Teaching Children About Digital Footprints

As we have introduced a 1:1 netbook program in grade four at my school, we are focussing on helping the students learn how to use their new devices to their full potential.

We have been doing some work on internet safety, and this week have been looking at digital footprints.

Not one of the 54 students in my double class knew what the term meant before we delved deeper.

Wikipedia describes a digital footprint as:

“…a trail left by interactions in a digital environment; including the use of TV, mobile phone, the internet and other devices and sensors.”

Unfortunately, I’ve come across a number of resources which only focus on the negatives of digital footprints and promote a culture of fear.

The message I like to promote is that we should protect our digital footprints and try to ensure that they are positive. Encouraging students to avoid posting or doing anything online just seems counter productive.

I’ve often wondered if having no digital footprint at all is almost as bad as having a negative one. This is something Chris Betcher has written about before.

Four years ago Chris said:

“I can see a day in the not too distant future … where your ‘digital footprint’ will carry far more weight than anything you might include in a resume or CV.”

Perhaps that day has come?

***

Alarmingly, even government sites like the Victorian Better Health channel begins their article on internet safety with a scary image of the term digital footprint:

“The Internet can be a dangerous place for the unwary, particularly children. A person’s ‘digital footprint’ can be as easy to follow as their real footprints.

I’m not denying that the internet can be a dangerous place, but so can the street. The internet can also be a wonderful place and this shouldn’t be forgotten.

I think it’s important to ensure a balance by teaching about the dangers of a negative or revealing digital footprint, while also promoting the benefits of a positive digital footprint.

The Age of Candid Camera

I’m sure I’m not the only one who cringes when I see teachers creating digital footprints that could be harmful to their own reputation (eg. on Facebook). Perhaps underestimating the public nature of the internet is a widespread problem.

Another scenario that I’ve observed fairly regularly is teachers not having a digital footprint at all. These issues are worrisome to me when thinking about the need for digital footprints to be discussed in classrooms.

If this article is to be believed, 92% of children under two already have a digital footprint. I think this shows how important education around digital footprints is.

So what do students need to know about digital footprints?

  • the internet is a public space with a large audience
  • digital footprints can be searched or shared
  • once online, things can be there forever
  • you should always think before you post online
  • you should keep certain personal details private
  • individuals can take control of their digital footprints
  • digital footprints can be helpful or harmful to reputations

Resources for teaching about digital footprints:

Do you have any thoughts on teaching about digital footprints?

Please leave a comment and share your advice, resources or thoughts!

Image attributions: The Age of Candid Camera; Footprints (by-nc-sa)

Internet Safety Posters

I recently wrote three posts around the issues of internet use and cyber safety.

10 Internet Safety Tips for Students

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents

I have transferred the information in these posts into a set of posters which might make a useful display or handout. Feel free to download or print them for your own educational use.

10 Internet SafetyTips for Students Poster November 2012

 

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers Poster November 2012

 

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents Poster November 2012

If you’re having trouble downloading the Scribd documents, you can find the PDF versions below.

10 Internet SafetyTips for Students Poster November 2012

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers Poster November 2012

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents Poster November 2012

Good luck!

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents

I recently published posts with 10 Internet Safety Tips for Students and 10 Internet Safety Tips for Teachers.

If parents, teachers and children can all work together to build a culture of safe and positive internet use, problems can be minimised.

Internet safety is a topic that should be regularly and authentically discussed in classrooms, staffrooms and homes.

Here are some key messages around internet safety that could help parents help their children.

In addition to following these tips, parents might want to install filters on their home computers.

1. Don’t let potential problems stop you from letting your child use technology for their education and personal interests.

2. Put computers in a communal area of the house and don’t allow portable internet devices (laptops, phones, tablets etc) in the bedroom.

3. Find out what your child is doing online. Talk to them regularly about what websites they visit and take the time sit with them as they use the internet. Make sure you’re familiar with how the sites that they visit work.

4. Encourage your child to tell you if they ever have a problem on the internet or if they’re ever unsure about anything. Reassure them that you won’t take away their connection to the internet if issues occur.

