A “digital footprint” is the information about a particular person or company that exists on the Internet as a result of their online activity. This goes hand-in-hand with the concept of “digital permanence,” which has to do with the ways that digital information is stored. In short, whatever you post on the Internet is there for good, in some format or another. This means that you must always be aware of what you are posting, sharing, uploading, and consuming online – particularly when it comes to your drama classroom. We want to ensure that the drama community is a positive, uplifting, and safe place for our students and for us to be, right? But how do we go about doing that?
Here are some tips to help you create and develop a positive digital footprint.
Before you even begin, find out what the rules, regulations, and policies are for technology and the use of digital resources at your school. There is no excuse for “I didn’t know.” Find out what your school policies are and follow them. It’s especially important to know these rules because the vast majority of your students are minors. Policies may include whether or not you are permitted to identify students by name in posts, or whether or not you are even permitted to share photographs or videos of your students’ faces.
Assess your digital landscape, starting with your home base. Do you have a teacher or departmental website/blog? If so, do you use it? What do you use it for? How often do you update it? If you haven’t been using your site, start! If you don’t know how to update your site – start learning!
Next, assess your social media landscape. Currently, the most commonly used social media apps with some longevity are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. If your school permits departments to have social media profiles, create an account for your chosen platform(s). Use the same username and profile photo for each social media account or platform. Take a look at the Theatrefolk Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Notice that the username (Theatrefolk) and profile photos are all the same across each platform.
Don’t be stressed out by the term “content.” It sounds fancy, but it just means what you are sharing online: photos, videos, articles, and the written text that accompanies what you’re sharing. If you’ve heard the term “digital content creator,” what that really means is simply “someone who makes stuff to post online.” That’s you and your students – or it will be soon enough!
Think about what you post, when you post it, and the frequency of posts. Post too often, and not only do you push your own information out of peoples’ news feeds, but you risk annoying your audience. Post too irregularly, and people might forget your page exists. Try to create a manageable, regular posting schedule. If you can post on the first day of each month, do that. If you can do weekly posts each Tuesday morning at 11 am, even better.
Try to mix up what you are sharing. Text is the most basic method of sharing, but photos and videos grab much more attention and get the most likes and shares, particularly if they are photos and videos of your students. Sharing articles can be useful when they relate to what you’re working on in class. And of course, when you have a production coming up, you’ll definitely want to share fun content online to encourage ticket sales. You can (and should) also share student-created content. Show off what your students have been working on and learning in the drama classroom.
If you are sharing content that you yourself did not create (for example, a photo or video that someone else took/made), be sure to credit the source. It’s really easy just to hit the “Share” button, but it’s so important to give credit to the original creator of the content. If you are sharing student work, again, find out how to credit them safely and accurately. If your student Mary Green took a rehearsal photo that you’re sharing online, do you credit them as Mary Green, Mary, Mary G., M. Green, or simply “one of our grade 10 drama students”?
Before you share anything, do a double-check before you hit that Submit button. Make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes in any written material (including if the image or video includes text). Ensure that all pertinent information is included and accurate (for example, show dates and times, ticket prices, creator credits, etc.).
Finally, think about why you are posting what you are posting. What is the purpose? To inform, entertain, educate, promote, uplift? What is the tone of the post – positive or negative? If it is negative, is there a way to present it in a positive manner? Remember, when you are sharing content under your drama department account, you are representing your school. Keep it fun but still professional and appropriate.