28Jun 2016

A Case for Digital Citizenship in Education

What is Digital Citizenship and what does it have to do with education?

When most people think of digital citizenship, they think of cyber bullying, social media and the ability to connect with others from around the world. Many don't think of: 

  • Teaching and learning appropriate ways of communicating online.

  • Understanding that what may seem to be an innocent joke between you and friends can come back to harm your reputation later on.

  • Learning to respectfully communicate your views and engage in conversation with those who hold opposing perspectives.

These simple ideas offer students a useful frame of reference and a mindset that can help prevent them from becoming lost in a rapidly expanding technological age.

Susan Bearden, a music teacher turned education technology thought-leader, witnessed this impact first hand and it has changed the trajectory of her career.


Bearden came across some vulgar content on a social media profile belonging to a student who had been offered an athletic scholarship. While this was a solid student, a conversation with a friend on an open, online forum could have cost her a scholarship. How many other students are setting themselves up for failure by not grasping the permenance of their actions? It is a tough pill to swallow knowing everything you type, post, and do online will be readily available for our grandchildren (and anyone else) to see. 




Why is Digital Citizenship so important?

Some of these concepts may seem like common-sense, but with so much misinformation, personal content, and strong opinions being miscontrued as facts, the need for our educators to take a lead role in this 21st century life skill is necessary. Here are some of the top reasons educators are introducing digital literacy into their classrooms:


1. It teaches students soft-skills as well as the content of the course 

Education is about preparing students for the "real-world" and helping them prepare to be successful in the workforce. There is value in the synthesis of real-world examples of communication, relationship building, technical application, critical thinking and problem solving into the learning experience. Pushing students to not only recall information for a test, but also apply that knowledge to real-world problems when needed and the ability to teach their peers is the truest form of learning.


2. Being a positive example

When digital literacy best practices are taught and used in class, students are able to see a positive example of these in action. Positive role models may be lacking for some outside the classroom. Being able to turn online conversations or group projects into teachable moments before it can cause serious repercussions is invaluable.


3. Enables a support system for educators

Teaching can often be a lonely job. Technology, whether it's a specific tool you use, an app you download or an online platform you're a part of, allows teachers to connect, bounce ideas and best practices off of each other and collaborate. 


Things that hold teachers back from adopting new ways of teaching in their classroom:

  • Fear - educators have a lot to lose if a new venture flops - their reputation, possible tenure interferance and negative student evaluations. But fear is normal and comes with any change. The key is to weigh the pros and cons, assess different options and talk to others who have made the switch!

  • Staying stuck in old habits - banning technology from the classroom may have been an appropriate tactic at one point in time, but lets be real - we don't ban technology from the workplace. Sure, we used to use pen and paper to run businesses but like all things in life, most businesses have evolved to increase efficiency and save money.

  • "I still use a flip phone" - new technology can be intimidating. Engaging in social media and opening your life up to the "cloud" can also be scary. There are numerous advantages of developing this skill in your life, and many resources to help accomplish this. Bearden has created an app, TweechMe to teach educators how to use Twitter to enhance their classroom.


Digital Citizenship: A Community Based Approach is also an excellent introductory resource. 

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."
Abraham Maslow

Best practices when considering adopting technology in your classroom: 

  • Keep an open mind - follow the below tips before dismissing the idea of making changes in your classroom and the field of education as a whole. 
  • Start small - Try using a new technology for one project, get feedback from students and move forward based on the results. Many who use CourseKey, a student engagement platform for higher ed courses, started off using just one feature such as the location based attendance or the quizzing and polling, adding in other options as they became more comfortable.
  • Ask around - See what your colleagues are using and what type of results they are getting to determine what may be a good fit for you.
  • Do the research - educators are already pros at this! Check out the website and social media of tools you are considering, ask for a demo, get a feel for the customer support and options that will best fit into your classroom.


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Check out the Creating Engagement in the Classroom ebook and learn about the research and best practices using Twitter as a classroom engagement facilitation tool.


How will you implement digital citizenship into your next class?