5. Remind your child to keep personal information private. YAPPY is a useful acronym to remind children of the personal information they should not share on public online spaces (blogs, forums etc.) – Your full name, address, phone number, passwords, your plans.

6. Remind your child that not everything on the internet is true and not all internet users tell the truth.

7. Don’t support your child to sign up for sites that are 13+ if they are under age (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc). Make sure your child sets their online accounts to private to limit access to people they know well (when they are old enough to sign up).

8. Encourage your child to balance their leisure time so they’re not spending all of their time online.

9. Create your own internet rules for your household and have your child agree to adhere to them.

10. Explore government resources for parents so you can educate yourself and protect your children on the Cybersmart website.

How to offer internet safety tips to parents is another question worth thinking about.

I am thinking of adding a page on my class blog with tips for families. Regularly publishing tips in the school newsletter could also be beneficial.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/44102337@N03/7882614208 Attribution: CC BY-NC 2.0

I am also considering inviting parents for a cyber safety afternoon early in the new school year. The event could involve children and parents learning about and discussing safe internet use together. Hopefully the lines of communication would then continue into the home environment.

What other internet safety tips for parents would you add? I’d love parents to share what advice they think is important.

How can schools pass on internet safety tips to parents?

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers

Last week I attended a presentation by former police officer and cyber safety expert, Susan McLean. There was a lot to think about at this session and I wrote a post with 10 Internet Safety Tips for Students. 

I do have some concerns about the way some teachers conduct themselves online and promote internet safety in the classroom.

I think it’s important that internet safety is regularly discussed amongst staff in schools. Technology moves so quickly and trends can change dramatically in the space of months.

Teachers who are not regular users of the internet, and even some who do use the internet extensively, don’t know what they don’t know.

Issues such as cyber bullying, sexting and internet addiction are only going to become more prominent as children’s access to technology continues to increase. It’s so important that teachers are equipped to teach about these issues as a preventative, and follow-up issues as they occur.

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 http://kexino.com/

Here are some key messages around internet safety and online conduct that I believe all teachers should be aware of.

Some of these ideas were gathered from Susan McLean’s session.

  1. Don’t allow possible problems with internet use stop you from making the most of technology both in your professional and personal life.
  2. If your employer has guidelines for internet use, be aware of them. DEECD employees should be familiar with Using Social Media: Guide for Department Employees. 
  3. Develop school internet use policies for your staff, students and families. Make sure all members of the school community are aware of your policies and guidelines.
  4. Teach your students about internet safety regularly and authentically. I have found blogging to be an excellent way to have an ongoing dialogue about these issues. Make the most of online resources such as the Australian government website, Cybersmart, and the US site, NetSmartz.
  5. Teach your students about basic internet safety tips. Students should also be taught about plagiarism, copyright, Creative Commons, search engines and effective research techniques. These are important areas for teachers and students to know about if they want to use the internet effectively and legally.
  6. Find out what your students do online when they’re outside of your classroom. If you’re not sure about the online spaces that your students and school community are using, take time to explore and find out how the various sites work.
  7. If students or parents approach you with issues regarding cyber bullying or safe internet use, it’s important to deal with them. Encourage your students to talk to you about any concerns they might be having with their internet use.
  8. Choose sensible names for your usernames, email addresses etc. Use strong passwords and change them a number of times a year. This Common Craft video provides an excellent explanation of secure passwords.
  9. Protect your digital reputation: don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your friends, family, colleagues and employers to see. Protect your personal social media or other internet accounts with privacy settings.
  10. Avoid adding students and parents as friends on personal social networks. I believe the exception would be if your account is purely professional. However, do not add children who are under 13 on social networks with age restrictions.

What other internet use tips for teachers would you add? I’m sure there are many more.

How does your school help equip teachers to deal with issues around internet safety?

10 Internet Safety Tips for Students

Last night I attended a presentation by former police officer and cyber safety expert, Susan McLean. She addressed many issues around internet safety, cyber bullying, sexting, problematic internet behaviour and digital reputation.

