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A Quick Guide to Good Digital Hygiene

By Kip Glazer
 | Mar 22, 2017

ThinkstockPhotos-87768937_x300Recently, my older son, who is studying Information Technology and Cyber Security in college, reminded me of a term: digital hygiene. He talked about how his professor used the term to describe the importance of using a password manager to keep online passwords safe. I, too, believe improving our digital hygiene is important, and I argue that teachers have a special role to play. I offer suggestions for helping students develop good digital hygiene practices.

Give explicit instructions on composing a subject line and signature

I recommended that teachers instruct their students to use a standardized subject line for sending e-mails. I would tell students that I wouldn't read an e-mail unless I know it was from them. By requiring a prearranged format, I could determine whether an e-mail was from one of my students. I typically asked them to add the class period, class title, full name, and purpose of their message in the subject line. For example, "Period 2, Senior English, John Doe: Absence/Missing Work" told me exactly what to expect when I opened the e-mail. This structure also helped students to think about the main point of the message and how to be succinct.

I also encouraged students to add a signature and a privacy statement. I typically told them to add "This e-mail may contain confidential and privileged material for the sole use of the intended recipient(s). Any review, use, distribution, or disclosure by others is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient (or authorized to receive the e-mail, document, or information on behalf of the recipient), please contact the sender by reply e-mail and delete all copies of this message." By doing so, students learned that no e-mail communication is private, even with the added privacy statement.

Provide tools to create strong, secure passwords

On a high school campus, students sharing devices is common. I instructed students to create strong passwords and to never share them. I taught students to never use their pet's name, birthday, or address as their password. Instead, I recommended services like Secure Password Generator or LastPass to create secure, random passwords.

Model how to update operating systems, virus protection programs, and browsers

One of the biggest security issues comes from users not updating their digital systems, especially the browsers. I encouraged teachers to show students how to update browsers across all Internet-enabled devices and how to check whether they have the newest version of the browser. I also recommend a few free virus protection programs such as AVG and Avast.

Use cloud services to share work rather than USB flash drives

As a classroom teacher, I often asked my students to create digital presentations. Whether it was a slide presentation or a video, I always required them to share it using cloud services such as Google Drive or Dropbox. I did so to prevent introducing a virus to the school's network.

Some students used online presentation tools such as Prezi or Google Slides. In such cases, I required students add me as one of their editors, which gave me a lot more options in terms of seeing who contributed and when.

As we interact with one another more and more online, we need to practice good digital hygiene to keep us healthy and safe. Just as we would want students to wash their hands frequently to keep their bodies physically healthy, we should remind them to practice digital hygiene to protect their digital health.

Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program. Her Purposeful Tech column looks at how classroom teachers can think critically about today's instructional technologies.

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