Digital Footprint

DigitalFootprintButtonWhat do we mean by digital footprint?

Your digital footprint is how online activity affects your reputation, positively and/or negatively. Your digital footprint is influenced by:

  • What you say about yourself and how you say it, on websites, in social media, and in online commentary
  • What others say about you online, and how they say it
  • Data embedded in your online interactions (i.e., how social media sites track interactions and relationships)
  • Other online activities, including searching, shopping and other forms of commerce

Why is it important?

Online activity is an integral part of our lives. What we do and say online influences our reputation. We all have a digital footprint. The implications for reputation management, privacy, and security are significant. Understanding how our digital footprint is created, DigitalFootprint_penbentleywhat we can do to enhance our reputation and protect our own privacy are fundamental civil skills.

Our involvement in life activities enhances and enriches our lives, offline and online. Maintaining a rich and positive digital footprint is becoming an increasingly important part of our work and social lives. The sophisticated means through which social and commercial websites use data about us can enhance our online experience – helping us connect with friends and colleagues, and personally customizing our shopping experiences, for example. Having a strong and positive digital reputation can enhance our employability.

A negative digital footprint can have a very negative impact on our lives, whether that is self-created, our worse, influenced by the negative comments and activities of others. Maintaining a positive digital footprint means not only using good judgement about what we post online, but knowing how to protect our privacy, and developing tactics for dealing with potential negative situations.

The adage, “what goes online, stays online” has an element of truth. But the good news is that positive activities can generally outshine negative activities, when we, as digital citizens, understand how to manage our own online reputations.

What do I, as a teacher, need to know and be able to do?

Leveraging my own digital footprint:

  • Understand and manage my personal and professional online activities, in order to create and maintain a positive digital footprint.
  • Own my digital footprint. What comes up if I Google myself?
  • Take actions to create a positive profile. Ideas to consider:
    • Create a professional profile in LinkedIn
    • Use Twitter to extend your professional learning network
    • Review the privacy settings in your online communities. Celebrate what you want as public, and protect what you want as private

Understanding the implications of digital footprint in teaching practice:

  • Understand and manage my classroom online activities, empowering students to manage their own digital footprints, while still appropriately protecting students’ privacy and safety
  • Understand what parts of your students’ online work can and should be public and accessible, and what parts should remain in a closed community
  • Know and abide by your school and district policies and guidelines
  • Be familiar with guidelines from professional organizations, like the Ontario College of Teachers and teachers’ federations

How do I use an inquiry approach to help my students develop knowledge and skills?

Understanding the concept of digital footprint is best learned through exploration and experience. Digital citizenship is best understood when strongly connected to character education, civics, and learning skills.

Inquiry Activities

  • Explore what is involved when setting up classroom or individual online spaces (ie, blogs, Twitter accounts, wikis, Facebook groups etc.), have students explore the various options for publishing and commenting (open to the world, only open to community members, etc.) and develop the pros and cons for each option. Have them develop the criteria and assess which approach is the most powerful for their learning. Help students understand applicable rules / guidelines as appropriate.
  • Have students explore the differences between your personal online presence and your school online presence? When should I use my own identity and when should I protect my own identity? Should my behaviour online under a pseudonym differ from my behaviour when I can be identified? Are you really anonymous when you think you’re anonymous?
  • Have students explore their own digital footprint. What did they find? Were there any items that were surprising?

Best on the Web

Your Digital Presence: Resources and tools from to support digital life skills

My Digital Footprint: Blog from Tony Fish

Teaching Students about Digital Footprint, from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

Build a positive digital footprint 3 from margdonam

5 Ways to Make a Positive Digital Footprint:

From Education Society (Canada)

Videos from Commonsense Media:

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning: 6 Clever Ways to Monitor Your Digital Footprint