Digital citizenship has been on the agenda at our school in a very purposeful way since 2010. Some of the things we have introduced to achieve this are digital library services, eBooks and digital textbooks, a BYOT program, and a subject called Retech: Research and Technology. We’ve had whole classes of students setting up digital profiles, blogging and using Twitter and we’ve hit some pretty big goals but at the same time, certain questions and conversations persist. Our pastoral guardians are finding that students continue to get themselves into difficulties on social media with issues such as inappropriate posts and bullying, the downloading of “free” movies, music and games is rife and parental concerns about excessive screen time and unbalanced lifestyles are growing.
So we are constantly evaluating what we are doing, looking to the current body of research and focussing on how we can improve what we do to build competent digital citizens.
WHY is this important?
Well … I am coming at this topic from two perspectives….
On the one hand, I’m currently parenting teenagers and I can tell those of you who are not, that our kids digital lives are a huge concern. There’s rarely a conversation I have with other parents, whether it be at dinner parties, on the sideline of rugby games or dropping kids off at school, that doesn’t involve topics such as the amount of time kids spend on devices, the Facetime and Call of Duty visitors we constantly have in our houses and social media posts. Parents are really concerned about their kids vulnerability, their health and wellness, the impact on relationships and their futures.
On the other hand, I am an educator who wants to prepare kids for futures that will require very strong understandings of digital communication, etiquette, finance, and so on. I believe that those who have mastered the literacies of participation – digital and network literacies, will thrive and those who don’t will be left behind, There is a lot of literature on this – it’s what they call the new digital divide and it’s not about who has access to technology and who doesn’t, it’s about who has access to the opportunities, experiences and skills of digital participation and can use these to build cultural competencies and social skills in a world that is digital. One article worth reading is the White Paper: Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins (2006).
This is a concept that is central to our approach, that is, the belief that citizenship in the digital world should be considered no differently to civil citizenship and in fact life for the majority of Australian kids today includes digital participation. It’s not ‘the real world’ versus ‘the digital world’, just that the real world is digital – it’s simply part of life. As such, digital citizenship will impact every aspect of our students’ futures, in areas of health, ethics, academia, socially and professionally. There are many examples where the ignorance of repercussions for poor online behaviour has led to people being in trouble with the law and dismissed from jobs in recent times and the alarming fact is that these incidents are increasing not decreasing.
The following presentation, was given to educators at Edutech 2015 and explores some of these issues. The QR codes at the end of the presentation link to reference lists for those interested in exploring the research behind these ideas or exploring digital citizenship further.
PublicDomainPictures, Browsing Computer Female Floor Girl Internet, Public Domain