Digital Citizenship: Overcoming Best Intentions


 Back in October, I launched my action plan, and even though Digital Citizenship Day is in the past for 2013, I am looking forward to the first week of October in 2014. There are some great conversations throughout Cohort 21, as well as the CIS Ontario community about online safety and the role of students, parents, teachers, classrooms and schools themselves in educating, training and developing an understanding around what it means to be a positive and constructive digital citizen.

As I am working to create and implement a digital citizenship program at my own school, some obstacles (well, I am not sure that obstacles is the right word for it) have arisen.

First is consistency: When trying to understand what digital citizenship is, there are many different interations or priorities from the different stakeholders. Some teachers do use smartphones in their classes, others do not. Some teachers are using social media in the classroom (FakeBook, Twitter, Tumblr and the like) but some are not. Some teachers are focussing on computer organization, some are not. To be consistent, I am trying to focus on the immediate habits of mind that are most important for our students to adopt. I’ve boiled it down to two that parents and teachers alike can get behind:

1) Password Protection: what are they? what are best practices?
2) The Golden Rule applies in cyberspace. If they wouldn’t do it in real life, they shouldn’t do it online.

Second is Aligning Digital Citizenship with your schools’ IT department: There are very real limitations and restrictions on what students can and cannot do while at the school. Some teachers, however, require students to create or view movies and other bandwidth heavy media. The use of illegal downloading software can have detrimental impacts on the entire system, not to mention the potential of malware and spyware. So, when creating a digital citizenship curriculum, I am focussing on:

1) What are the priorities of my IT department?
2) What are the teacher needs and how what skills are they asking of their students.

Finally, is Aligning the Schools’ Digital Ecosystem with the Student’s Personal Digital Ecosystem:

The importance of understanding proper behaviour while being a student online in school is paramount for schools to protect, define and reinforce good habits of mind. Asking mindful questions such as “When you tweet, do you use a school only twitter account?” and “When you post to a blog or ePortfolio, or write for your school’s website, what authentic voice do you use?” challenge students to think critically about their own authentic voice and audience. These questions, posed as part of a social media assignment, can be very powerful.

Recently, Google launched a new site called the “Google Safety Center” proclaiming that “It’s a safer internet!” They have a whole host of resources and activities that would act as an excellent digital curriculum. However, there are two main things to note:

1) The resources are there, but they have to be deployed effectively to become positive habits of mind
2) Schools must find a way to meaningfully embed these skills in a vertical alignment

For further discussion, I’d love to hear: What are the digital sources that your schools use? What policies are in place around student use of social media?

3 thoughts on “Digital Citizenship: Overcoming Best Intentions

  1. Garth !

    Miss you guys at Cohort 21.

    Garth I’m trying to work on something similar for our Junior school. Take a look at
    Great resource for lessons, videos and assessment ideas.

    When Justin and I did a Junior School Digital Literacy workshop we found that the biggest takeaway with the kids was the idea that everything leaves a trail, the “digital footprint”.

    1. Hi Garth,

      I am really excited for you and your Digital Citizenship week October 2014. I think involving all staff and students, at some level, is vital. I sat in on both of Afzal and Justin’s talks and found the sessions revealing of what students know and don’t know. It was a great experience as they both, as well as me, strive to be positive digital citizens for all students and other staff members. I look forward to supporting Afzal and Justin’s ongoing digital citizenship plan. Thanks, Sara

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