Attribution: non-commercial
www.flickr.com/photos/27340884@N07/2550793685

Internet safety is something I try to address frequently and authentically with my students. I have found education around this issue to be so important.

When students develop internet behaviours without guidance, problems are sure to occur. My hope is that teaching students some key messages from a young age will help them navigate their way safely through the internet as they grow older.

I have found blogging to be an excellent way to teach students about being responsible digital citizens and members of online communities. I have seen other tools such as Edmodo used to promote positive internet behaviours too.

Here are some key messages around internet safety that I believe all students should be aware of.

Most of these are tips I share with my students with some ideas from Susan McLean.

  1. Always ask an adult if you’re unsure of anything when you are online.
  2. Don’t sign up for sites that are 13+ if you are not old enough (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc).
  3. Remember YAPPY (the personal information you should not share online) – Your full name, address, phone number, passwords, your plans. 
  4. Don’t add people as online friends unless you know them in real life or have parent permission. Never arrange to meet an online friend without talking to a parent.
  5. Remember that you cannot believe everything you read on the internet and you can’t trust everything online friends tell you.
  6. Choose sensible names for usernames, email addresses etc. 
  7. Talk to your parents about what you’re doing online and let them know when you’re going on the internet.
  8. Know what cyber bullying is and tell someone if you think it’s happening to you. Cyber bullying is when someone picks on you, annoys, embarrasses, or threatens you over and over again using technology, such as the internet or a phone.
  9. Protect your digital footprint: don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want all your friends, family, teachers and future employers to see.
  10. Treat others online the way you’d like to be treated.

Find more great information about internet safety on the government website, Cybersmart.

Here is a great video with tips for students from CommonSenseMedia. I found it via Jenny Luca’s wonderful post on digital footprints.

What other internet safety tips would you add?

How do you teach internet safety in your classroom?

I plan to write about tips for teachers and parents in my next posts.

Blogging and the Ultranet

Note: this is not a critique of the Ultranet, rather it is advice on choosing the best platform for your students to get the most out of blogging.

Over the past few months I have been approached by countless teachers asking for help and advice with the same issue…

Their school leadership has told them to use the Ultranet for blogging rather than platforms such as Global2, Edublogs or Blogger and they don’t know what to do.

I believe this advice is fuelled by a lack of understanding of how the Ultranet works, how blogging works and what the benefits of blogging are.

People who are advising others to use the Ultranet to blog probably aren’t bloggers themselves and I am hoping this post can help them realise what teachers would be missing out on if they chose the Ultranet as their blogging platform.

As I highlighted in this post, there are many benefits of blogging, most of which cannot be achieved with a blog on the Ultranet.

What is the Ultranet?

For those readers outside of Victoria, the Ultranet is a multi-million dollar online portal released in 2010. The Ultranet is a state-wide, secure site that students, parents and teachers in government schools can access via the internet. A large number of security guidelines means that students and classes are very limited in who can view their Ultranet spaces and who they can connect with. The Ultranet has an application called a blog, however it has its limitations which I will discuss further.

What’s wrong with blogging on the Ultranet?

I like to call blogging on the Ultranet, “pretend blogging”. To me you may as well be writing a “blog” in a Word document or in an exercise book. The Ultranet is a closed space with limited features or audience.
My main issues with blogging on the Ultranet rather than on a regular blogging platform are lack of global connections, lack of classroom community, lack of authentic audience, lack of features and lack of opportunities to authentically teach about internet safety.

Lack of global audience

I have found the global audience to be one of the most exciting benefits of blogging. Real blogging can help flatten the classroom walls and the benefits of these connections are incomparable. A sense of understanding and tolerance develops and students learn a lot about the world in which they live. My class has connected with classes from all corners of the globe through our class blog and the learning has been priceless. A day doesn’t go by in our classroom where we don’t have some form of interaction with our global blogging buddies. This would not be possible with an Ultranet blog. There would be no chance of any visitors outside of Victoria seeing the “blog”.

