Digital Footprints — That’s What It’s All About

many footprintsIf you ask a current fifth grader, he or she might say that the only topic I know much about is digital footprints, because I talk to students about these tiny digital trails as often as possible. But here’s the conundrum. I don’t talk about the topic nearly enough.

Despite being a devoted device and technology geek, I remain concerned about the digital footprints that kids (and we adults) leave all over the web. And I worry especially about the apps that kids use — even when they set strong privacy settings. I want students to understand digital footprint issues so well that they become curators of the profiles that they create all over the virtual world — thinking carefully each time they decide to share and forward information.

Last year one of my early posts on this “class-on-a-blog” described how to begin a family digital footprint conversation by exploring Google Dashboard and noting how Google collects information about the tools that we use. To continue the discussion, you can also check out this digital footprint video from Harvard’s Berkman Center.

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Facebook vs. Google+

Google Facebook privacy

A portion of the Veracode infographic

Many parents and educators observe children (their own and friends’ kids — under age 13) using Facebook or Google+ and sometimes both. In the connected world, these social media sites are fun to use, and staying connected with friends and other people has never been easier.

While the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) sets 13 as the legal age for users of these two social media sites, many adults don’t know about COPPA or don’t believe it is sensible enough to apply and enforce with their younger children. Thus many kids start using Google+ and Facebook at ages well below age 13.

One significant difference between the two social media sites is the way users handle friends and contacts. On Google+ a user cannot add a contact without putting the person into at least one circle (Google’s term for groups). A circle is a category that is set up and defined with certain characteristics — friends, school friends, work friends, business contacts, etc. When a Google+ user sends out a status update, he or she specifies the group or groups that will receive the updates — clear and easy for users to figure out right away. Continue reading

Presentations Without the Aggravation of Transferring Files

presentations at discovery

Check out these presentation tools at Discovery.com

Just about everyone has a presentation disaster experience at one time or another.

A child, or maybe an adult, prepares a great PowerPoint presentation, takes it to school or to the office, and then, for some reason, it doesn’t work, and we are never quite sure just why. Problem possibilities include the size of the file, the number and size of graphics, the way it attaches to e-mail, or perhaps the way a file copies onto a CD or flash drive. Operating system platforms used to be one of the big problems, but they are less so today.

Presenters can lessen potential problems by exploring several web-based tools that refine the whole process — writing, developing, and presenting. Because these new sites put presentations on a website, a document lives in the cloud and can be worked on or used almost anywhere. At Web 2.0 presentation sites a user simply signs in, creates a presentation, works steadily, saves, and accesses it again and again to continue working and begin presenting — on any computer connected to the web. Continue reading

Is Google EDU at Your Child’s School?

Many schools are joining the Google Apps in Education program.

The free program, Google EDU, entitles a school to a small, out of the Google mainstream space where students and faculty can work on teaching and learning activities. After joining googleEDUGoogle EDU a school owns all of its content, and the data from an  institution’s work and searches are not collected by Google. Thus an extra layer of privacy exists for users.

While the entire suite of Google web-based tools is available for school communities to use, an educational institution can limit some of the access for children in younger grade levels. For instance, it’s possible to begin with word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet programs and turn off most of the other applications. The school’s administrator can also turn on additional Google options for students and teachers when a reason arises or organize the community into groups with different access privileges.

If a school likes its e-mail program, it’s not necessary to turn on Gmail at all, though many Google EDU participants are now using Gmail because, they believe, it is more secure and has an exceptional spam filter.

GoogleshareFrom my teacher’s vantage point, the best features of Google EDU apps are the automatic saving, the easy web access, and the multiple opportunities for collaboration.

Google saves as a person writes, so even if the power goes off and everything shuts down, a student has his or her work saved (a big deal for students who move around a lot during the school day).  Moreover, because a student’s work is on the web, it is easy to access from various locations, computers, and devices.

Collaboration is a breeze. By using the share feature students can ensure that a teacher has the access to read and comment.  Likewise, a student can share with others who might be working together on a project by granting rights that allow another individual to view, comment, or edit.