Technology, PLN’s, and Digital Footprints Oh My!
My last post discussed the importance of creating and using a Personal Learning Network (PLN). To review, PLN’s are important because they help us engage in professional learning that we can guide. This learning also enables us to go beyond the usual restrictions imposed by geography and time schedules. All this being said, the technology we use (Twitter, Google+, Blogs, etc.), the trail they leave, and the PLN’s themselves can be a bit overwhelming.
By trail, I am referring to the concept of a digital footprint. There are actually two terms that apply here. There is the digital footprint, but there is also the digital shadow. Your digital footprint is everything you put on the web intentionally whereas your digital shadow is the stuff that appears on the web by other means (Goodier & Czerniewicz, 2012). Someone mentioning you in a post would be an example of a digital shadow. It may not be something bad, but you may also not be aware of it. The digital footprint and shadow are part of the intimidation factor. Many beginning of the year faculty meetings start with a warning about the dangers of social media. There are nightmarish stories about educators who either posted about themselves (footprint) or were posted about (shadow) in a less than professional light on social media. However, I would argue that this is another reason to use PLN’s.
One aspect of 21st century skills is digital citizenship. Digital citizenship relates to the appropriate and responsible use of technology (Trilling & Fadel, 2012). As educators, we are supposed to be able to “advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical” use of technology (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008, p. 2). When we use technologies like the ones commonly used for PLN’s we are also mastering the digital citizenship skills that we must model and teach to our students. The examples we are warned about in faculty meetings are just some of the things we need to teach students how to avoid. It is important to remember that knowing how to use technology is not the same as knowing how to use it appropriately and responsibly. This applies to all grade levels (and ages for that matter).
Goodier, S. & Czerniewicz, L. (2012). Academics online presence: A four-step guide to taking control of your visibility.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National educational technology standards for teachers (Educational Standards). Retrieved from iste: http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-administrators
Trilling, B., & Fadel, C. (2012). 21st century skills: Learning for life in our times. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.