What are our responsibilities as teachers to teach digital citizenship? As the weeks have gone by this semester, my feelings on this topic have increased the sense of responsibility I feel to make sure that I am helping all of my students increase their digital literacy skills and to help them leave behind a large and positive digital footprint. But I don’t think I, or any teacher, should feel that that responsibility falls solely on us! This is education in a field that is always changing and being a digital citizen is in large part about character development, and just like being a non-digital citizen, we continue to grow, change, and develop throughout our entire lives. I don’t view this as a curricular outcome that can simply be achieved. It should permeate our lessons and teaching in all grades at appropriate times. But it’s too much to expect schools to take on this responsibility entirely.
While reading Amy’s and Laura’s blogs this week they both discussed the involvement that is necessary from parents and both referenced other classmates blogs who also echoed these sentiments. It seems that we’re in agreement that this issue is too large for teachers to take on alone. When Amy was discussing this issue in reference to the kids she says, “they need a village backing them”. Schools are a place to learn, but they are not THE place to learn. I believe that the home should be the primary institute in teaching and learning. When I reflect on my life, there was a great deal of both technical knowledge gained at home but more importantly citizenship skills. And not just at home, but through other activities as well that were not called school. I remember in grade 1 when it was time to learn to read clocks and tell time, the teacher gave me other work to do because my parents had already taught me how to tell time when I was 4. Unfortunately, I feel that our societies ‘progress’ has resulted in more time spent working by parents and less family time. Life has sped up overall, and I think the expectations from many is that the school is responsible for educating their child as opposed to being viewed as just a single component of their child’s education. Parents are often so busy that I see technology such as t.v.’s and tablets filling the void of the absent parents. I think the responsibilities of teachers have been increasing as we are expected to lead a bigger role in a child’s education than previously, and now we have more responsibility being added to ensure digital literacy and citizenship skills are developed.
Even though it’s another responsibility, it’s an important one. People’s lives the world over are being ruined due to irresponsible technology use, and often times proper education could have prevented these mishaps. We often feel the pressure to make sure we cover enough content over the course of the semester, but when I went to school I really relied on my parents and teachers to educate me. Nowadays, I sometimes teach a lesson and the next day a student will come to me and say something along the lines of, ‘Hey Mr. Foreman, I watched a video yesterday about (insert content material here), did you know (insert interesting piece of information)’. We have access to all kinds of information instantly now; the role of the teacher has changed from the bringer of knowledge to the director of learning. We can all learn anything new at any time now as long as we know how to learn. We should relax a little bit from our self-initiated stress to get through ‘everything’ and take a little more time to teach about the process and learn to be curators of knowledge and ideas. We do need help though with this. This is a new field and as educators we should take the lead and try and educate as many people as we can so that they can in turn help spread the good word. If we need parents to help support us, some parents will already know how to help their children navigate the online world, but others will need educating as well. There are different ways that we can reach out to parents such as monthly seminars perhaps put on by the school or perhaps even something as simple as resources put on a school website or teacher blog. There are many good documents such as this one which provide good information for parents in a succinct way so that parents will take the time to read it.
I particularly enjoy the blog ‘How You Can Become A Champion Of Digital Citizenship In Your Classroom’ by Kayla Delzer. In it, she discusses how her students educate their parents about what it means to be safe online. Her big thing is that we as teachers should be digital role models. We should have accounts in various social media applications and we should allow students to see how we participate in these spaces. We model good citizenship as teachers, we also need to model good digital citizenship. We should of course have the discussions about what digital citizenship means, and do this before we unleash our students into these worlds, but we also need to do more than simply talk about it, we need to live it.
I acknowledge the importance of teaching digital citizenship, I understand that I need to dive in. But I do understand it is scary. I’m not over my fears yet, and I’m sure many of you have them as well. Let’s see the importance though and push past our fears and become 21st century educators.
Live long and prosper