Perfecting my Footprint in Life



Digital Footprints

I shot this video clip this past summer by Lake Okanagan in Kelowna B.C., Canada.  I was making a music video with photos and footage of our summer spent in Canada.  I needed a shot of footprints in the sand with the sea ebbing in and out and finally washing the footprint away.  Such a romantic idea!  …Ha!  You’d think this was fairly easy, wouldn’t you?!  Well you can picture me dancing back and forth along the shoreline trying to get my footprints looking “just-so” for the video clip.  I’m sure the grandpas sitting on the park benches must have thought I was mad! You would think it would be fairly easy to get nice looking footprints in the sand but, oh no, it wasn’t!   Some looked like they were made by a Sasquatch (Canadian equivalent of the Himalayan Yeti).  Some looked like they were made by some dinosaur-sized bird.  I must have spent over 30 minutes running back and forth.  Then, on top of all that—the stupid waves wouldn’t cooperate!  They would ebb and flow with such beautiful rhythm BUT wouldn’t come near my footprints!  I think I have about 10 minutes of footage but I only got 11 seconds of what I wanted.  This is what you see in the YouTube clip above.  Eleven seconds but it was enough for what I needed, though.  

The phrase “Footprints in the Sand” used to evoke idyllic images in my mind of children playing by the sea.  They were visions of carefree summers spent browning in the sun, running through the waves, and poking ones’ toes in–what else? but the sand!

Unfortunately, with the dawning of the digital age and its erosion on the innocence of childhood, when I hear the word, “footprints” now, I now think of Digital Footprints.

I’ve been reading the articles and blogs about Digital Footprints and Branding.  @kels_giroux has written a very thought-provoking blog about the issue and most of my readings were through her links.  (Thank you Kelsey!) I’ve spent much of the week contemplating how I was going to integrate these ideas into my life.

Before Coetail, I’d kept myself meticulously anonymous (no names and no pictures of faces) on the Internet for 16 years.  Then, along came Coetail and blew my cover.  I’ve always been a very conscientious student  and I still am.  I took Jeff’s @jutecht advice seriously when he told us to carefully consider the name of our blog before we named it.  I saw his first and last name plastered everywhere so at the very least, I should be able to come out of the closet and own up to my first name, at the very least!  So, ChezVivian was born.  “Chez” is a French word meaning “at the home of”.  So, my blog’s name means, “At the home of Vivian’s”.  The atmosphere of my blog that I wanted to create was an invitation to drop by my house for a cuppa and a chat about life, education, and philosophy.  Anyone that knows me in “off-line” life knows I LOVE to talk about ideas and philosophy in education and philosophy in life.  You’re going to get a heavy dose of all that in this blogpost.

I was amused to see a few references to myself in other blogs that think my name is Vivian Chez!  It’s not!  When I first saw that, I was tempted to correct the error but then I changed my mind.  Maybe it’s not a bad thing to keep my profile low, still. 🙂

They say some people feel  nauseous before they hit the “publish” button for their blog for the first time.  I felt nauseous NAMING my blog!  What in the world was I doing and what would be the consequences?  I also felt rather hypocritical, as I’ve been teaching my own children to stay anonymous on the internet too, all these past years.

Since joining Coetail, there’s another camp whose voices are getting louder in my head.  This camp is telling me that I’d better get out there and “brand” myself before Google “brands” me.   I’ve never thought of myself as a “brand” before.  If you look at my Twitter profile @ChezVivian, I’ve given myself four adjectives and two of them are mentor and educator.  Those aren’t a Brand to me.  Those are SERVANTHOOD to me and honestly, servanthood doesn’t always bring in a lot of money.  The word Branding brings to my mind the concept of financial profitability.  Branding seems to be the antithesis to Servanthood.  Branding seems intrinsically linked to “self” and Servanthood isn’t.   So, that “term” is just not ever gonna fly with me.

My 11 second YouTube clip is a good reverse-metaphor for what I feel about my Digital Footprint. I would spend hours making the perfect footprint in the sand in order to craft something inspiring and beautiful.  My motivation comes from that artistic spirit in me that wants to create something significant and to say something significant.   But, if the world wants me to spend the rest of my life “dancing” around perfecting my Digital Footprint, it’s going to be severely disappointed.  After a week’s contemplation, I realized that I don’t really need to be afraid of having an identity on the Internet.  I’ve lived a life of character and integrity.  I have strong principles that have guided me my entire life.  Those haven’t changed since the advent of “ChezVivian”.  I am who I am and that’s who you’ll meet if you Google me in a few years.  If what you Google in a few years is a mis-match to who I really am, it’s your loss if you’ve written me off because of some digital algorithm.  😛 —->Google

I found it quite interesting that the fears over our Digital Footprint seem to all boil-down to whether we’ll be turned down a university-placement or lose at a job application because of something Google has churned out about us listed in its top 5 links.   Aren’t we MORE than our jobs?  Am I going to let myself get all twisted up about my Digital Footprint just for the sake of potential job? I am far more than my paid-job.  Though I may not be actively holding a paid-teaching position for the moment, don’t you think for a SECOND that I’ve stopped being an educator because of it. 🙂

My advice to young people in regards to university-entrance?  Be more worried about who you are than what the universities are digging up about you, online.  If there’s dirt about you in real-life, then maybe you don’t deserve that university placement.  Be the student they are fighting to grab, before you even fill out the application form.