Less sense of classroom community

A real sense of community has developed each year through my class blog. We have a class mascot, Leo the Lion, who features prominently on our blog and we have established a place in the global blogosphere. We could not have developed our identity with a blog that had no real audience. Our class blog is a place where students, parents, teachers and classes around the world come together and interact. They can learn about who we are and what we are up to while sharing their own experiences with us. With the restrictions placed on accessing the Ultranet, this would not be possible with an Ultranet blog.

Lack of authentic audience

In the traditional classroom, the only audience of student work was the teacher and sometimes classmates and parents. (Real) blogs provide a much larger audience for student work and an avenue for feedback and self-improvement through commenting. I have found students are more motivated by knowing they have a large and genuine audience for their work. The Ultranet does not provide much more of an audience for student work than traditionally existed when students did all their work in exercise books. How many people would be looking at a student or class Ultranet blog?

Lack of features

The aesthetics and features of Ultranet blogs are extremely basic which adds to my claim that Ultranet blogging is “pretend” blogging. There isn’t overly much you can do with your Ultranet blog. To provide just one example, we start each day looking at the Clustrmap of our global visitors on our class blog. This is such an authentic way to learn about maths and geography. There are no Clustrmaps or many of the other wonderful web 2.0 tools out there available for Ultranet blogs.

This image demonstrates the appearance of an Ultranet blog.

Blog Ultranet

Limited opportunities to discuss internet safety

Real blogs are on the internet for everyone to see. Through being heavily involved in blogging, my Grade Two class has opportunities almost every day to discuss cyber safety issues and appropriate online behaviours in an authentic setting. We establish blogging guidelines that help students understand how to behave safely online. With the Ultranet being so heavily protected, how can teachers and students have genuine discussions about how to connect safely with others and how to protect their identity?

Use your time wisely

Someone once pointed out to me that while they realise all these arguments are valid, teachers could use the Ultranet for blogging with a local audience and another platform for blogging with a global audience. My question is why? Blogging platforms such as Global2, Edublogs and Blogger are far superior and incomparable to what the Ultranet has to offer. They cater for local and global audiences while offering many other features and benefits. As a teacher, I don’t have time to dedicate to “pretend” blogging on the Ultranet as well as real blogging. Do you?

The Ultranet may have other valid uses in the classroom but to me, blogging isn’t one of them.

What do you think?

2011 School Year Begins

Today was the first day back at school for teachers in Victorian Government Schools.

All schools are spending the first three days on professional development and planning.

This year my school is focussing on in-house professional development. Each Monday night teachers will be presenting on Literacy, Numeracy and ICT. I am in charge of ICT professional development.

Last year, I set up a weekly lunch time ICT Drop in Session for teachers to assist them with blogging, IWBs and general ICT questions. I hope to continue with this this year to follow up on my Monday night sessions.

Today I presented to my staff about ICT. My guidelines were broad so I decided to offer my Top Ten Tips to Integrate Technology in the Classroom.

The ideas in the presentation are some of the areas that I will cover in PDs throughout the year. I knew not everything in the presentation would appeal to all teachers however I hoped there was something to inspire everyone.

The highlight of the presentation was skyping with the wonderful Linda Yollis in California, USA. Linda not only spoke about some of the ways she had used Skype in the classroom but demonstrated how Skype is actually used for those teachers who were unfamiliar with this tool.

How does your school structure professional development?

What are you focussing on at the start of the school year?

What would you include in your Top Ten Tips for Technology Integration?

Overcoming Obstacles

A few days ago I was honoured to be invited on the The Virtual Staffroom podcast. Chris Betcher interviewed Linda Yollis
and me about our classroom blogging and collaboration. Click here to find the podcast or look up “The Virtual Staffroom” in iTunes.

Virtual Staffroom

One of the topics that arose on the podcast was around getting more teachers involved in classroom blogging. In my last post, I highlighted some of the benefits my students and I have gained from having a class blog. If the advantages are clear, why aren’t more teachers using blogs?

Linda Yollis and I are both passionate about encouraging others to get involved in blogging. Often the problem doesn’t lie with starting the blog but maintaining it. I would love to know the percentage of blogs that become dormant within months of starting.

