The power of a positive digital footprint for students

I was reading in the newspaper today about companies charging up to $50,000 offering online reputation management services. These companies work with small businesses or even individuals and suppress negative comments, bad photos or negative feedback. They do this by flooding search engines with articles, photos, comments and links that paint a more positive image about the business or person.

This got me thinking, maybe as teachers we need to show students how to create their own positive digital footprint and encourage them to do so. Until now my digital citizenship and cyber safety talks have focused on the dangers of a negative digital footprint. I have been promoting the “think before you post” message.

What are employers looking for online?

Employers are increasingly making use of Internet search engines to locate and evaluate online information about potential employees. This recruitment agency shares a good list of ten negative things which employers don’t want to see online.

Danilo Rizzuti /

But what about positive things employers look for online? This may include:

  • an indication of the applicants personality
  • online profile supports professional qualifications and conduct
  • good communication skills
  • creativity
  • groups which the applicant is participating in
  • do other people provide good references and comments about them
  • have they received any awards and accolades

A person’s online footprint is becoming an increasingly important part of their online brand. It makes sense that people should be promoting their brand (name) in a positive light. If someone is working hard, being creative, helping others or receiving awards, then surely promoting these skills and achievements online is a good thing. Students need to learn that using their real name online is not always a bad thing, it is part of creating a positive digital footprint that will be seen by others.

Opportunities to publish online with your name attached

Social Media

Social media like Facebook and Twitter can be used in a proactive way to develop a positive online presence. These tools allow anyone to collaborate and contribute in meaningful ways. Encouraging students to create or join groups which they are passionate about, highlights their interests and also allows them to network with likeminded people.


Blogging is an excellent way to showcase your interests and skills online. Attaching your name to engaging blog posts shows you’re passionate about a topic and can display your communicative skills. Students can blog once a week or even once every few months. Many websites like Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress allow anyone to set up a free blog. Intelligent and constructive comments on other people’s blogs with your name attached can also be appreciated by potential employers.

Web 2.0 applcations

There is a vast range of web 2.0 applications like Youtube, Flickr, Podomatic that allow anyone to share videos, images and audio. Used in a smart way these applications can be an excellent way to showcase students’ creativity and promote themselves and their work. Teachers can encourage students to put school work they are proud of online to showcase their skills.

Online Competitions

Encouraging students to enter online writing, photography, film and digital media competitions is also a great way to help them build a positive online profile. Some competitions allow worldwide applicants and a quick Google search will usually provide competitions in different countries and states. Companies like Adobe and Microsoft often run design competitions for students and having their work and name published online is a great way to display talent and hard work. Teachers can even incorporate units of work at school to encourage students to enter these competitions. Here is a list of design competitions for 2011.

Digital Resumes

It’s important to get students thinking about and practicing digital resumes as well as the traditional paper resume. Especially if a student wants to get a job in the growing field of digital media or design, then an online resume that showcases their skills and abilities to use different tools, could be what gets them noticed. The New York times has a good lesson plan asking students to “reflect on their talents, achievements and experience and create two résumé versions – traditional and technology-enhanced – to learn how best to showcase their talents and ambitions.” LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network site and is also worth exploring.

Shaping your positive digital footprint

For a great example of a person who has shaped their positive digital footprint, do a search for George Couros. He is a school Principal in Alberta, Canada who has his own blog, Youtube channel, social media accounts and an online digital resume. All of these are done in a social, yet professional context.

What do you think? Should teachers encourage students to build a positive online profile?

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  1. This was a great post. I am finding that as I create my own digital footprint I am finding my voice, articulating my thoughts, and most importantly engaging with like-minded people. I also see the process as a gateway toward my future goals as a 21st century educator/leader.

  2. Some useful links for you..

    Safe Search — A safer version of Google Search —
    A list of web2 tools for kids/schools —
    Google Apps/Docs for document creating / sharing —
    Etherpad services such as PrimaryPad for collaborative work —
    PrimaryWall for brainstorming —

    All free services specifically designed for edu/kids & teacher partnership 🙂

  3. Shirley Hill says:

    I agree that we should be teaching students how to shape their digital footprints. I am a year 4 teacher and already I have my students writing their own blogs and they are being pulished via the secure kidblog website.  They love commenting on other students’ blogs and recieving comments on their own.
    Children are growing up with these tools, but we still need to ensure they think about what they attach their names to. The problem is that one bad photo, comment or message can undo a lot of good work. We definately need to encourage them to post… responsibly online. 


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