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Our Digital Identities

The idea of having a digital identity is fluid and it consistently grows with you as your personal identity changes over the years or even decades. We often like to assume that digital identity looks the same for everyone. However, for some, it can be a very crucial aspect of their daily lives, whereas others are hardly impacted by it. I believe that our digital identity is a culmination of both our personal and professional lives whether we like to believe that or not. When referring to our professional lives this can encompass students at any level, to a CEO of a company. It is very difficult to erase parts of our digital footprint, so it is important to teach students that your digital identity will follow you throughout the different phases of your life.

I know that my own personal identity has evolved since beginning my journey with technology and it most like will change again sometime in my future. I started using computers at about the age of 8 both at home and in elementary school. For the most part, it consisted of typing programs, CD-ROM games, word processors and the basic use of Google. It then moved into the use of online social media around the age of twelve. The most popular website for me was MSN messenger. This was my main source of online communication with my friends. Soon later, I created a Facebook account and I still use that same account today.

I was always conscious about what I posted online. My parents were always aware that I was using social media and they quickly became my online friends as a way to monitor my online activity. I don’t think I would have been smart enough to make a fake account for my parents to see back then, however that certainly happens today with the “Finsta” era. I quickly saw the negative sides of social media such as cyber-bullying, insulting comments, and threatening direct messages and knew that I didn’t want any part of that side of the internet. I knew by the middle of high school that my online presence would matter once I got to university, and eventually when I moved into the workforce.

When I Google myself, the first items to come up are my professional platforms such as my blog, the teacher directory from my school and my teacher Twitter account. However, I recently changed my last name as I got married last summer so I have only been Katherine Mihial for less than a year. It is interesting how traditionally, women can often feel like they have more than one identity if they change their last name. It can also depend on what time in their life they changed their name as well. When I compared my maiden name Google search it doesn’t include anything about my personal profiles as Collins is a much more popular last name and many other people who aren’t me come up such as a popular Canadian Cartoonist! Haha.

If you haven’t watched “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix, you should certainly watch it. I like to show a couple parts of the movie to my students because although it may seem extreme in the movie, it isn’t far off from reality, unfortunately. Check out the trailer if you haven’t seen it!

I don’t have any children myself, however when I think about the 27 students that enter my classroom every day I know that they will all have their own experiences with navigating their own digital identity. At the ripe age of eleven, many of them are already on social media on their own devices. Others don’t have any accounts or personal devices. Some have already had negative encounters online and it can be very difficult to navigate those experiences in fear of getting in trouble or having their devices taken away. In Kelly’s article that she provided, “Making digital citizenship Stick“, the key points it brings up include, 1) Knowledge, 2) Time, and 3) Support. I truly believe that these factors are so integral to implementing digital citizenship and having a positive digital identity in the classroom. By following the 9 different themes and using these steps to implement them, I believe we can see success in the future.

One of my main goals as an educator is to help teach students skills and show them tools to navigate the online world as safely as possible. I don’t want them to be afraid to reach out to me or their parents when in need of help or if they are unsure of something. We use devices almost every day in the classroom and students need to be taught and reminded over and over again that they need to demonstrate their responsibility by being good digital citizens just like we would want to be good citizens in our classroom. Our digital identity is a representation of who we are as digital citizens. Yes, we will make mistakes along the way because we are only human. However, we have come a long way since 2007 and the online world is now part of our real world. How we interact with others online is just as important as how we interact with people in person.

Please comment below and let me know your favourite strategies/practices for implementing digital citizenship in the classroom. I love hearing new ideas from fellow educators!


3 thoughts on “Our Digital Identities

  1. HAHA, your name matches with a popular cartoonist. I agree with your thought that some people only become friends just to check what’s going in our life. These type of people can also bully us or put bad comments. One should chose their friends wisely on Social Media. According to me, Quantity of friends doesn’t matters but Quality friends matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly, my favourite way to authentically teach digital citizenship in the classroom is through my past experiences. Teaching kiddos about my failures or learnings is key for them to be able to make connections and try to understand why they need to learn about digital citizenship. I also like to teach them as a whole group and provide ample time to talk about what’s important to them, and what they want to learn around the topic to guide my teachings as well. I too enjoy hearing what they are dealing with and then group brainstorming some strategies on how we can deal with situations better, or what resources we need to learn more. Great prompting question! Thanks for making me really think! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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