I stand on my own two feet (pun semi-intended) based on my personal character and merits, as well as teaching qualifications and experience that will NEVER be properly Googlefied.   (Have I just invented a word?) My advice to my children and to my students is the same:  Live a life of integrity and you need not be afraid of your Digital Footprint.  It doesn’t matter where I am; I am careful to not ever say anything that might hurt someone within ear-shot.  Since the Internet is a VERY big public space, you can be rest-assured that I take deep care over every word I say on it (despite my silly witticisms!) Kids, take this advice too!

So, how do I connect up all this to Digital Citizenship in the classroom? I think we need to be teaching children in more explicit terms than before the age of the Internet, what is “right” and “wrong”. Children are spending a lot of their time viewing examples of people not behaving decently on the internet (or on TV, for that matter).  They are being taught by example what is apparently “acceptable behaviour” on the Internet.

Tim Gascoigne @T_Gascoigne  asked me at what age do we need to be teaching about Digital Citizenship?

(We’re trying to start a discussion thread (is that what they call it, still?) on Twitter regarding our  Course 2 Final Project under the hashtag #CoetailAUP .  Please come and join us, even if you’re not from Coetail!  We want to hear your ideas about developing “Acceptable Usage Policies” AUP.)

Back to my point.  Tim was asking me when should we start teaching our children about their Digital Footprints?  I replied in jest, “When they start brushing their own teeth!”.  This was in reference to a very pointed illustration for children that what they say on the Internet can never be taken back:  Toothpaste Illustration by David Truss @datruss . When I first spat that out along with some Colgate, into Twittersphere, I said it in jest.  But, after I had a think about it,  I decided I was in total agreement with my initial brillance.  Children need to be taught about Digital Citizenship as soon as they can understand that their words have permanence and can’t be taken-back.  If that’s the age they start brushing their own teeth, so be it!  (My children started brushing their teeth at the age of 7, btw. but they needed guidance and oversight brushing their teeth until their teens.  Take from this parallel analogy what you want!).

When I say “permanence”, I don’t mean digital permanence.  Our words have permanence even before the Digital Age.  Their permanence is the markings it makes, for better or worse, on the spirits of the people we speak to.  The education of our children regarding the permanence of their words begins when they’re lisping their first words.  If children are coming into the classrooms already understanding and respecting the power of the Spoken Word, they’ll be more than ready to understand the power of the Written Word with its greater permanence.  They’ll be more than ready to transfer all that over to their digital behaviour on the Internet respecting the infinite permanence of the Digital Word.

I come back to my initial point:  Live a life of character and integrity and you need not fear about your Digital Footprint.  This is not a passive approach.  Living a life of character and integrity is not a passive-activity.  It takes tremendous effort and cognition about “self” and “others” to do that.  If there’s one soul that I would regret having heard something I’ve said on the Internet, then I refrain from saying it and I tell my children/students that.  It doesn’t mean everybody will like what you say and agree with what you say, but you have to be ready to stand behind your words and not regret that you’ve said any of them.  That’s how I live on the Internet.  Using that guiding principal would probably alter many a child’s Digital Footprint.

While contemplating the development of my AUP for my final project, I’ve also been inspired by Scott McLeod’s short but powerful call-out that we need  AUPs that focus more on empowered use rather than hammering on safety/security concerns. We need more AUPs that emphasize YES! instead of NO! @mcleod 

I totally “get” that.  It’s much more effective to direct children by telling them what they CAN do than what they CAN’T do.  I might be tempted to say, “Stop talking to your neighbor!” but it would be more effective for me to say, “Open your book and start reading the first paragraph”.  @AndrewBWatt rephrased it as,  Actually, it’s more like, “Research your Missouri Compromise paper online. Here’s some search strategies. Go.”

I was inspired by Jeff’s stories of how his school got onto Social Media and the first thing the students did was to start a “Compliments” Facebook site where students complimented each other.  He shared another story where a school put up an electronic billboard of the school’s Twitterfeeds.  There wasn’t a single untoward Tweet posted.  Ever.  This was a good reminder for me to stop jumping to the worst-case scenario when I think of children on the Internet.  They’ll rise up our expectations but we have to have higher expectations of them first.

In the same vein, Digital Citizenship policies and AUPs would be far more effective if they showed children what they can do and should do.  I have a confession to make that I’ve co-signed many agreement letters of my own four children’s AUPs at their many schools and I have no recollection of what they said.  They all probably said the same thing, along the lines of “NO!”.  “No” is not that inspiring or directing or memorable.

It seems it would be ideal if we could show our students the power they have to exact and affect remarkable help, care, and education through the Internet; such that they would find the risky & riské activities boring and unappealing in comparison.

