Ashley, Nancy, and I decided to tackle putting together the framework for a digital citizenship course, and lucky for us we’ve had pretty good role models in how to shape a course on this subject since the three of us have combined for 12 courses with @courosa and @kbhildebrandt, the masters of the subject (I think I just passed this course!)! We are even using the digital citizenship continuum that they drafted to give the ‘full course treatment’ – for more on this you can revisit my earlier blog on the subject. I think we have really taken our positive experiences from these edtech courses and tried to apply the foundations of them into our course prototype.

If I was asked what has made the Courobrandt courses so valuable to me or why they are such masterful teachers on this subject, I would say it’s their incredible abilities as community builders. I have learned so much directly from Alec and Katia, but I have learned so much from my peers, and I know that if I said I have learned more from my peers and the community at large, they would only take that as a compliment. I have tried to take this principle into my own classes, trying to be more of an inspirer, motivator, and community builder, and I am seeing the positive changes that I want.

For our course, we have decided to use canvas for the reasons outlined in an earlier blog, and one of the features of canvas is the ability to create a forum or discussion board. We are also going to implement the use of Twitter and have a course hashtag, and students will also be maintaining their own blogs.

Sound familiar?

What we’ve done is mimic what we have going on in our edtech courses, with the forum replacing the use of Google+, but still fills the same niche (had to throw in a biology term) of a more private means of communication. The rationale behind this is if our course is about digital citizenship, don’t students need to actually get out there and demonstrate the characteristics of a digital citizen? We want to actively engage the students in the process of creating a positive digital footprint. It also means that the learning can extend beyond the already created lessons of the course as well. In a typical class, you know that if a student ends up completing all the objectives fully, you know the extent of what they will have learned, but by creating these communities on Twitter and having students reading and commenting on each others blogs, they can go far beyond the course objectives as set out by us and obtain many other benefits highlighted in the ‘Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation‘ article.

Through these edtech courses I have also become acquainted with so many different online tools. By being exposed to so many different tools and having to play around with each one at different times, I have found so many new ways to communicate, evaluate, collaborate, etc. We want the students of this course to feel the same way. For this reason, our instruction and the assignments students complete often require students to utilize different tools so that at the end they will have been exposed to many different tools and know how to handle each one, as well as which ones they prefer and they can create a library of tools that they will be proficient in using in all walks of life. I think it’s our intention at this point that at least many of the assignments will be posted on blogs so it is not being created solely for the instructors for the sake of passing the course, but it will create a digital portfolio of work and the fact that other students will be viewing, commenting, and learning from each other will only add to the relevance of each assignment.

Reading other classmate blogs like Liz’s and Lindy’s, it becomes clear how we all feel a sense of community in these classes, and want to foster that element in our own courses. My co-collaborator Ashley talked about the value of Twitter in creating PLN’s (personal learning networks), so give her blog a read as well as I don’t want to be redundant, but I do want to stress the value of Twitter which is why we have included it in our course. Students enrolled in this course will abandon the forum as class ends, and the blogs could very likely fizzle out, but Twitter has the potential to continue on. Like Ashley, I didn’t initially find Twitter all that helpful to me as a professional, but when you can find and connect with those people who will become your PLN, it has the potential to be (in my mind) your biggest source of professional development and inspiration. Sometimes in life, you need to be forced into something and to stick it out long enough to find the true benefits!

We will have rubrics as well to provide some meaningful guidance for students, but I would like to point out here that this is a great course to ‘walk the walk’. This is where instructors, and we as teachers, need to be visible online to an extent. Kayla Delzer’s article ‘How You Can Become a Champion of Digital Citizenship in Your Classroom’ really provides a great read as to the importance of this, and references George Couros saying that we need to teach students to be ‘googleable’ so as to create that ever important positive digital footprint. We can’t just tell students how to behave properly online, but we need to model that behaviour. I would strongly encourage any teacher who is implementing this course…actually, I take that back. I think it needs to be a requirement of any teacher teaching this course to be engaging the course community online and to be a leader and to make the interactions supportive and meaningful.

So as I am entering my final month of being a masters student, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alec and Katia for inspiring me to become a community builder. What I have gained from these courses has had a positive impact on my own teaching practice, and I will continue to utilize technology and connectivity to continue improving.

…and because it apparently is my goal in life to make sure everyone watches this TED Talk…here is John Green talking about the importance of community for learning…

Live long and prosper