If we want our students to become true contributors and innovators in this Web 2.0 world then we need to give them the skills and guidelines to be able to do this safely and confidently. When looking up synonyms for citizenship, words like autonomy, liberation, rights and duties are listed . If we teach digital citizenship we are giving them creative independence and autonomy to use and contribute to the online world in a way that I find inspiring and hopeful. Using technology with citizenship in mind empowers our students to influence the future and allows them to be heard as young leaders and influencers. Not to help them see these opportunities would seem like we are limiting their possibilities. Teaching digital citizenship is no longer just an ‘elective’.
Citizenship is about living in the world together, digital citizenship is about living in our online world together. Whilst there are so many connections between those all important social, emotional and ethical skills and behaviours we encourage in our students everyday , students should be explicitly taught what it means to be a digital citizen . In the same article Mary Beth Hertz writes it is imperative that they know and understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to content creation and consumption, as well as how they conduct themselves socially online. We need to give them a ‘tool kit’ to be able to make choices about what kind of a citizen they are and how to get the most out of the online community. Mike Ribble refers to our responsibility to set the stage for how we work with each other in a global, digital, society.
As teachers, one of the most powerful influences to help students is to model practices ourselves. Whilst I strive to model all those things that an empathetic, kind, positive, creative, curious, and responsible person contributes to a community I asked myself this week whether I had the ‘tool kit’ to model specific aspects of digital citizenship. Cue Coetail Course 2. My digital citizenship up until now has been about exercising what I thought was informed good practice. I know now that my information and approach had been limited. I needed to have the skills but also a clear understanding of how to help my students get the most out of their digital lives in order to model it myself. More importantly, issues raised in Course 2 have helped me to inform others about digital citizenship in our everyday use of technology. I am more confident to have these important discussions with parents and colleagues who worry about privacy, safety, lack of control, influence of outsiders and about bullies and being a bully .
Last week , Joel Bevans, my Grade 1 colleague Tanya Irene , our inspiring IT facilitator, and I ran a Parent Workshop to inform, raise questions, and share ideas about student online activities and digital citizenship.
Important questions and concerns were raised and I noticed that many parents were discussing digital footprints for the first time and had not considered their own. Most of the parents of my students had not had discussions themselves at school around digital citizenship and yet many faced these discussions or situations daily with their own children’s use of technology. The first ISTE standards referred to “Social, Ethical, Legal, and Human issues,” and it wasn’t until 2008 that the revised version referred to elements of digital citizenship . Even more reason why teachers and parents should have these discussions to avoid a disconnect between home and school and to help parents give their children guidance. The parents were concerned about privacy and sharing, but could see how being informed and practising digital citzenship from an early age would help their children to take advantage of the opportunities and possibilities in their learning by making global connections. Ultimately the pros far outweigh the cons.
Kayla Delzer, a 2nd Grade teacher and technology consultant in North America writes:
While jumping into technology or social media can be scary at first, the benefits of putting kids in authentic environments to hone their digital citizenship skills far outweigh those fears. Sometimes, the comfort level of teachers is less important than doing what’s right for students as we prepare them for the future that waits for them when they leave school. We as teachers cannot play into those fears, or be the four walls that hold our students back.
The question becomes how I encourage digital citizenship in the classroom. Like last week’s post on copyright, my students are really good at making connections. They can tell me what we need to build a community and can make that connection to a virtual community. Just as classroom citizenship becomes an integral part of our day, so digital citizenship becomes an integral part of using technology. With both we revisit when different situations arise, and have regular discussions around living in and building a community . Revisits become part of classroom life . When building skills, knowledge and understanding with our students in any area of the curriculum we often review, remind, reflect and remix the problem to see if they can apply their understanding. Moreover, in the digital world nothing will stay the same for long and so new skills may need to be explicitly taught , and new guidelines developed.
One of my students this week made me reflect on what digital citizenship is. We were building on previous activities about our digital footprints. I asked the students how they think their footprints, ‘their impressions of themselves’ connect to other classmates and people. I gave them time to look at each others’ ‘footprints’ and talk. We got into a circle and made connections to each other using yarn. One student said whilst holding yarn across the circle to another student,
“I am connected to Ben because we are both proactive.”
They also commented on the ‘web ‘ that we were making. I love how they drive their own learning.
“It’s like the world web, you know that www we do when we use the internet.”
I was excited that he had referred to the Learner Profile to make his connection and his comment then prompted a discussion about whether we can apply the Learner Profile to being a good digital citizenship. When online, am I a..? I am ..?
- Creative and Innovative
A few days later, I showed them the Commonsense media video, Super Digital Citizen.
I asked the students if they had any superpowers. They had plenty. Many of them we agreed could help us be good digital citizens.
“My superpower is being kind.”
“My superpower is helping.”
“My super power is using the iPad”
“My superpower is building stuff.”
“My superpower is being creative.”
“My superpower is speaking languages.”
“My superpower is minecraft”
“My superpower is working stuff out.”
At the end of the day, if we help our students to understand what digital citizenship is all about then we hope that they will take the advice to trust their powerful mind and giant heart above any machine and make the right choices.
We owe it to our students to give them the tools to create positive digital footprints and to help them on their way to becoming those contributors, creators and innovators that they can be.