Living in a digital landscape

In the book A New Culture of Learning, John Sely-Brown and Douglas Thomas describe an exciting era in the technology age of living and learning. It is inhabited by connected people. People drawn together by interests and a common focus. ‘Collectives’ they say:

learn through their interaction and participation with one another in fluid relationships that are the result of shared interests and opportunities.

That’s the positive side of living now. A whole new world of connections and learning; peer-to-peer, finding mentors and joining ‘collectives’. I particularly like that they stress interaction and participation, along with these, I think confidence and resourcefulness are also necessary to navigate in this landscape. I was reminded of this recently when I heard about the following situation.

A student discovered they had been named in a public post describing them as being involved in unsavory activities. Real or completely fabricated, the post was damaging to have out there connected with their name. A major digital footprint compromise!


Managing your digital identity means being proactive and a positive contributor to it in the digital landscape.

Disconnecting or double checking your privacy settings wouldn’t help in situations like this. The student didn’t post it – it was done ‘to’ them.

We need a two pronged approach to preparing students for digital life. Both require them to be proactive. First, we want our students to know what to do when something like this happens to them or their friends – and be confident to act (not react! No posting to even the score – it just adds to the mess.) Knowing where to go to lodge a complaint on Twitter, Facebook or other social networking sites is being resourceful and helps them to manage their digital identity in a positive way. (We recently sent out an update to our high-school students about how to do this.)

Second, encouraging and enabling students to be positive contributors to their own footprint builds a robust identity. By publishing their best work, ideas and perspectives they will build a positive digital presence. Then, in a Google search, they will be revealed for their many postings as the creative global young people that they would want family, friends, and potential colleges or employers to see them as.

Global citizenship is a big topic and one that we need to keep on the front burner. (‘Bystander behavior’ is another area that needs work.)

The underlying theme in all this for me is encouraging students to be thoughtful and proactive in both the real & digital landscape.

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