Monday, November 24, 2014

How Long is Stuff Really Out There? My Students' 1995 Digital Footprint

Digital footprints last forever, but how can we prove this to kids who tend to live in the moment and think that Snapchats are temporary?  My favorite way is to show them my former students' work from our classroom website from 1995--still online for all to see.

I used to teach elementary and middle school.  "Way back" in 1995 I taught my students basic HTML code and we built out a classroom website where my students posted artwork, information about what we were learning, and wrote autobiographies. My class enjoyed receiving emails from visitors around the world to our website.  I used to have copies of their work on floppy disks as a backup but got rid of those long ago.  However, all of our work is still accessible through's "WayBack Machine." is like a museum of the Internet that has been saving over 435 billion websites since the early days of the Internet. 

To go back in time, I simply put in my school's web address and click on the "Take Me Back" button.  And after a few more clicks, I end up here in 1995. It is a completely working website saved where you can click on every link.   You click on my school, my fourth graders, their artwork and their names.   

For example, Anna was born in 1986 and was my student in fourth grade in 1995.  Her autobiography and art work is still up there for anyone to see.  It is saved and archived. Now Anna's digital footprint is pretty innocent, and it doesn't even have her last name or an actual photograph.  Students today have much more information posted and available in their digital footprints!

When I show this to students they are often amazed that any of their digital content may be accessible in the future.  It helps them realize how permanent their cyber footprint actually is.  I encourage them to clean up their footprint and keep a clean digital footprint from here on out in the future.  Just imagine how easy and interesting genealogical research will be in the future when you can look through Facebook posts and photos of your great grandma, and watch YouTube videos of your grandpa from his school days!

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