Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ideas for Making a Purposeful and Professional Digital Footprint

The Innovative Parent explains there are two different types of digital footprints: Active and Passive. Passive footprints are not created deliberately by the user such as information uploaded to the internet by way of companies providing public information. An active digital footprint is very different. It is the deliberate creation of this footprint. Facebook and MySpace are perfect examples of this. Bloggers also have active digital footprints as they write to share thoughts, ideas, photos, videos and more to carve out their prints.

In a recent post innovative educator Will Richardson shared a story about a teacher with a provocative active digital footprint. He quoted this from a Washington Post article on teachers with Facebook/MySpace sites:

Alina Espinosa, a teacher at Clopper Mill Elementary School in Montgomery, had written on her Facebook page in the “About Me” section: “I only have two feelings: hunger and lust. Also, I slept with a hooker. Be jealous. I like to go onto Jdate [an online dating service for Jewish people] and get straight guys to agree to sleep with me.”

Asked about the page, Espinosa said: “I never thought about parents and kids [seeing it] before. That’s all I’m going to say.”

This begs the question, how can innovative educators begin preparing students, parents, and colleagues to create a positive, appropriate, and respectable digital footprint if they themselves are unaware their digital footprint will be viewed by unintended audiences, and are unaware of, and not purposeful about, their own digital footprint? I have five ideas to enable innovative educators to begin developing and modeling the establishment of a responsible, respectable, and professional digital footprint.

Five ideas to enable educators to develop and model a purposeful and professional digital footprint.

1-Model responsible footprinting with your own practices in blogging, commenting, social networking, and picture posting.
2-If you have established a professional blog, share it widely and proudly such as placing it in your email signature (if your employer will let you) and as Jeff Utecht suggests include your blog url when you comment on others blogs and in other forums. This enables others to see best practices and is a great way to get the conversation started.
3-Google yourself (aka ego surfing). If you have something posted online that you'd be uncomfortable having a current or future student, parent, colleague, or employer find, delete it (if you can) or request that it be deleted. There are ways an aggressive internet detective can still find this information, but most won't go through the trouble and the mere fact that you deleted it shows some level of responsibility.
4-If you do have online personal information and/or interests you wouldn't want discovered, use an unidentifiable screen name/avatar. This means you may need to update your screen name/avatar in your existing online presence.
5-Engage in the conversation and professionally comment, reply, and present online, onsite, and at conferences.

Hopefully these ideas are helpful for some readers and I’d love to know others experiences with negative or positive repercussions from digital footprints. If this topic is of interest click the following links from a 20-something career expert who shares another perspective on why the lines between personal and professional lives should be blurred and why the whole idea of our lives being available for public display is actually pretty cool.


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Responsible digital footprints

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