There are over 7 billion people in the world. Over 3 billion people have access to the internet, which is more than 40% of the worlds population. 3 billion digital citizens connected to the WWW. Wow!

image from Flikr - cc. Nicolas Raymond
image from Flikr – creative commons. From Nicolas Raymond

But what is a digital citizen? Who’s job is it to educate children in digital citizenship skills ? When and where should we be talking with students about their role as a digital citizen? How does this affect what happens in the classroom? 

A digital citizen can be described as “those who use the Internet regularly and effectively“. Or digital citizenship could be described as “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.” Or put simply “the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on.”

So, if we dropped the word “digital” from “digital citizenship” then really we would be saying the same thing, whether it is online or in the real world. We expect people (citizens) to behave in a way that is good for the other people around us.

From Pixabay -Creative Commons -Copyright Free Pictures
From Pixabay -Creative Commons –Copyright Free Pictures

Tidying up after ourselves is a skill in the real world. It could be likened to to making sure we sign out  when working on a shared computer.  Sharing is a skill in the real world. It can be likened to using creative commons in the digital world. There are constant links to real life and our world online.

Anne Collier thinks that we should drop the word digital because we are simply teaching citizenship to children. I have to say I think I agree with her. Teaching the 2 skills seem ridiculous. The two go hand in hand, if you are a responsible citizen in the real world then you are going to be a responsible digital citizen.

A digital citizen must be proactive online. Not reactive. I like this article from Edutopia that has grouped proactive knowledge into 9 catergories:-

  1. Passwords
  2. Privacy
  3. Personal Information
  4. Photographs
  5. Property
  6. Permission
  7. Protection
  8. Professionalism
  9. Personal brand

Using these 9 areas we can teach children to become good digital citizens. But just teaching is not enough. Benjamin Franklin famously said

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn

So teaching children is not enough for children to understand how to be a good digital citizen. Experiential knowledge is also needed. Getting children to become part of their learning by joining collaborative learning communities, going projects such as Out of Eden Learn can teach children how to operate using social media. After all children will need to use social media effectively is they are to get a job and if they do not want to be part of a witch hunt. Get children to comment on others work in class, making a connection with the work, talk about what they liked, what they could improve and get them to ask a question. Mirroring what we expect from a comment on a blog. Using images that through Creative Commons we can use legally. Some schools like to use platforms or websites to help them in this journey. Atlantis Remixed, commonsense.org and iKeepSafe offer some great teaching and learning moments.

To me it comes down to:-

Promote and model good uses of digital spaces in your classroom and school.

This is good practice to show children, even of 6-7 years old how to use technology responsibly. Digital Citizenship is a subject area that transcends ALL content areas, it is not an add on.

Another factor to think about is parents. Teachers and schools can only do so much. The road to becoming a good digital citizen is 3 ways between child, parents and school. I chuckled along when reading about Gregory’s iPhone Contract.

From Pixabay - Creative Commons - Darius Sankowski
From Pixabay – Creative Commons – Darius Sankowski

Explaining to a 13 year old boy about when and where he can use his iPhone was funny but unfortunately missed the boat with regards teaching him to be a valuable member to society as both a citizen and a digital citizen. Having regular conversations, talking about online behaviours, and the norms of respecting each other can benefit children’s pursuit to becoming a great citizen online and offline.

So how is it going in my class?

Well, we are beginning to talk about the what it means to be a digital citizen. The children have shared pieces of information with each other on their blogs. The children are now looking at these videos and making appropriate comments. They are making connections, they are saying what they like about the video, they are asking a question, finally they are re-reading their comment before posting. These skills about writing a comment, sharing information ( not the type of information that you want the world to know) etc are all skills that will help children understand what it means to be digital citizens in 2015 and beyond. After all these skills will last the children a lifetime.

Not only are we working with the children. Last week my fantastic colleagues Suzy Ramsden, Tanya Irene, and I hosted a Technology Workshop for Grade 1 Parents. I have shared the presentation below.

We spoke about all of these topics and ended the workshop with parents posting their own comment onto our class kidblog using a 3-2-1 bridge thinking routine. The parents were taking part. Not just being spoken too.

