I’ve taught 7th and 8th graders about their digital footprint for years. In that time they have listened and not quite believed me, despite articles and demonstrations that I think clearly show that I know what I am talking about. Luckily, I teach in a student centered learning environment that encourages (ok, REQUIRES) us to continually check and adjust our teaching so it brings us the desired results.
Did my students do well on their assessments? Sure they did. And then they went right out and did the opposite on their own time. “This calls for a change in plan,” I thought. Clearly there was a disconnect between what I assumed I was teaching and what they were learning.
The idea of a digital footprint is pretty fuzzy when you are 13. After all, who sees what you post? Nobody but those 786 friends and followers, and they would never interpret a picture in a whole different way than my students intended it be seen. I finally came up with an idea to help shift their thinking.
My students ignore a lot of advertising but they LOVE commercials…especially those that are part of a campaign. They watch them on Youtube and talk about them regularly. I wondered if they understood that their digital footprint is actually an ongoing ad campaign that they are putting up about themselves. I decided to test it.
I started with this video made by Nike. It doesn’t have any words and it doesn’t advertise a particular product. It’s designed to invoke feelings, emotions, and perceptions- all important elements of a student’s online reputation. I used a microblog in Edmodo to allow students to write the words they thought of when watching the video. The answers were as varied as the students and gave them a good grasp of how visuals can influence how viewers make assumptions about a product- and how those assumptions can be very different from person to person. They quickly made the leap to understanding that when it comes to a digital footprint, THEY are the product that is being advertised.
Will it change their behavior? Time will tell. I am hopeful.