Musings on Digital Citizenship

Citizenship is defined as belonging to a space or place and obeying the laws and regulations that govern it.


Some rights reserved by Cristóbal Cobo Romaní

Whilst the laws, social nuances and societal values that operate in our daily lives may be clear to most of us. The ettiqute that we follow in digital spaces (internet, cell phone messages, emails, video, photos) are somewhat of a grey area.

We have just spent two days with Andrew Cowie (@cowieandrew) at the National Library of New Zealand, listening and discussing and connecting/sharing about what digital citizenship education and digital literacy actually looks like. One dangerous assumption that is made in regards to the fast paced technological world that we live in; is that children/teenagers who have grown up in it are digital natives and innately know how to behave or act online.

Photo by Zawezome on Flikr

The truth of the matter is that they don’t. Without exposure to effectively modelled etiquette for interacting in the digital world, children will not be able to make critical or effective use of the myriad of tools that are available. This is the essence of what digital citizenship is about. For instance, what is the purpose of email? What is and is not appropriate to send?

The beauty and danger of the online environment is our ability to connect globally and remotely with others. Facebook, Skype, Viber, Text, Twitter and many more social media tools have revolutionised the way events are organised, news is shared and social connections made clear. However, the elements of anonymity and spaces divorced from reality have lead to people using and abusing these tools.

This is what makes developing digital citizenship and digital literacy with our students paramount. It’s unlike that an airline pilot or computer programmer would be able to use the tools for their job without training. Yet we are allowing kids (as young as 1) to use I-pads, computers, cell phones without any discussion about what it means for them to act appropriately.

Created by Dean Johnson, 2008

Some questions that our trip to the National Library brought up:

How long do you spend on your computer, cell phone, tablet, I-Pad, PS4, X-Box etc. (screen time) every day?

What rules or regulatory policies should be used at school to control or promote appropriate use of technology?

How many of the staff at our schools understand the implications of copyright laws on their daily use of resources?

We are entering a phase of education where the technology that has developed has far exceeded any current policy that stands in schools. I harp on about “the knowledge age” quite regularly, however it’s important for students to develop critical literacy skills for all the modes of communicating ideas. This includes technology.  Not only will students be expected to be critical consumers of digital resources, but they will also need to become “Prosumers” (a person who consumes and actively contributes to the online community or any industry).

Some rights reserved by Denise Krebs

How can we develop a grounded understanding of pedagogically sound content knowledge about technology?

Some excellent resources to start pondering these questions:

Pondering these thoughts is pretty much my full time job – exciting!

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