A note on learners’ digital footprints

So yesterday I was (unsurprisingly) talking about learners’ data, not just their learning data but all their data that has been harvested over years, before they enter a university classroom. Forget digital migrants and natives, just because students are now growing up with digital technologies (I did) it doesn’t mean that they have any more understanding about how they work and what that means (I didn’t, until I started asking questions).

Twitter Statistics collected by Keyhole from UC Irvine #phonar class

This comes at a time when I exposed 60 students at UC Irvine to over 400,000 other Twitter users. I invited the students to join me learning openly online and it is scary to think that I was responsible for this exposure. Not only this but as soon as a tweet was posted by a student with #phonar, they have permanently associated themselves with the class. This class involvement is now part of their digital footprint.

But it is just that, it is part of the footprint.

And this made me then wonder about how much we can learn about our students from their digital footprints. Even if they didn’t participate in the class, will their digital identity reveal that they are in the classroom anyway? Their location data collected from smart phones is a good sign, but could this be correlated with a university email address, search histories and recent friend requests? If so, would we rather empower students to consciously use the digital to work in their favour? I hope that I am not alone in thinking this.

“All of us are being watched, all the time, and that data is being stored forever”

Bruce Schneier, Data and Goliath, 2015

At the moment surveillance is not an option (have you ever disabled all the cookies in your browser?) so we have to wrestle back as much control as we can, enabling learners to reap the benefits of what the digital can afford and make it work for them.

 

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