I have engaged in many interesting classroom discussions about what young people need to learn in order to be active and engaged participants in a diverse democracy. While technology can sometimes make the world seem bigger and more overwhelming, social networking and other media technologies are actually bringing humans closer together. For me, this means that we have the important opportunity to develop ways to support young people and adults to be thoughtful digital citizens who use technology in the service of equity, justice, growth, learning, health, and community.
Often, conversations about digital citizenship are framed in terms of classroom control and online safety. While administrators must focus on these concerns, I would love to see us all engage broader ways of thinking about and developing a mindset and culture in schools where digital citizenship includes social engagement, empowerment, critical thinking and literacy, social-emotional literacy, equity and social justice as a way to create safer environments for everyone. Developing a mindset in schools that focuses on digital citizenship means taking the time, energy and resources to figure out how to center the needs of the humans who use technology rather than technology, itself.
Mike Ribble suggests viewing and teaching Digital Citizenship through the concept of REP (Respect, Educate, Protect). REP organizes Ribble’s Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship into three overarching dimensions, which are:
Respect Yourself/Respect Others
- Etiquette: electronic standards of conduct or procedure.
- Access: full electronic participation in society.
- Law: electronic responsibility for actions and deeds.
Educate Yourself/Connect with Others
- Communication: electronic exchange of information.
- Literacy: process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology.
- Commerce: electronic buying and selling of goods.
Protect Yourself/Protect Others
- Rights and Responsibility: those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.
- Safety (Security/Self-protection): electronic precautions to guarantee safety.
- Health and Wellness: physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.
These dimensions address the ubiquity of technology in our daily lives. Technology is making human connection possible in a different way than ever before in human history. As such, we must develop practices that center respect, education, connection and protection.
These nine themes are very important and useful and I think we need skills to enact and expand on these principles. In addition to safety, I see the purpose of digital citizenship to be about both participation in the world and about connection. Being a citizen means being/becoming a part of a larger group. Being/becoming a group member implies connection. When humans experience connectedness, we are more likely to learn, to grow, and to support each other. Thus, we need to think about pedagogy and how we facilitate connection with technology. The concept of “connected learning” can help adults think better, with young people, about digital citizenship.
The Connected Learning Research Network has developed guiding principles for Connected Learning…
Connected Learning is:
“..socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity.
Connected learning is realized when a young person pursues a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career possibilities, or civic engagement.”
— Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design, Ito et al., 2013
Teachers need professional development that supports and challenges us to develop our own digital literacy. Digital Citizenship should help us to think about where boundaries need to be drawn related to the use of technology and how we use tech in the service of human connection and learning.
Let’s get connected in Western Mass! Check the TiE2016 Conference keynote speaker, Antero Garcia’s excellent (& free!) eBook titled, Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. Contributors to this volume discuss teacher agency, interest-driven learning, peer-supported learning, academically oriented teaching, production-centered classrooms, openly networked teachers, students, and classrooms, and the power of a shared purpose in terms of resistance, resilience, and relationships.