The Importance of Digital Identity

Photo Credit: jadepitre via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: jadepitre via Compfight cc

Since starting my ECMP 355 journey, I have been given much opportunity to reflect on my digital identity and the presence that I have created online. According to Binary Tattoo’s “About Us” page, digital identity is “the permanent collection of data about us that is available online.” Admittedly, when I hear the word permanent I start to get nervous. It can seem terrifying putting information out into the world knowing that it is there forever.

But why does it have to be terrifying? 

Prior to university, I did not give a lot of consideration to my digital identity. I used Facebook and Twitter, but had high privacy settings on both so that outsiders looking in could not get a glimpse into my life. While most of what I posted was fine, I remember attending a first year lecture and almost being made to feel guilty by the professor about having a presence online at all. I immediately went home and started deleting things from my Facebook and Twitter, and turned my privacy settings up as high as they could go. Deleting content that I would not want a future employer to see was necessary, but looking back I cannot help but wonder whether my own PLN could have grown more in my first few years of university had that professor worded his opinions a little differently. “Forget the resume: Online profiles the tool of young job seekers” explores the idea that resumes are being faded out of the employment process. More and more often, employers are seeking online portfolios to learn more about job candidates. Even if candidates do not have an online portfolio, it is better to have a positive digital presence that can show future employers your skills and accomplishments, rather than have no presence at all. Presently, I believe that I have a fairly strong, professional digital identity. When my name is googled (with the additions of either “Kenaston” or “Regina”), you will find my professional twitter, about.me page, blog, and various newspaper articles about my high school and internship extracurricular activities. While my first year professor may not agree, I believe that these are all things that I should take pride in and want others to see.

An article titled: “Digital Speaking/Positive Digital Footprints” raises some excellent points about digital literacy. The article discusses how while the scare tactics often used by people in positions of power when discussing digital literacy may encourage students to think before they post, these scare tactics also, whether inadvertently or not, discourage students from developing a digital identity at all. According to the article, scare tactics “prevent students from seeing digital footprints as potential tools for learning, finding like-minded peers, and building reputations as thoughtful contributors to meaningful digital conversations” (Ferriter, 2011). Thinking about one’s digital identity and its permanence does not have to bring up feelings of stress or nervousness.

So how do we teach our students about the importance of digital identity without scaring them away from having one? 

While I think that it is vital that students understand the importance of thinking before they post, I think we need to stray away from the thinking of “will this get me into trouble?” and move towards asking “can I take pride in what I have just posted?”Showing students examples of digital identities, teaching them how to use various social media platforms, and implementing technology into the learning process can provide students with a positive exposure to technology and social media. When a positive exposure to technology and social media happens at the school level, students are more likely to continue developing a digital identity that they can be proud of outside of school.

Has anyone broached the idea of digital identity and digital citizenship with their students? What kinds of projects, apps, etc. did you use to make students see the importance of creating a positive digital footprint?

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3 thoughts on “The Importance of Digital Identity

  1. kerriecraske says:

    Hi Ashton, great post on digital identity. I now remember my first year of University as well, where some profs made digital identity sound like such a negative thing. I really like how you stated that we should take pride in our digital identities; we should be proud of the educators we are becoming, and our digital profiles can display this if developed appropriately.
    I was in a community school during my internship with little technology; students had limited access to computers maybe 2-3 times a week. I wonder how we can teach digital citizenship to some students when the resources are not available. In internship, my class and I used KidBlog. Here they were taught to take pride in their work and build an online space where they could share their learnings with one another and parents.

    • Ashton Mills says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Kerrie! Little access to technology is definitely a bit of an issue when considering how to teach students about digital literacy. I think Twitter or blogs like you mentioned are great ways to get students involved even if little technology is available. For example, the teacher could bring up the class Twitter page from his or her computer onto the Smartboard or projector, and as a group the students could give suggestions for what they should tweet and what is appropriate or not appropriate. While the students are not each using their own device or contributing independently, they are still learning about the importance of having a positive presence online and taking pride in their thoughts and actions.

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