 Can we make it so they’re so craving to do right that they lose the appetite to do wrong?  How’s that for leading the horse to water and making him drink by offering him a bit of salt beforehand?!  I know there are many examples on the Internet of children using the Internet “for the good”. I’m going to start a quest to collect as many of those links as possible and curating them on a webpage.  What incredible “salt” that would be to anyone, let alone a child!

I had a very interesting online discussion with Doug Johnson of Blue Skunk Blog @BlueSkunkBlog .  He brought around the discussion to remind me that even though the world has changed vastly, that our core values have not. He said that if we kept steering our children towards those core value, that they would be alright in the long-run.  The truth in what he said, the simplicity, and the wisdom really struck me.  I guess I was hoping for some highly researched answer from some scientific study to steer me towards what I should do about my Digital Footprint and that of my children and of my students.  I was looking for the answer “out there” but it was with me all along (like Dorothy and her Ruby Shoes):

Live an authentic, integral life and be your authentic, integral self on the Internet.  In front of children– live an authentic , integral life  and help them to find their authentic, integral self.  Let’s point our Digital Citizenship policies towards filling our hours on the Internet sharing that part of ourselves with a greater audience and raising the standard of humanity on the Internet, doing GOOD and thereby making our mark on the web like that. 

This is not a Digital Footprint.  This is a Footprint for Life.

If you live a life of integrity, you don’t need to worry about your digital footprint


What is the significant thing you are trying to accomplish through the power of the Internet?


[May 1, 2013  Thank you to Glenn for writing a wonderful response blog to this blog:]

About Vivian

Vivian @ChezVivian is a Canadian-born Chinese, currently living in Switzerland. She has also lived in Hong Kong and Indonesia. She holds a M.S. (focus: Educational Technology Integration), B.Ed and a B.A. and graduate studies in Kodály and Orff music pedagogy. She is an elementary school classroom generalist, but has also taught as a music specialist, ESL/EAL and also in Learning Support. Most of her teaching career was in International Schools in Hong Kong. She is excited about the IBPYP and the possibilities of using technology to Inquire. Recently, she has been looking at the opportunities that computer programming gives to put #TECHXture back into the hands of children. In other words, technology need not be just about looking at screens. It can be about building things with our hands; and computer programming levels-up what children can do with the things they build---encouraging higher thinking skills. She is a Coetail Post-graduate Certificate grad ('13-'14), a former Coetail Coach and one of the co-founders of #CoetailChat. Her blog home curates her assignments for Coetail and her M.S. graduate studies about Educational Technology integration and anything else educationally-related that she feels inspired to write about. Her twitter tagline sums it up: "Mom to 4, Mentor, Educator, Musician (in that order)".
This entry was posted in Acceptable Usage Policy, Course 2-Digital Citizenship, Digital Citizenship, Digital Footprints, Footprint for Life, Philosophy & Ideology, Reflections on Required Readings, Thought-Provoking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Perfecting my Footprint in Life

  1. Jeff Utecht says:

    Well said…to many times we focus on the negativity of social-networks. Everything has a down side. But there is tremendous positive in all of this as well. Focus on the positive and you get positive results.

  2. Hi Vivian,
    Your journey reminds me so much of the one I am following. After reading the “Positive Digital Footprint,” I felt a bit ashamed that I was partially part of the “fear factor” being taught to students as they create their digital footprint because as the article stated “teacher do not – however your statement, “Live a life of character and integrity and you need not fear about your Digital Footprint. ” My own desire to stay “anonymous” online (HA and very unrealistic) does have its impact. You brought up many thought provoking points that I will ponder for awhile – especially once I am able to connect to all the articles and video (internet has decided be painfully slow lately – Jeff’s 8 minute video is going to take over an hour to download – and streaming– forget it.) After thinking about the opposing view of students needing to be afraid of “not having a digital footprint” it is being to make some sense. Anything I personally put online I try to make positive and I need to focus on that. 🙂 I look forward to checking out some of your links to articles you have read. Thank you for sharing them. Oh…as as far as the amount of time to get your footprints…I imagine it would have been a two hour project for me. 🙂
    Enjoy the week.

    • Vivian says:

      Hi Jennifer @jzimbrick

      I also felt guilty reading about the teacher that is freaking his/her students about having a digital footprint. I’ve definitely done that! At the same time, I wonder to what extent can we encourage our students to even “have” a digital footprint without their parents’ overt permission. It seems the parents needs to be reading the same information we’re being taught about digital foot-print too.

      Make sure you read @kels_giroux blog
      and follow HER links. Her blog is more informative.

      Thanks for stopping to comment and for the encouragement.


  3. Thet Myo Tut says:

    Hi Vivian,

    You’ve said it all once again. I really admire reading your blog as you are well-versed, make thought-provoking points and have a lot to share. I feel the same when you mention “Live a life of character and integrity.” Kids should learn to live “right” no matter where they are, online or offline. I’m a Buddhist and Buddha, our teacher teaches all human beings to practice rightful speech, rightful action, rightful thoughts, rightful livelihood, and to lead a rightful life. Indeed this is the kind of footsteps you take that leave footprints for life.

    Thet Thet

  4. Vivian says:

    Hi Thet Thet

    Thank you for your encouraging words.