There are many issues that teachers have voiced as obstacles to starting or maintaining a blog, or using technologies in their classroom. I’d like to address a few “obstacles” here with an alternative viewpoint. Please comment with any other obstacles or solutions you’ve come across.

“I already do so much, I don’t have time for something extra.”

There is no denying that blogging (or integrating technologies) takes time. It is a different way of working for many teachers who have been using the same approach for years. If you want to make blogging a part of your classroom, you need to prioritise it. That may mean sacrificing things that were priorities in the past. For Linda, that was making attractive bulletin board displays or creating “paper based” projects for students.

While you will experience a steep learning curve at the beginning, it is worth sticking with it. When you get the hang of blogging or technology integration it is not an add on, it is a seamless way of working more effectively.

“I don’t have enough computers in my classroom.”

I have five (far from new) computers in my classroom and Linda has only two computers in her classroom. It is clear that we didn’t need a 1:1 laptop program or a computer lab to make blogging work for us.

You need to be creative and find out what works for you and your class. Perhaps you could use a projector or IWB to do whole class/small group work, or partner students up and have times when they can rotate their use of the computer.

Use what you’ve got to the best of your ability and you’re off to a great start!

“I want to blog with my class but my young students can’t type.”

The way I like to think of this is, are students going to get any better at typing by not blogging? I have found blogging is a great way to authentically teach keyboarding skills and is an avenue for regular practice.

Last year I was amazed at the progress many students made with their typing through incidental lessons, drill games and regular practice.

Some students are going to take longer than others to develop their keyboarding skills but even if they produce a one sentence comment, that’s a good start. Alternatively, I sometimes get the “better typists” help other students type their thoughts if we’re short on time.

“I’m concerned about internet safety. I don’t want to compromise my students’ safety.”

Internet safety is undoubtedly an important issue. There are many ways to teach about internet safety and in my own experience, blogging has been the ideal avenue to teach my young students about this topic and appropriate online behaviours. Click here to read about how I set up rules and guidelines for my class blog. These guidelines ensure safety is a priority.

Through blogging, all my students know not to publish their surnames or reveal other personal information about themselves including passwords. They know that what they publish on the internet is forever and cannot be taken back. My students are also becoming aware of correct netiquette.

Internet safety has to be taught and I have found it is best to approach the topic when students are young. It is important that we give our students experience using online technologies in a supervised environment. Technology is not going away. Internet safety will always be an issue. We need to address it.


In summary, it is clear that if you really want to  do something you will do it. Apparent obstacles will turn into opportunities for creativity and problem solving.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Can you think of any other obstacles that prevent teachers from blogging and using technologies in their classroom?

What other solutions can you come up with?

A Reflection on the Benefits of Classroom Blogging

I updated this post in March 2013. Click here to find the new post!

Most of you will know how passionate I am about blogging in the classroom. Since I started blogging with my students in 2008, I have come to realise how enormous the benefits are.

The diagram below summarises the most powerful benefits I’ve found from blogging:

  • Improved Literacy Skills: I wrote about the improvement in my students’ literacy skills in this post. Not only were skills improved, but engagement levels increased. Reluctant writers wanted to write for a purpose and students were using blogs to purposefully communicate and converse with others.
  • Authentic Audience: In the traditional classroom, the only audience of student work was the teacher and sometimes classmates and parents. Blogs provide a much larger audience for student work and an avenue for feedback and self-improvement through commenting.
  • Sense of Classroom Community: Creating a class blog requires teamwork and collaboration. Students and teachers learn and share their learning together. A real sense of classroom community can be developed through blogging and establishing a class identity.
  • Global Connections: I have found this to be one of the most exciting benefits of blogging. Blogging can help flatten the classroom walls and we have got to know many classes across five continents who we call our “blogging buddies”. The benefits of these connections are priceless. A sense of understanding and tolerance develops and students can learn a lot about the world in which they live. We’ve used blogs to undertake global collaborative projects such as Collaboration Corner and the Uganadan Global Project.
  • ICT Skills: Blogging assists students to become more ICT literate which is an important 21st century skill. Through blogging, we’re able to incidentally discuss many ICT skills such as keyboard shortcuts, researching online and troubleshooting.
  • Home- School Partnerships: I have received many comments from parents and families who love using the class blog as a “window into our classroom”. Through commenting, families can be a part of what is happening in our classroom and have real time access to their child’s education.
  • Appropriate Online Behaviours: Everyone will agree that teaching students to be safe online is an important issue. You can’t just do one off lessons on cyber safety. Cyber safety is not a separate subject. Through being heavily involved in blogging, my Grade Two class has opportunities almost every day to discuss cyber safety issues and appropriate online behaviours in an authentic setting.
  • Confidence: I have found that students really take pride in their work that goes on the blog and want to do their best for their impending audience. Students can gain self-confidence from being part of a class blog and demonstrating their achievements.

