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Lesson Plan-Digital footprint

Activity / lesson title

Understand Your Digital Footprint

Target group

14 – 16+ (there is no upper limit of the age; this activity can be implemented also with adults)


45 minutes without the extensions (from Intro to step 4 & wrap-up) 90 - 120 minutes with some extensions Extensions could be used for homework assignments, as additional lessons or as part of a multidisciplinary (cross-curricular) project

Learning Environment

Indoor (classroom) We recommend carrying out the activity in small groups – to allow discussions and exchange of opinions. Upon teacher’s choice, all groups might be engaged in the same type of activity or the teacher might assign different tasks to the groups (using the extensions as an inspiration). This activity (incl. the extensions) can be implemented individually.

Expected learning outcomes

Students will think about the actions they take online and will create a visual picture of their digital footprint. They will understand that their actions online are not entirely private and they should always be aware of what they are doing online and how are they doing it. By the end of the lesson they will achieve the following objective(s):

  • Understand what a digital footprint is and how it can be used by others

  • Understand ways to shape one’s digital footprint

  • Learn and use terms and concepts such as: digital footprint, cookies, metadata

  • Make informed decisions about the information one shares online.

Subjects and topics covered

ICT, civic / citizenship education, mathematics, technology, language(s), arts

Method description


Tools / Materials / Resources

Computer with internet access (for every student or per team of students); The activity can be implemented individually or in small groups; some of the steps can be implemented with pen & paper instead on a computer.

Detailed description of the step-by-step description of the activity / sequences of the units

Introduction (5 min.) Every time you go online, you leave behind data or information about yourself. The online information about you that exists as a result of your activity on the internet is called your digital footprint. Sometimes you are aware of the data you are leaving behind -- for instance, when you fill out a form, make a purchase, post a comment, or upload a photo. Other times, it’s not obvious that you are contributing to your digital footprint. You may be unaware that you leave data behind when browsing the internet, or that your location might be embedded in the photos you post. It is important to be aware of all data you create on the internet so you can decide if you want to share it or not. People may look at your digital footprint to find out more about you, such as potential employers, companies that would like you to buy their product, and even criminals. For example, potential employers can view information about you on your social media accounts or even your friends’ accounts. Or companies may be able to see your search or purchase history. They can use this data to develop opinions about you, make assumptions about your likes and dislikes, and try to sell you things. Step 1 (10 min.) Gather with your working group. Think and discuss of the many things which people do online that may leave data behind. For instance: playing games, sending emails, talking to friends, reading the news, looking up information for a homework, watching videos, downloading apps, reading books, etc. Once you have discussed several ideas with your group, create a list. Each member of the group should add at least three ways that people do in the internet. Write down the actions in a column. You can do this on a list of paper or in an electronic spreadsheet (Excel file, Google spreadsheet). Step 2 (10 min.) Think about less obvious ways that you could leave digital footprints. Here are some examples: When you browse the internet, websites install cookies that track what you are looking at. A cookie is a message that is given to a web browser by a web server. It identifies a user and allows a business to prepare a customized web page or store information for you. Cookies save you time loading web pages that you visit frequently. But they also leave evidence of the sites you visited and how often, which could help people form a profile or make assumptions about you. Geolocation can also add to your digital footprint. If an app or website uses geolocation, it records the exact location of your computer or mobile device. Geolocation allows you to: get directions, find and meet up with people who are close by, track how far you’ve walked, or play games that involve locations. But photos tagged with your location could also show someone where you live or tell a burglar that you aren’t home. You also add to your digital footprint with metadata. Metadata is text that is written and added to web pages, images, and files so computer systems and search engines can easily find and share it. For example, when you take a photograph and post it online, the image may contain metadata about where the photo was taken, who took it, and when it was taken. Search engines read the metadata of web pages and images and deliver results related to your search. Metadata can make search engines work better and faster. But it also adds to your digital footprint. Other people can also add to your digital footprint, such as when a friend or family member tags you in a post or comment. There are many ways that your digital footprint can grow even when you are unaware that you are leaving information behind. Each team member should think about the less obvious ways to leave digital footprints and add at least one item to the list. Step 3 (10 min.) Now when your list with activities is ready, add more columns to it – for each member of the group and name the columns. Read the list and if the action is something you have done or might do online, place an X in that row of your column. Once you have marked all of the things that you do online, paint with a coloured pencil all rows in your column that contain X. This is your digital footprint. If you work in a spreadsheet, add conditional formatting to the columns so you can clearly see your online activities. Conditional formatting changes the color of spreadsheet cells if they meet certain conditions, such as containing a particular word or number. (You can consult the Help of your spreadsheet application for information on how to apply conditional formatting). Step 4 (10 min.) Review the results from the previous steps. Compare footprints with your group and discuss: What are some things that you all do online? What kind of data is left behind when you do those things? Think about your digital footprint as a whole. If all someone knows about you is the data in your digital footprint, what impression would that person have about you? Lots of people may look at parts of your digital footprint. For example, your teachers, college admissions officers, employers, or even criminals might look at your online activity to find out more about you. You may want to make an effort to create a smaller digital footprint and take less action online. Or, you may want to add more information to your digital footprint so you can share things you want people to know about you. For instance, you can shape your digital footprint in a positive way by creating a blog or website that showcases your work and interests. Sharing this kind of information helps people know who you are, what you care about, and what you’ve accomplished. Wrap-up Everyone who uses the internet has a digital footprint. There are many online resources that can help you learn ways to reduce your digital footprint and limit the amount of information you share online or enhance your online presence. By painting a picture of your digital footprint, you become aware of the information you are leaving behind, who is collecting it, and why, and you can make informed decisions about the information you share online. Extension: What Does Your Digital Footprint Say About You (15 min.) Everyone who uses the internet has a digital footprint, but it’s important to think about what impression someone give others through his/her online activity. Given the results from the previous steps, each student has to examine his/her online activities and answer the question: What kind of picture could someone paint of me, based on all the activities in my list? Students should write a comment and describe what impression someone could get about him/her based on the online actions and the information those actions leave behind. or This text could be shaped as a description from someone else’s perspective: What someone might assume looking at this digital footprint? or The text could focus on a single action or on a couple of actions: what kind of posts he/she likes online; what kind of videos watches; which topics comments, etc. Extension: Shape Your Digital Footprint (15+ min.) Students have to consider their online actions. If the only impression someone has to build his/her impression based on these actions, what would they think? They have to think about the impression they would like people to have about them. What actions could they take to give people this impression? Students’ efforts could focus on:

