Digital Citizenship

We live in an era where technology is unavoidable. Our society depends more and more on technology to help us accomplish activities and tasks in almost every aspect of of daily life. Education is no different: proper instruction in a Common Core Era requires advanced understanding and usage of technology in the classroom. However, with increased student technology usage comes the danger of students not knowing or comprehending what it means to be an digital citizen.

We learn at an early age, throughout our adolescent years, and well into adulthood how to be a respectable citizen when we interact with people in person. The digital world, while it is many times an indirect medium to people (with the exception of social media sites, such as Facebook), is still an region where people need to be aware of how to be a model citizen online. Digital Citizenship is all about learning how to be a respectable, knowledgeable, and equitable technology user in a 21st century technology driven educational world.

Online websites and other digital platforms allow people to remain anonymous when writing online, and that breeds the temptation to illicit disrespectful and injurious comments about someone or an organization. The internet is not a place to outright (for the lack of a better term) bash others’ perspectives in a disrespectful manner. Each person has the right to write their interpretations without having to feel the pressure of being ridiculed in front of literally millions of people. Cyberbulling is a relatively new phenomenon that directly affects children, adolescents, young adults, and the elderly. It is especially damaging to adolescents, because they are transitioning from childhood into adulthood. Every teenage year they are going through major cognitive, physical, and social development; they absorb every person, remark, and other outside forces to further create their identity. Technology can be used to write positive, constructive remarks about individuals, but is also a prime location for personal attacks.

Learning about what is proper and improper write online is key in any educational setting. Creating educational activities in the classroom, such as collaborative annotation of primary sources, gives students the ability to acquire and hone a new educational skill they can use with any other academic course. After proper instruction of what is an appropriate annotation – because everyone else can see the annotation – adolescents can enrich their understanding of science, math, history, English, music, and any other course that requires them to analyze specific primary sources, data, sheet music, a poem, etc.

Digital citizenship also requires students to have a deep comprehension of how to best take care of technology. Any form of technology is expensive and improper handling of electronic devices can result in someone or an organization having to spend more money on technology that should not have been damaged. Teachers have a responsibility to instruct students on how to handle certain electronic devices. Yes, students’ parents tell them how to care for their electronic possessions, and stress the importance of expenses, but that instruction should also be reinforced in the classroom.

There are a lot of resources teachers and other people can seek to learn more about how to implement digital citizenship in a classroom setting or in their lives. The International Society for Technology in Education is a great resources for teachers to discover ways to weave digital citizenship instruction into their curriculum. ISTE gives a deep description about cyberbulling and how to prevent the spread of it across the digital platform.

Common Sense Media gives physical lesson plans for K-12 teachers to use in their classroom to teach different aspects of digital citizenship. There are a lot of lesson plans to explore, so make sure to carve out time in the day to explore Common Sense Media.

One lesson from Common Sense Media I would either use or modify is their lesson on Collective Intelligence for 9-12 grade students. (credit for the lesson is given to the creators of Common Sense Media and the personnel who developed this lesson).

For this lesson students hone their understandings of what it means to work collectively as a group online. The focus is to determine the benefits and drawbacks to creating information about a particular topic online, for example, through wikis sites. Part of this less has students think about what it means to be synergized with each other online. The primary task includes students constructing a Wiki site of their school with relevant information.

Why is it valuable?
Learning how to work as a group with anything is one the most challenging tasks for any student, regardless of grade level. Collectively discussing with each other does not get any easier – in fact it becomes harder as people become older. With technology, working as a group is even more important in today’s technologically enhanced world. At times it is difficult for students to understand what information online is relevant to them, what information is truthful, and how much information to include online to get arguments fully explained. Having students collectively explore the advantages and disadvantages to working as a team to share information online gives them social tools they can use as they progress into collegiate life.

How would I make it my own?
I kind of like the idea of having students think about the meaning of “synergy” and how it would look like both in the classroom and in the real world. Students can gather a deeper understanding of how it looks to be well connected with each other during a major assignment. I think instead of having students create a wiki page about their school, it would be beneficial to have students create a wiki page, or some other online learning page, about a particular historical phenomenon – historical figure, major event, significant changes in economics, politics, and/or society. Students can further understand what it means to work together as they are including information onto their wiki page. They can learn how to work together to determine what is relevant.

Grade 9-12


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