Digital Footprints: Great Learning, Indeed!


CC image courtesy johnnyberg

Once again, I found myself at an intersection between my learning (formal) and my professional practice. This session, in both of my own courses (in which I am enrolled) we examined our online or digital footprint. The digital footprint is defined as the “information left in cyberspace about someone (Ribble, eVersion, p. 29).I reflected on the why’s or why not’s as to how much or how little I engage and how I try to protect my online persona. This blog posting in my New Media course captures a great deal of how I feel in terms of digital communication, especially around the challenge of incorporating basic netiquette in our interactions. Read here and you will get a sense of the online me and how I am somewhat conflicted in what I disclose.

However, I strongly believe in the correlation between fundamental Netiquette as a practice and being a ‘good digital citizen’ (Ribble, 2011)  in the online world in which we are now living. We have been asked if we want a digital footprint. I believe that if we engage in any sort of dialogic online communication, it is inevitable. Ainslie (2009) does an excellent job of synthesizing the merits to educators of the value of staying engaged digitally in order to enhance personal, and therefore, student learning. He also gives excellent suggestions as to how to easily set up ways of monitoring our own digital footprint – something that I have not yet done (and find a wee bit daunting!)

Ribble (2011) states that all of us must learn and practice within the norms of the digital society (eVersion, p. 3). I agree. How then can we continue to promote the inherent advantages of managing our online presence? Once again this week, I was confronted with overt Facebook bullying between my (post-secondary) students. Of course, this engendered a multitude of feelings and conversation from all sides, without any judgments being applied.

To me, this is understanding the digital footprint in action. Our Netiquette readings this week (which BTW, should be required reading for anyone engaging in online interactions) ask us to “remember the human.” If we consider the impact on those around of us of what we say in person, then we should consider the impact of our digital interactions. We must also consider the impact on our own digital footprint when we engage in a way that may not represent us in the best possible light.

In a world where cyberbullying is receiving widespread attention and where misdeeds can be transmitted with the forwarding of a screen grab, or a Tweet or a smartphone photograph, maintaining a positive digital footprint should be something to which all of us ascribe.

Great learning and development for me, indeed!


4 thoughts on “Digital Footprints: Great Learning, Indeed!

  1. Digital Dave says:

    “Remember the human” – thanks for bringing that up again as I had completely forgotten about it already (I’m clearly reading too much and retaining too little).

    You mention that anyone who engages in online communication leaves a digital footprint, and that’s true. But even if we don’t use computers or smart phones, other agencies do keep records on us – our doctor, the government, banks and credit card companies, car dealerships, schools, etc. In our part of the world, is it possible to escape having a digital footprint in “the onlilne world in which we are now living”?

    • afcallaghan says:

      Hi Dave – interesting point as to whether we can truly escape a digital footprint. In my mind (and I could definitely be oversimplifying), while virtually all of our information is logged in some form of digital archive, there is still some that I am tacitly approving for dissemination. My blogs (2 which I cannot believe I have!- my Twitter account – also course related, and any SlideRocket content that I publish are all things that I can control. All of these disclose bits and pieces of information, leave a trail that could be followed, and open me to comments that may be unwanted or intensely interesting. In fact, I am frequently appalled at the content of some of the comments made by readers of news blogs and sites and wonder if the perception of anonymity lends courage to say something that would never be spoken to the human at which the remark is directed

      So truly, we can avoid any sort of social media connection at all, which minimizes our footprint. But like the video we watched on “Andy”, it may be a virtual impossibility to eliminate it completely.

  2. djainslie says:

    Thanks for the reference to my blog post on digital footprints. It is truly amazing to me that many still have a disconnect to their ‘digital self’. When I work with high school students many times I believe it is their ignorance that gets them in trouble most of the time. Ignorance about how they are perceived and about how permanent their remarks are. I loved your statement ‘remember the human’– and will use it next time I present to a group. Thanks again for your insight!

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