I was sitting at the Donald W. Reynolds football stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas Saturday afternoon watching the jumbotron "Pig Screen". When I noticed it showing people in the stands. While this is a normal occurrence at the football games, and I have been to plenty to know, this time I was struck by the students and children that were being shown. I like to watch them show people in the crowd because many (especially students) do some funny and sometimes incredibly stupid things. That made me reflect on something I have been contemplating for a while.
What digital artifacts are our students creating? I see on television or the internet stories like the riot that took place in Chicago ending with the murder of Derrion Albert, with that being recorded on a cell phone. I see a bus video of a student in an altercation with a bus driver. I see kids video (cell phone again) the assault of a young lady by several other young ladies. These are artifacts that not only make us sick, but also relay a message that young people are violent, aggressive, and dangerous.
Not only are the students in these videos tainted by their actions (with good reason), but all students have to carry some of that burden as well. There are plenty of education sites that show students in a positive light such as At the Fireplace, Beyond the Rainbow, East Dragon Den, Little Voices, Little Scholars, Room 8 Melville, and Saigon South International School Blog. While these and many, many more showcase positive experiences students are having, they really don't help individual students create that digital portfolio that will follow them throught the next few years. My class blog reflects me much more than my students.
Facebook is a perfect example of how the digital trails students create can come back to haunt them. Here is an article about how roomates are perceived by the parents of college students. Here is an article about the perils of adding stupid content to your Facebook page. While I don't believe we can teach the stupid out of some actions our students will do, perhaps a strong digital portfolio will help others see them as more rounded individuals. Who wants the only information about them on line to be about how much they like to party and get drunk?
How can we help our students create personal spaces that can help them record not only their learning, but also pieces of themeselves on line? Obviously, the answer is we must encourage our students to create and save digital content whether it be audio, video, writing, or a mash up of the three at some centralized spot that can be found later by them, future employers, or even by colleges and universities. What are you doing to help your students create their own positivie on line identity?