By KAB2013 – Photograph taken during Globaloria class in 2013.
Previously published: https://www.flickr.com/photos/globaloria/8450545513/sizes/m/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40943399
“Who should teach students to be great citizens?”
Answer this and you have also answered the question: “Who should teach students to be great digital citizens?”
It should be all teachers’ jobs to teach digital citizenship. As specialist and homeroom teachers alike, we all ask students to get online, use technology, bring iPads to class, add reflections to blogs, post videos, upload images, work on collaborative tasks, and more. Also, we know that students are spending a huge amount of time online at all times…As we all teach the whole child, the teaching of digital citizenship has graduated from being strictly the domain and responsibility of our IT teachers and Ed Tech coaches.
Parents also need to be on board, as Mike Ribble from ISTE states in Passport to Digital Citizenship, in order to repair “disconnects” between what is happening and expected in schools and what is happening and/or allowed at home. As the concept of digital citizenship is so new, many parents might be unfamiliar with its intricacies that go beyond cyberbullying and internet porn/predators fears.
All adults in the lives of our students need to have conversations with them before issues arise in the classroom and online. We can’t wait for negative incidents to happen, either between students in our classes and schools or at a more national/international level as in these tragic cases of cyberbullying induced suicide. We must be vigilant and proactive as digital citizens, mentors, and teachers and make sure that our students know they can approach us with any concerns related to breaches of our, hopefully, Empowering Use Policies in our schools (and homes). The minute students start getting online and using technology independently or guided, we need to teach.
From a very foundational approach, teachers and parents need to recognize, as Marylin Price Mitchell reminds us in Creating a Culture of Integrity in the Classroom (or out of one) that digital citizenship begins with instilling students and all people with these five values: responsibility, respect, fairness, trustworthiness, and honesty. Additionally, she recommends being explicit about academic integrity expectations and making students aware that grades are not the only marks of achievement that count in the classroom. We must reward hard work, real inquiry skills, and going through the steps of the learning cycle with enthusiasm.
Cynde Reneau in A new twist on cyberbullying also looks at the notion of how we as teachers can teach digital citizenship as the best defense against cyberbullying. Related to what Mitchell discussed, Reneau states that teachers must teach students to understand consequences of online actions and posts and to have strong identities that allow them to resist identities others might seek to impose on them.
However, I think the most important element that she mentions is empathy. It makes sense; we teach our students everyday to think about how peers in the classroom and on the playground might feel. When we teach children from an early age to be mindful that the creator of the words and the pictures of an online profile is actually a person with a heart and feelings just like them, it will be more natural for them to behave as citizens of a city might behave in a public venue.
In fact, from the start, we need to teach students that nothing less, in terms of principles, respect, tolerance, appreciation, and integrity is expected of them online than offline. We can do this through modelling, ideally by teaching students how to comment and post with respect.
I believe we are taking this teaching very seriously. For example, at my school last year, our principal called all students into important meetings to discuss cyberbullying, appropriate use of technology, and password protection after just one incident of email fraud was discovered amongst our students. We applauded her seizing of such a teachable moment. Furthermore students have signed technology agreements, we are redoing our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), and are planning how to actually teach students parts of it from the beginning of the year. We are drafting a more positive version of our AUP, hoping that principles and the ethos behind it will guide our first generation of digital-native-citizens far beyond their digital experiences at our school.