While reading various articles on digital citizenship and digital identity this week, Turning Students Into Good Digital Citizens by John K. Waters left me thinking the longest after reading.

I consider myself to be more interested in practical aspects of life as opposed to theoretical, and so I’ve found myself mostly drawn to articles that have ideas to help me become a better facilitator of digital citizenship attributes in my classrooms.

The article by John K. Waters includes different opinions and perspectives on what digital citizenship entails. Certain professionals feel that it is more aligned with what I would consider to be digital literacy skills, that being having basic computer skills and being able to fluently use the technology. It seemed as if everyones definition of digital citizenship entails Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, but with a different emphasis on different components or even going beyond those outlined 9 elements.

I’ve generally thought of digital citizenship as being like citizenship IRL. It’s about being safe, being kind and polite, not causing harm, etc. It was certain professionals definitions in John Waters article though that has helped me push my definition of digital citizenship into something deeper and more meaningful. Some opinions were that digital citizenship needs to be participatory. Jeff Livingston, senior vice-president of McGraw-Hill Education’s College and Career Readiness Center explains that technology changes the definition of community. We used to only be able to be an active member in our own small communities, but when we’re plugged in, what are the limits on how big our community can be? We can still participate in our own communities, much as we have always been able to, but digitally we are a part of the global community and should participate in this community as well.

Terri discussed in her blog ‘Men and Women for Others‘ how students from her school will be participating in WE Day. What is WE day? Well Terri says that, “The WE day movement  aims to empower a young  generation of global citizens through this inspirational event”. In my mind, this is fostering a deeper level of digital citizenship. I think this type of engagement is what distinguishes digital citizenship from digital literacy.

In an earlier blog post of mine, I included a quote from Jason Ohler’s article Character Education for the Digital Age,  in which he was arguing that we should have as a goal in all classes to assess the technology and media that we use. In John K. Waters article, he references the work of Joseph Kahne who advocates that k-12 teachers include a sort of day-to-day skill set for digital citizenship into our teaching. The skills that he advocates for us using are having students assess the trustworthiness of info, using the internet to gather information on political and social issues, looking into other opinions regarding said issues, and then creating and publishing work in the online realm. Students that worked explicitly with these skills at school were found to be much more likely to continue using these skills in their discretionary time. As Jason and Joseph are both stating, these skills need to be addressed daily!

As a science teacher, I always try to put an emphasis on assessing credibility of information and being open to other opinions and ideas. The Rule of Three is a great rule to use in these situations; check credibility of information by checking with at least 3 sources. I teach Environmental Science 20 next semester and this is a field of study that I can really entwine science with digital citizenship skills. Climate and the environment are such dynamic forces that there are many opinions when it comes to interpreting data. It’s also an area that is incredibly interdisciplinary; economics, politics, science, and society all come together. While thinking about how I want to design my course for next semester, I’ll be keeping those four important skills in mind to try and build into our skill set.

Photo Credit: xaviergardens via Compfight cc

One of the greatest challenges facing teachers in wanting to help students become good digital citizens isn’t always lack of desire or knowledge from the teacher, but it is as Shaun pointed out in his blog The Three Scariest Things About Digital Citizenship and Technology in the Classroom; a lack of access. How many of you never have bandwidth issues at your school? Are devices always available where you teach? Do you try and address this issue with allowing students to bring their own device? How many of them have data plans? Good intentions can oftentimes be derailed with logistical issues.

For those of you who are on the frontlines of teaching students to become good digital citizens, what do you perceive as the most crucial skills digital citizens need? How do you avoid letting technical issues hinder your progress?

Live long and prosper