Overall, blogging is a platform for everything. It is a fantastic place to start for teachers and students who want to learn about technology. Additionally, there are so many wonderful Web 2.0 tools out there which have so much more value when you can embed them in a blog.

Have you witnessed any of these benefits in your classroom?

What other benefits can students and teachers get out of blogging?

Tech Tools for Teachers #22 PrimaryPad

Each week Simon Collier and I collaborate on an email newsletter for teachers called Tech Tools for Teachers. Click here to find an archive of past newsletters and to subscribe.

This week we review the site PrimaryPad

http://primarypad.com/

PrimaryPad  is a tool that allows students and teachers to collaborate on a word-processor style document. Despite the name, PrimaryPad could be used with both primary and secondary students.

primarypad

We like PrimaryPad because it:
* is free.
* doesn’t require users to sign up or log-in.
* is very easy to use. You can create a page in seconds.
* has a wide range of uses for all ages and curriculum areas.
* allows for collaboration across the class or globe.
* is secure – only people with the unique URL can enter a room.
* is ad-free.
* provides an authentic opportunities to discuss netiquette and cyber safety issues.

An example of how I used PrimaryPad in my Grade Two Classroom
Last week, I used PrimaryPad with a small group of students each day.
I wanted to use this tool, not only for the powerful collaboration opportunities it offers but to create an authentic opportunity to introduce my students to chat rooms and netiquette in a controlled environment.
For the task, there were six members of the room (including myself) each on individual computers. We first started by having a general online chat to get the students familiar with the tool. I had my students focus on
reading others’ messages, responding appropriately and remaining on-topic and polite.
With the first group, the chat led to a discussion of the school Festa that was held on the weekend and the group decided to use the collaborative space to create a top 10 list of the best aspects of the Festa. The chat feature of the tool was used to decide on what to put on the list.
The students got so much out of this session. Afterwards, we were able to reflect on how the students did with reading and responding to messages and we had a rich discussion about netiquette (ie. CAPTIALS means shouting, the importance of taking turns etc).

Other examples of how PrimaryPad could be used (note some ideas from http://www.ideastoinspire.co.uk/primarypad.htm)

* Import a document and students edit it collaboratively.
* Students write a story, movie/book review, essay or other text in small groups.
* Brainstorming in groups what students know about a new topic.
* Import an opinion piece and have students use the chat function to debate the topic.
* Make a chain story. One class starts a story, another class continues it and so on.
* At the end of a unit of work, students collaborate to document what they’ve learnt.
* Students help their peers to make their sentences more interesting.
* One child types a word in and other children try to list as many synonyms of it as possible.
* One child takes on the role of a person (e.g. Roman soldier, environmentalist, land developer etc.) who must answer questions posed by other children.

For more information about how to use PrimaryPad, download the PDF of this week’s Tech Tools for Teachers Newsletter Newsletter #22 PrimaryPad

Have you ever used PrimaryPad?

Do you know if any other tools like PrimaryPad?

How could you see this tool being useful in your classroom?

PrimaryPad is a web-based word processordesigned for schools that allows pupils

and teachers to work together in real-time.