We were chatting in the Social Studies 8 the other day about words and how new words are added to the dictionary each year. The students looked puzzled by this concept until their teacher gave them the example, INTERNET. They had a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that 20 years ago INTERNET was not a part of our vocabulary! They also got a kick out of finding out Homer’s “D’OH!” has been included in the dictionary!
Now I’m writing a post about “Digital Citizenship” and it’s the same idea. Twenty years ago I would have been baffled about what that term could possibly mean, while today the majority of our students have only experienced life that includes citizenship in a digital world.
This being the reality, what does it really mean? And how do we educate our kids, our students, ourselves, about what that looks like practically? I have few ideas that I’m going to throw out there but I’m going to be straight with you. Yet another mantra I live by is the tried and true, K.I.S.S.
If I’m going to live it, model it, teach it, then Digital Citizenship needs to make sense to the four year old in me. Not because I think I’m not intelligent and capable of something complex but because I think I’ve stumbled on a bit of wisdom. Starting out simply in doing any learning, increases the likelihood of,
- a solid foundation of learning being built
- everyone being included
- it being more easily internalized and practiced
These are just a few reasons simplicity needs to guide our teaching; I’m sure there are dozens more. However, leaving those as my top three, let’s apply them to the concept of digital citizenship.
- Build a solid foundation in students about what it means to be a digital citizen
Now, before any foundation is built for a house, the land is prepared. Boulders are cleared out, the site is levelled. In discussing and teaching within our digital world there are a few boulders to remove and not in the students lives, but rather in ours. What bias do you carry regarding the presence of increased technology in our society? Be honest. Do you tend towards being a Negative Nancy? Or perhaps a Polly Positive? Either paradigm may need some rethinking. Take the time to read articles such as The IRL Fetish by Nathan Jurgenson or Jason Ohler’s, Character Education for the Digital Age to inform your thinking. The more balanced you can be in your approach to teaching this topic the stronger the foundation you are building will be in your students.
Having done your own internal work, what are the ingredients to teaching healthy digital citizenship? I dare say not much different from what we are already teaching our kids about being good Canadian citizens! Sure, there are unique aspects to the digital environment, but we’re talking foundations here.
As I said in a previous post, Robert Fulgrum talks about some of those foundational guiding principals. In his writing, All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, he reminds us to share, be fair, don’t take thing that aren’t yours, say sorry, live a balanced life, hold hands and stick together and so on. It all applies in our digital world, right?!? Here’s two examples upacked a little:
- Social media is about sharing. MOOC is about sharing. Khan Academy is about sharing (important aside – I’m not so secretly in love with Sal Khan! I swear when I’m ramped up and can’t figure something out, just hearing his voice explain a concept takes me out of the red zone and back into the green zone!)
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours – understanding copyright, plagiarism! Exposing students to Compfight or Creative Commons (another example of sharing!)
And I love this one, hold hands and stick together! What a great way to help students learn about online safety and how to stay clear of cyber bullying, stalking, etc.?
Let’s move on to #2 and #3.
2. Be inclusive
This is simple and straight forward. Don’t exclude anyone. If someone is online, teach them about how to be online. From preschools to senior homes, everyone needs the opportunity to learn how to be responsible digital citizens. So differientiate the way you teach it for your learners, and make sure it’s being taught.
3. Make it practical
If we want people to internalize what it means to be a digital citizen in our times, then make it practical. Show people how to navigate this digital world. Don’t just tell them. Have them do it with you. Practice some of those tasks together. Remember, hold hands and stick together. One of the things I have appreciated tons in the EDTC300 (Educational Technology and Media) course I’m taking is that we do it all via ZOOM and Katia (our prof) shows us everything! And then if we still don’t get, she stays “after class”, shares screens with baffled students and unties our digital knots or takes the time to increase our learning. It’s a great model for me observe and benefit from!
This topic of digital citizenship, while I attempt to “keep it simple”, is a big topic and I’ve just scratched the surface. There’s tons to chat through and think through, but for today, let’s leave it there. I’m sure we’ll be tackling this topic again!