of their digital footprint being used against them.  Instead of focusing on terms like “embarrassing”, “permanent” and “derogatory”, we should re-tool our digital footprint lessons to include “showcase”, “active” and “first impression”.  If we want our students to be proactive about actually establishing a positive online presence, we need to do lead the way, and we should lead with the carrot rather than the stick.

You may also like...

21 Responses

  1. “I’m worried we may go a bit overboard in cautioning our students about the possibility of their digital footprint being used against them. Instead of focusing on terms like “embarrassing”, “permanent” and “derogatory”, we should re-tool our digital footprint lessons to include “showcase”, “active” and “first impression”. If we want our students to be proactive about actually establishing a positive online presence, we need to do lead the way, and we should lead with the carrot rather than the stick.”

    That’s very well put, Ryan. It’s all too easy to start with the scare tactics and work our ways to the positives later on.

    Having student blogs or eportfolios in order to showcase their work is an excellent way to get started with authoring original content and being masters of their own footprints. Just wondering, does your school do these?

  2. Ryan Lenz says:

    Hi Brandon–our school “sort of” has these. They aren’t instituted school-wide, but are slowly being introduced in somewhat piece-meal way. For example, our grade 9 students are all writing blogs on a once-per-10-day-cycle, and I know that most of our art students document and reflect on their work using blogs. But as far as school-wide e-portofolios, no–JIS doesn’t currently require them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, soon, and I think the students would embrace them.

  3. Hey there are using WordPress for your site platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  4. Great article! This is the type of info that are supposed to be shared across the internet.

    Disgrace on the seek engines for not positioning this post upper!
    Come on over and talk over with my web site .
    Thank you =)

  5. What’s up, I check your blog on a regular basis.
    Your story-telling style is witty, keep it up!

  6. First off I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my
    thoughts out there. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first
    10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips?

  7. imvucheats says:

    Cheers, great stuff, I like.

  8. I have interest in this, cheers.

  9. Just wanna input on few general things, The website layout is perfect, the articles is very superb : D.

  10. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Genuinely rarely should i encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you may have hit the nail about the head. Your idea is outstanding; the problem is an element that insufficient persons are speaking intelligently about. I am delighted we came across this during my look for something with this.

  11. Connectivity is must if you doing your work on more than ten system you can always see that what type of work should be doing and the work was properly going or not.

  12. In all the aspects, technology plays a fantastic role and we can not ignore it. The post related the identifications from footprint and research about that totally the blessing of technologies. You have shared really a very nice an attractive piece of content, like to read it.

  13. Chole Smith says:

    Hey I am professional writer at Sample Assignment.

    The assignment help that they delivered was just flawless. I have also contacted their experts for law assignment help that was delivered before the deadline. Their 100% plagiarism-free work and the professional team of experts is what makes them unique. Also, the way how they catered to my urgency level brings me back to them for more and more Online assignment help.

  14. I am in digital marketing since the start and I know digital marketing is a very vast field Where I learn a lot of things from my senior and still learning it’s a very interesting job.

  15. Masud Rana says:

    The madness that is the masculine basketball tournament of the 2019 march madness is scheduled to take a turn for the worse. Even if you have cut the pay TV cable, there are many ways to get broadcast access to all the action.

  16. huciyasw says:

    The official March Madness broadcast is only available for desktop and laptop computers. watch march madness 2019 online free can be viewed for free, but Turner games are only available for temporary live video passes that expire after three hours. If you only want to transfer a game, this is still a good option. Once the pass expires, you will be asked to provide proof of subscription to the television service.

  17. when you get an issue with you website. dont’ be worry about it just contact see our site which provide the solution related to the website or any issue contact by email.

  18. Get all seo top submission sites. Her all top sites provide the on-page or off-page activities list and also discrible the seo tools which make your seo easier

  19. Click Start > Settings > Control Panel, double-click the Scanners and Cameras icon, and delete your scanner from the list of installed devices. Then uninstall andreinstall Epson Scan. See Uninstalling Your Scanning Software for instructions on uninstalling Epson scanner support.

  20. Network errors are usually caused due to poor connectivity to the internet. If you receive a network error, you can try to sync your session again by pressing “Retry”�. If network errors continue, make sure you are in a place with good WiFi reception, or that cellular data is enabled. common network problems

  21. SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines. Main helper visit Top OnPage Tools List 2019

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *