To help kids understand this, we teach them about how the web really works. We show them the Way Back Machine, read the Facebook user agreement, and explain how google works. Students facial expressions show their reactions to what they are learning. They really do understand what you do on the web, is forever.
We even show the youtube "Digital Footprints--Your First New Impressions" about the impact your digital footprints will have as life moves on. They are truly impacted.
However, as teachers, we have to "assess" their learning. That can be a difficult task. How do you evaluate what they do on their home computer at 12:30 am on a Saturday night? How do "grade" their personal digital footprint? How do you make sure they are leaving a "positive digital footprint" for others to follow? I guess the answer is we don't. But teaching them how to make positive footprints on the web is a life long skill. Yes, one that will never be graded for "value added" or "merit pay", but one that I would argue is as important as the effects of the Crusades. In fact, I would say much more important in the world of the 21st Century.
While Mike and I were skyping a few nights ago, making changes to the middle ages webquest, I tweeted out a blog link on some new big thing--don't remember. I use two accounts on Twitter (@HistoryHolman, for my students to follow, and @garthholman for my professional tweets). I sent it out to my students and in a second it was re-tweeted. I comment to Mike I did not recognize who tweeted it. I clicked on the name and to my surprise below is what I found:
I guess we have to believe what we do makes a real difference in student's lives and just because it will never appear on a test does not mean it does not add value to our students. Keep teaching and keep building a digital footprint for others to follow.