Managing your digital footprint

The definition of 'digital footprint' from Wikipedia: A digital footprint is the data trace or trail left by someone's activity in a digital environment. Digital footprints are the capture in an electronic fashion of memories and moments and are built from the interaction with TV, mobile phone, World Wide Web, internet, mobile web and other digital devices and sensors. http://

Technologies and the educator

There is no doubt that things have changed dramatically in all facets of education from kindergartens to universities as a result of the democratisation of technology. The technological revolution we have been through in my lifetime is enormous.

Take any piece of technology that you currently use, whether at home or in the classroom, and think about how it has changed. Think about how the camera has changed from the thing that you took on holidays to capture joyful moments, to the digital variety that can add so much depth to your blogs and classroom records.

I've recently written a few posts on my blog, You Are Never Alone ( that have asked readers to assess where they are in the digital world.

Toys to tools

In mid-December 2009 I asked, 'Are you ready for 2010?' I was commenting on an article in T.H.E. Journal which had listed five technologies to watch in the K-12 sphere in the coming year. I asked 'Have you played with these yet?' and then listed e-books, netbooks, interactive whiteboards and personal devices such as iPods and mobile phones.

In November 2009 I presented a session at E-Dayz09 ( called 'From Toy to Tool'. One of the things that I wanted to talk about was how often there is a delay between the appearance of a new gadget in the marketplace and the utilisation of it in our own teaching and learning.

Most of us feel that first of all we need to get a good grasp of how to use the gadget, then we need to assess its educational potential, and then we need time to work out how to unleash that potential into our classroom pedagogy. That all takes time, and if we then add system-wide implementation into the mix, what can be a matter of months may become years. Sometimes, that delay is too great and by the time the tool makes it into our classroom, our students think it is 'old hat'.

For that session I took in some gadgets that have become almost indispensable parts of my life in the last 12 months:

  • my mobile phone which is just a rather ordinary Nokia
  • my Dell mini 9" computer which is one of my 'must pack' items whenever I am travelling (it helps keep me connected)
  • my Kindle which has joined the 'must pack' list particularly because I won't now have to pack eight or nine paperbacks to cover a week away
  • my iPod Nano which I use to listen to audio books to and from work
  • my Live Scribe pen that is such a useful tool for recording meetings
  • my digital camera
  • my digital photo frame.

Now some of those items are still really toys, but most of them are a daily part of my life.

Could you work unplugged?

A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation ( found that with technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access as children and teens (Generation M2) go about their daily lives, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically, especially among minority youth.

Today, 8 - 18-year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time 'media multitasking' (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7 1/2 hours.

Already there are calls for schools to become computer- and internet-free zones, or at least to identify places and spaces in the curriculum where teachers and students have a refuge from the digital life.

I wrote a follow-up post on my blog at the beginning of the year called Gadget Enabled Life. There is no doubt about it - important parts of my life have gone digital. Just recently I asked, 'Could you work unplugged?'

The impact of the education revolution - DER and BER

The impact on Australian educators including, or perhaps especially teacher librarians of the Digital Education Revolution (DER), followed closely by Building the Education Revolution (BER), will be massive in 2010.

In many schools the people at the forefront of embedding ICT in the curriculum, enabling information and digital literacies, and smoothing the paths for teachers in their classrooms, are also the people involved in the school's building program, the new library, the new gym, the new science lab. They have been required to move quickly, make decisions under pressure, decide upon a path the school will be going down for a number of years, and will also be key movers and shakers in the implementation of the DER and BER. The energy being galvanised in this process is enormous. And the pressures don't stop there.

We are living in times of huge digital change. It is important for educators to have digital and online knowledge and experience, and it is not sufficient for these to be confined to working hours. I'd go so far as to say not only are experiences important for educators, but so is the establishment of an online presence. You probably already have a considerable digital footprint (see the definition at the beginning of the article) and the good (or bad) news is that it will grow, and so it should. What may be a concern for you is how to manage the growth to advantage. How do you know where to focus your attention?

Social technologies - where do you fit?

Recent research done by an American marketing firm ( groundswell/) showed that in the last three years there has been a change in what adults do online.

It stratified people using 'social technologies' into seven overlapping categories:

  • Creators
  • Conversationalists
  • Critics
  • Collectors
  • Joiners
  • Spectators
  • Inactives.

What has happened in the last three years is that Inactives have dropped from 52 to 17 per cent. Conversationalists, a new category that takes Facebook and Twitter into account, comes in at 33 per cent. Web consumers are Spectators: reading blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts etc. for 70 per cent of their time (check my blog post for 25 January 2010). The message for us might be that perhaps we need more time being Spectators.

Principles for personal digital growth

The big question for Australian teachers in all sectors of education is 'What do I need to do? How do I grow? How do I survive?'

People often ask me about the journey I've been on. 'How long did it take you to get there? How long will it take me? What do I need to do?'

A list that may help you:

  1. You don't have to do everything, but you must do something. Doing 'something' implies making some conscious decisions and determining your path yourself.
  2. It will help if you have an online life out of school. This really is one of those situations where a transfer of skills and knowledge does occur. My other piece of advice is to have separate professional and personal personas - separate email addresses and Twitter accounts, and separate blogs.
  3. Progress comes one step at a time, but like everything, you have to work at it. Progress will depend on consciously making time and putting in the effort.
  4. Seize opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone. Don't dismiss something because you've never tried it before.
  5. Consider your Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Plan your professional learning, make a list of what you'd like to learn to do, build up your online portfolio, join projects - manage your own professional development. Qualifications are good to have! However, not everything you do needs to be qualification/certificate driven. Create a spreadsheet of things you think you would like to do, and keep track of your progress.
  6. Become a sharer, a leader, an organiser, a mentor.
  7. Suck and see. If you don't like the taste, or if it takes up too much time, move on, but give it a good try first. Some things will not appeal. Set up a Facebook page, a Flickr account, a blog, a Twitter account. Join a community like, OZTLNET, or a Ning group for teachers or teacher librarians. Explore, observe, but above all participate. After you've worked out what goes on, introduce yourself, and then contribute. That's when you'll see the maximum benefit.

I hope what I've said in this article is not too daunting, and just a little bit helpful. The important thing is to realise that personal growth requires you to make an action plan, however simple. Do that and you will not only be moving with the times, but taking charge of your digital footprint.

Kerrie Smith


Executive Officer
Education Services Australia

Previously a secondary History and English teacher, Kerrie Smith has been at Education Services Australia, formerly, for nearly 10 years, and currently works as Executive Officer and assistant to the CEO. Kerrie bought a computer back in 1985 and since then has been the recipient of Australian and international awards for her work in enabling teachers to embed ICT in their teaching and learning. Her blogs are at and