For my third podcast, I thought I would incorporate my latest blogpost regarding #edchat and discuss one of the recent #edchats I participated in called “Digital Citizenship.” The question posed for the October 2nd, 7:00 pm #edchat was “How do we define good Digital Citizenship, and what are specific things teachers can do to support that outcome for students?” Obviously, this is a topic that prominently emerged within the last 5 years. The concept of digital citizenship has been around for a while, but in the past, teachers and schools combatted the issue by simply not letting students online. However, as we have slowly seen the advantages of using online tools in the classroom, we have started to scale back the filters. With that scale back comes the responsibility of teaching and protecting our students about online use and their own digital footprint.
With the push in Internet Safety among our students in part due to the 21st Century Act that was passed recently, our teachers are tasked with teaching students what good “Digital Citizenship” looks like. One of the problems raised over and over again in this week’s #edchat was that teachers are not sure what Digital Citizenship really is or how they teach good digital citizenship. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a fairly new concept for most teachers because it just came down the pipe a few years ago.
Many of the participants were concerned that “digital citizenship” was going to become one of those words like “meaningful learning” and “connected educator” that is poorly defined even though we now consider both of those to be essential staples in today’s classroom. Even though digital citizenship remains poorly defined, teachers also have to combat the fact that their idea of digital citizenship can be different from someone else’s idea of digital citizenship. Just like everything else that emerges within education, teachers have to figure out the best way to fit “digital citizenship” into their classroom curriculum. The law says it has to be taught, but how it is taught and the best way to teach it is up to the teacher.
After tweeting out the concerns surrounding the definition of digital citizenship and the concerns about teaching the concept to students, the conversation shifted to setting parameters for the term. Most people agreed that digital citizenship meant leaving a strong, positive, contributing digital footprint. Teachers need to help students see that what they do online never disappears, and that is completely okay if students are positively contributing to whatever online environment they are participating in. However, even with the groundwork laid, teachers continued to offer up extended definitions of digital citizenship related to cyber bullying, filtering, facebook, twitter, etc.
Finally, mixed throughout the entire #edchat conversation were suggestions of specific things that teachers can do to help our students meet the outcome of what we defined as digital citizenship. Almost every contributor offered up some sort of variation of modeling. Modeling is long lasting and time-tested strategy that works well for most students. Teachers model a certain behavior and students mimic or follow that model thus meeting the teacher’s expectations. One teacher noted that teachers who participate in #edchat and contribute in a positive manner on twitter instead of gossiping are modeling good digital citizenship. One of the foremost experts on all things tech, @web20classrom Steven Anderson, tweeted that “Digital Citizenship/Ethics are normally stand alone lessons and activities when they should be woven into the curriculum. “
With that being said, I would agree with my colleague, Steven Anderson, that students should be taught this concept by working it into our everyday lesson plans. Digital citizenship is a huge component of the 21st century curriculum and one that all teachers need to begin to embrace. No matter how you define it, digital citizenship is here to stay.