This is not a one way road to digital citizenship. As Kevin Honeycutt said

Our kids are growing up on a digital playground and no one is on recess duty

Lets be there to model the correct behaviours online and offline, to our students. Online and offline…it’s all the same .Lets be citizens, lets be digital citizens.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdEXijFXfD8&list=PLvzOwE5lWqhRhUa0Zet5__9yfLX8NRvb3&index=2&feature=plpp_video[/youtube]

Join the Conversation

6 Comments

  1. Hi Joel,

    I agree 100% with the suggestion to drop digital and stick to citizenship. This wasn’t something I had thought of, but it totally makes sense. Teaching students to be responsible, positive citizens is something we do everyday, so why shouldn’t the digital aspect of that be integrated? With the access to technology our students have, digital citizenship should be ingrained in our (and our students) minds when we are talking about citizenship. This COETAILer is also on the same page. He blogged “We can even remove the word “digital” and just stress the importance of being good citizens everywhere we go, whether it is on or offline. This isn’t something that is separate and therefore it shouldn’t be taught on its own.”

    Thank you for sharing the presentation you and your colleagues created for your Technology Workshop. What a great idea! As a grade 1 teacher, it is helpful to see how other teachers are incorporating technology into their classrooms; especially since a lot of our readings are geared towards middle and high school students. My class is beginning to use Twitter to share our learning and we have been discussing our digital footprint and what information we should and should not tweet.

    In my search for new and interesting ways to incorporate technology into the curriculum I came across this website. I am not sure if and how I am going to use it, but their message of creating a world of good definitely fits into the importance of being positive citizens.

    -Lauren

    1. Hi Lauren,
      Many thanks for your comments. I think teaching children to be good citizens both online and offline should not be an add on. Lets talk about what we should so when we are in front of a screen and when we are face to face with someone. It is all the same really. I suppose it is a little bit of a mind shift for the educators on this part.
      The presentation went well – we had around a 25% turnout from parents – which was good. The parents were receptive and positive to the workshop and we hope to repeat another one later in the year. I think this reinforces the message that it a 3 way partnership between parents, teachers, and students.
      Twitter is a great tool in the classroom. I am just beginning to teach children about the use and power of twitter. Perhaps our class’s could meet up virtually and share what they have been up to?
      The website you shared looks like a real winner. It looks something I would mess around with let alone the children. Thanks for your comments…I’m going to play with The Wonderment
      Cheers, Joel

  2. Hi Joel,

    You are so great at whittling the questions down to it’s essence. I would really like to teach myself to think that way too. It reminds me of that ancient book. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten https://www.peace.ca/kindergarten.htm. Your thoughts are so practical for teaching. Leading in this manner takes the stress out of something that a lot of teachers find really daunting.

    I have been struggling with the amount of information regarding digital literacy that I have been coming across in my reading these past few weeks that is a short step away from a list of DON’Ts. I want to immerse myself in the DO’s. I think pointing out how powerful it is for kids to be connected, and know what is expected of them online as both consumers and producers is our responsibility as teachers. ALL TEACHERS. I came across this in my twitter feed last week youtu.be/sxyKNMrhEvY . It illustrates the power of having access to everything all of the time. I really like the way you think we can teach kids how to use it.

    1. Hi Tanya,
      Thanks for the comments. I am glad it comes across that way although it certainly doesn’t feel it when I write the blog post! I have not come across the book you mentioned. I’ll add it to the growing pile of books I need to read during the holidays!
      I completely agree with your comments regarding do’s and don’ts. I really think that if children here the word don’t then they switch off automatically. As teachers we are always saying – don’t run, don’t talk. How about even the simple things are turned to a please walk, silence please. It just sounds so much better.
      I like the video that you shared- I think have access to everything all the time can be a great thing. I think back to my time in London – everything was open 24/7. I suppose it is about a good balance. Thanks for your comments, cheers
      Joel

  3. Hi Joel

    I really like the “9 Ps”. It helps to have different frameworks to talk about and to teach about Digital Citizenship. I also agree that it’s getting to be the time that we drop the “digital” part from the work. Hopefully our digital behaviour mirror our offline behaviours and vice versa; and that there are no contradictions. This is also another area to explore with students: online authenticity. Here is an interesting article about this: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/nov/03/instagram-star-essena-oneill-quits-2d-life-to-reveal-true-story-behind-images

    1. Hi Vivian,
      Many thanks for your comments. I think the important elements are talking to children and explaining that an offline conversation face to face is exactly the same as online chat on a website. Making children, even at a young age, understand that there is no difference between the 2 conversations is a huge element in this.
      I agree that children need to be exposed to the sad fact that not everthing they see online is reality. In a way does this mirror society? Do you always see what you get?
      Interesting topics to talk to children about and give them insight so that they can make posotive choices online and offline.
      Thanks again for the comments,
      Cheers
      Joel

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