  • What comments they post on social media; are these comments positive and uplifting? Or would they make someone feel uncomfortable or unhappy?

  • Did they say something online that they wouldn’t say in person?

  • What could they do: removing those comments, being more thoughtful about the posts and comments from now on…

Students should think and list things they can do online to shape their digital footprint in a positive way. For instance, starting a blog with essays or poems, posting pictures or graphic designs, creating an online portfolio. Give students few minutes to consider on: How can I make my digital footprint more positive? Ask them to add at least three things they can do to project a more positive image. As a long-term project activities students might work on a personal blog, portfolio or on another self-expression media. Extension: Create a Digital Footprint Poster (15+ min.) This activity can be done with non-digital tools (painting, making a collage or else), or with a digital application (such as Google Drawings or else). The activity can be implemented as a separate arts lesson, especially if extended with information on the composition of the poster elements, the role of the typefaces, colors, pictures, icons, etc.; the IPR issues of the images and other information, which is available online. Ask students to make a poster to encourage others to investigate and manage their own digital footprints. Some instructions to the students

  • create a headline for the poster; use something that will grab people’s attention (select a font, chose a text size, change the color…);

  • brainstorm at least three pieces of advice that you would give someone about managing their digital footprint: make people think about the consequences of their digital footprint, or encourage them to spread positivity when on the internet;

  • positive messages for the poster: Create an online portfolio of your work, or Untag yourself from questionable photos, Or don’t post anything online that you would not say out loud;

  • format the text to make it stand out on the poster (change the font style to reflect the tone of the message);

  • add images / icons for visual interest (make sure you have the right to use the images / icons you choose);

  • save / download your poster as a PDF file (Portable Document Format).

Extension: Add Weight to the Elements of Your Digital Footprint (15 min.) Not all online actions have the same impact. Some of the data people leave behind is more personal - and potentially unsafe - than others, such as your banking information. Some data may seem harmless now, but one may not want someone to find it in two, five or ten years. For instance, if someone chats online about video games with friends frequently, he/she may not want college admissions officers or potential employers to see those chats in the future. This extension is aimed at estimating the impact of the online actions and assign them a weight. Weight refers to the size or consequence of each activity’s impact. Could it be harmful professionally, financially, or in another way if someone access the data? Would the information embarrass me if someone saw it in the future, such as a college admissions officer or potential employer? There are no right or wrong weights. Students have to consider themselves what weight to give to the activities in their list and To assign a weight between one and five to each online activity. The weights will depend on the estimated impact these activities can have now and in the future. This will help to get control of one’s digital footprint. Applying conditional formatting in a digital spreadsheet can outline potentially more unsafe online behaviours and can support a meaningful discussion. Extension: Research Ways to Reduce Your Digital Footprint (15+ min., this extension could best be performed in a digital format) Ask students to create a new blank digital document. Then advise them to go to online and to find ideas how to reduce their digital footprint. They should read the suggested actions and consider them. When finding a tip or guideline that they think is helpful, they should add it to the blank document, whiting short notes in their own words. They should add a link to the source website to keep track of where the information is published by typing the word Source after each tip and copying the URL of the website. Each student should add at least 2-3 new tips, and their sources, from this research. Ask students to add bullet points to make their document easier to read. This activity can start with individual research and finish with a group shortlist of ideas how to reduce one’s digital footprint. Group members will have to choose at least one tip from each team member. Extension: Present Your Ideal Digital Footprint (15+ min., this extension could best be performed in a digital format) The aim of this extension is creation of a presentation with ideas for building the ideal (personal) digital footprint. Students create a new, blank presentation file, name it and choose a theme. They consider / brainstorm three things that they want the world to know about them and how they could make those things part of their digital profile. Guidelines to the students:

  • Think about what you want the world to know about you. What are your interests or achievements?

  • What do you plan to do in the future?

  • Think about how you might share that information and make it part of your digital footprint;

  • Consider at least 3 things you want to share about yourself and add a slide about each of them; describe for each element how you will share that information digitally to shape your digital footprint;

  • When you finish your presentation, share a digital version of the slideshow with a friend or present it to the class.

The presentation part can be done for the whole class and could finish with a wrapping-up discussion about the ways one can shape his/her digital footprint to be more positive and project the image one wants others to see. This activity can be connected with a discussion on the ethical issues related to the online image.

Feedback & assessment

The main objective of these lessons is to assist students in creating a visual picture of their own digital footprint. Students’ digital projects can be assessed using a RUBRIC (Annex 1). Other assessment should be conducted through prompted discussion as a class or in groups during and after each lesson / extension.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) / Origin of the activity

The prototype of this resource is from the Applied Digital Skills website. This activity can be copied, distributed, modified and used non-commercially.

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