Help learners build a positive digital footprint #IMMOOC

When it comes to discussing digital citizenship, this is a topic that I am quite passionate about teaching students. So I take my role very serious when it comes to creating an effective digital citizenship curriculum for my school. Through a variety of personal experiences, I understand the importance of having a positive digital footprint. During Monday’s Live YouTube Session with George Couros, Katie MartinJennifer Casa-Todd, there was a big discussion around using social media and helping students build a positive online presence. I found this to be very timely, as I have recently been having conversations with teachers about having more positive conversations with our students, instead of always telling them what they shouldn’t be doing online.

Here is an image I created to encourage our students to use social media as a powerful tool for their learning while creating a positive digital footprint.


Furthermore, the discussion about digital citizenship and social media usage on the #IMMOOC Twitter chat also caught the attention of Paul Davis, a very highly reputable speaker who travels across Canada and the US to educate students, teachers, parents, and law enforcement about being safe and smart online. He has a very powerful message to share with everyone, with presentations that are targeted to different age levels, leaving each audience member empowered after his presentation to make positive changes in how they continue to use technology and social media. If you haven’t had the privilege to have Paul Davis address your school community, I highly recommend contacting him. To learn more about his presentation at my school this past fall, please read my article, Keeping Kids Safe Online.

Thursday morning, I was honored to get a call from Paul Davis to further discuss some comments and questions that were posted on the #IMMOCC feed. We had a passionate discussion around the power of social media and its role in the classroom.

We both agreed that it is great and important that teachers want to introduce students to using social media to help them build their positive digital footprint; however, educators need to understand to successfully and effectively do this, that it involves effort and time. Educators need to invest time to understand how to keep their students safe by guiding them in an established and secure environment and need to invest the effort to properly set up the necessary parameters.

Paul Davis recommends that the best tool to do this with is Twitter. With his professional expertise, he believes it is the safest, easiest and least challenging tool to learn to use. In addition, unlike many other social media sites which state:

“You must be at least 13 years old to use the Service.” Instagram TOS 
“No individual under the age of thirteen (13) may use the Services” Tumblr TOS
“No one under 13 is allowed to create an account or use the Services” Snapchat TOS 

“You will not use Facebook if you are under 13” Facebook TOS

for residents outside of the US, there are no minimum age requirements for the usage of Twitter. And, for residents of the US, “you must be at least 13 years old to use the Services. [Unless] are accepting these Terms and using the Services on behalf of a company, organization, government, or other legal entity…” Twitter TOS. Therefore, making Twitter the ideal social media platform for an educator to use in their classroom, with a classroom account, with students under the age of 13.

Furthermore, Twitter’s platform allows educators to use protected Tweets to connect with other classrooms privately. Currently, with parent permission, our Kindergarten and Grade 1 classrooms are using protected Tweets, to connect globally with other children their age. Our grade 12s are using protected Tweets within the classroom to have discussions around their current topics of study in Social Studies. And one of my next steps in using social media in a positive way with my students in my Design & Innovation course is to create an opportunity that allows my students to connect with subject matter experts on Twitter to help them with their projects. (This is an idea inspired by the book Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level written by Don Wettrick.) 

Slowly introducing students to social media in the classroom, in a controlled environment, allows an educator to help lead by example and educate students on how to post and have conversations online. Beginning this at a young age will better prepare our students for when they are of the legal age. This way, when that time comes, they will be ready to begin building their positive digital footprint, sharing their voice and passions in a powerfully positive way, to create an accurate reflection of who they are, in a digital world.

Paul Davis also recommends encouraging students to create a blog, a similar idea to George Couros, who encourages students to create digital portfolios. A blog/portfolio really helps students share who they are, and allows any future employee, that conducts an online search on the individual, to get a more in-depth overview of them. I think of it as an online resume that accompanies the one- to two-page paper resume.

One last thing to consider, for those teaching in high school, is to help students build their LinkedIn profile before they graduate. According to LinkedIn’s TOSyou must be the “Minimum Age” (which means) (a) 18 years old for the People’s Republic of China, (b) 16 years old for the Netherlands, (c) 14 years old for the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia and South Korea, and (d) 13 years old for all other countries.”  So once students reach the minimum age, it is a great idea to introduce them to this tool.

In closing, to learn more about integrating social media, digital citizenship, and supporting your students in building their positive digital foot, check out what Jason Shaffer has done in his school, by reading Helping Students Develop Their Online Identity written by George Couros. Please also remember to invest time in creating a safe online environment for your students to learn in, lead by example, monitor your student’s participation, and last but not least, consider using Twitter as the social media platform you use in your classroom.

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