To Trend or Not to Trend

The duality of privacy in an information age can create some interesting challenges for the modern educator. There is a need to be unique online, to trend, go viral, connect with many others, and add your voice and ideas to the globe. There is also a desire for privacy, to remain safe and secure, and to protect the fragile and tender parts of ourselves. Floridi states, “… there is no inconsistency between a society so concerned about privacy rights and the success of services such as Facebook. We use and expose information about ourselves to become less informationally anonymous. We wish to maintain a high level of informational privacy, almost as if that were the only way of saving a precious capital that can then be publicly invested by us in order to construct ourselves as individuals discernible by others” (2010, p. xxvi). Floridi argues that the data and information we share about ourselves help form our relationships with others and ourselves. 

Bonnie Nardi and Vicki O’Day define information ecology as “a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment. In information ecologies, the spotlight is not on technology, but on human activities that are served by technology” (as cited in Campbell, H. A., & Garner, 2016, p. 38). By considering technology as a way to create and deepen connections, we can see how sharing parts of our lives is imperative. Indeed, not only do we create relationships with others through our online presence, we create our own self-image as well. “Since the 1950s, computer science and ICTs have exercised both an extrovert and an introvert influence, changing not only our interactions with the world but also our self-understanding” (Floridi, 2010, p. xxii). So, now that we agree on the importance of sharing about ourselves online to foster relationships, which is a natural imperative, how can we do so safely and respect others’ safety and wishes?

“The obligations and responsibilities imposed by the ontic trust will vary depending on circumstances but, fundamentally, the expectation is that actions will be taken or avoided in view of the welfare of the whole world” (Floridi, 2010, p. 47). We, as educators, are caretakers of our future generations. Our obligation is to look out for their best interests and teach them to be responsible digital citizens and caretakers of others as well. “Graham Houston argues that the increasing control of the technological world by a decreasing number of experts and technocrats is challenging the presuppositions that technology is a democratic medium…” (Campbell, H. A., & Garner, 2016, p. 34). It is vitally important that educators take charge in providing guidelines for others to approach data and privacy with care and thoughtfulness so that the greater population better understands this skill. In fact, ISTE Standard 4.7.d says that Educational Coaches should “Empower educators, leaders, and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect.” By creating images of themselves online that they are proud of, we are encouraging our students to become better digital citizens and helping them reach their future goals.

Koehler and Mishra define Technological Pedagogical Knowledge as, “an understanding of how teaching and learning can change when particular technologies are used in particular ways. This includes knowing the pedagogical affordances and constraints of a range of technological tools as they relate to disciplinarily and developmentally appropriate pedagogical designs and strategies” (as cited in Koehler, 2012, para 9).The topic of a digital footprint, or a digital legacy, is perfectly pedagogically appropriate topic for students beginning around grades 4 and 5 and up into the Middle and High school grades, where students are gaining a broader worldview and considering the ramifications of their actions on others and their futures. Introducing students to privacy concerns is vital to digital citizenship education. Educators can and should, be modeling the best practices for choosing and using digital tools concerning privacy and can even open up discussions about the metacognition they undertake when choosing the tools for the class.

“Socrates already argued that a moral agent is naturally interested in gaining as much valuable information as the circumstances, require and that a well-informed agent is more likely to do the right thing” (Floridi, 2010, p. 40). We owe it to our students to train them to be as well-informed as possible so that they have every opportunity to do the right thing.

Checklist for privacy best practices for educators and schools.


Campbell, H. A., & Garner, S. (2016). Networked theology (engaging culture) : Negotiating faith in digital culture. [eBook edition]. Baker Academic.

Floridi, L. (2010). Information : A very short introduction. [eBook edition]. Oxford University Press.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2020). ISTE standards: Coaches. ISTE.

Koehler, M. (2012, Sept 24). TPACK explained.

Privacy and Technical Assistance Center. (2014). Protecting student privacy while using online educational services: Requirements and best practices.

Comments are closed.