Part II: Digital Citizenship Needs to be a Verb

Photo credit: Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel

If you asked ten people to define digital citizenship, you would most likely receive ten different responses. Why? It’s complicated, and the terms “digital” and “citizenship” are broad. Furthermore, our digital lives are constantly evolving with upgrades and new ways to consume and produce electronic media.

by: Marialice B.F.X. Curran

In the most simplistic terms, I like to view digital citizenship as the safe, ethical and savvy use of technology.

As a pioneer in the field, Dr. Mike Ribble created the foundation for digital citizenship by establishing the widely used nine elements. Often referred to as the “Godfather of Digital Citizenship," Ribble defines digital citizenship as “The norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regards to technology use.”   The nine elements include: digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security.  His seminal work has led the way for others to explore the safe, ethical and savvy use of technology.

In recent years we have seen a flurry of articles proclaiming the virtues of digital citizenship. What we need now is a focus on action. Students need to think and act at a local, global and digital level simultaneously. Digital citizenship is everyone’s responsibility.

Digital citizenship needs to be a verb.

Digital Citizenship is Everyone’s Responsibility

As much as we assume that American students are tech-savvy, studies examining the critical thinking behind the tech use seem to show otherwise. According to a study on millennials, students in the U.S. are not being prepared to use technology for problem solving. Out of 19 countries, the U.S. ranked dead last.

Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation, shared her thoughts during a presentation announcing the organization’s finding, “Yes, they can use social media,” yet 58 percent of Millennials come up short trying to use digital tools and networks to solve problems. Using social media is not the same thing as being technologically-savvy.

What is the solution? How can we engage our students in creating positive, practical solutions along with amplifying the overall message of improving tech usage?

Simple: We can’t just read or write about digital citizenship, we need to do it.

This critical conversation needs to begin early and happen often. It can’t just happen at an assembly. We need to embed digital citizenship into our curriculum and instruction every day. Our students’ futures are depending on us.

How can you start?

Add student voice in project based learning projects. Have students problem solve and create solutions around topics that interest them and address 21st Century issues like empathy, digital etiquette, tech balance and digital literacy. Carve out time for students to participate in Genius Hour and Makerspaces projects. Amplifying student choice and voice in the classroom is the key to making learning meaningful. For example, elementary students can teach other students how to leave quality blog comments and high school students can create a 21st Century student manifesto to inspire other students.

Provide teachers opportunities to connect, network and collaborate beyond their classroom walls. Send your teachers to an Edcamp and then ask them to bring the experience back to the district. Lift block and bans in your school and urge teachers to join other connected educators during a Twitter chat. During the month of October encourage teachers to participate in Connected Educator Month. The possibilities are endless. Social media as a learning tool has the potential to revolutionize how students communicate, connect, network, problem-solve, collaborate and learn.

It’s time for action.

The Digital Citizenship Summit

What happens in digital citizenship tomorrow is decided today.

Digital citizenship has been an add-on to the curriculum, as well as professional development and this is the reason why I wanted to organize a conference that put digital citizenship first.

The Digital Citizenship Summit on October 3 at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, is for everyone. It is an opportunity to gather forward thinking educators, students, parents and the tech industry to focus on solutions and push new ideas forward as we define the future of digital citizenship.

We hope you will lend your digital voice to the conversation. We need all stakeholders to be part of this digital change. For more information on our speakers and registration, visit our website: http://digcitsummit.com/.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of Marialice B.F.X. Curran.

Marialice CurranDr. Marialice B.F.X. Curran is recognized as a national expert in digital citizenship. As the co-founder of the Digital Citizenship Summit and Digital Citizenship chat on Twitter, she is an Associate Professor at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut.  She was named one of the top 10 digital citizenship bloggers to follow in 2014 by Common Sense Media.  She also serves on the leadership team for the Digital Citizenship PLN through the International Society in Technology for Education (ISTE). Her teaching and scholarship focus on digital citizenship and social media in K-12 teacher education and she has spoken both nationally and internationally on the topic of digital citizenship and its relationship to both bullying & cyberbullying.

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