Final Project: Digital Footprint Detectives

For the final project for COETAIL Course 2, I worked with Jeff Wrensen and Mairin Raisdana on a Digital Footprint scavenger hunt / detective work. The plan is to help students see how “Everyone can mold their image online and should be aware of the message that it sends to the digital community.” To do that, the students will pick 3-4 people from this list and then try to research (some might say cyberstalk?) different facts about those people’s lives.

Some of the key questions that this activity will (hopefully) address include:

  • Does a person’s online footprint represent them?
  • How can we be aware of our online representation?
  • What things do we do that help to mold our digital footprints?
  • How might other people interpret our own digital footprints?

As students look at the people here and create characterizations of them, we will look at the implications for their own digital footprints.  I contributed an activity for older kids as well: Do the same activity but on another classmate selected at random.  Then see if you can identify which footprint is connected with which student in the class (teacher would act as a mediator to ensure that no inappropriate information came out).

Here is the full lesson plan that we developed:

Overall, I think it is a solid lesson plan and I’m going to look for ways to work it into our school’s digital citizenship curriculum. One aspect of it that I’m not totally satisfied with is that it does not give students very much room for choice in terms of who they want to research. To a certain extent, it also predetermines the conclusions that we want our students to come to, rather than having a more open scope that would allow them to truly draw their own conclusions. However, those considerations need to be weighed against possible risks if students were directed to choose their own target of research. What if a student picked another classmate, and then brought to the class’s attention embarrassing posts of that student? These are these sorts of problems that this activity seeks to minimize, yet if not directed properly it could actually aggravate those problems. For those reasons, I think that having this particular activity’s focus set more by the teacher is appropriate.