Dictionary.com defines this term as, “a person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the Internet and other digital technology, especially in order to participate responsibly in social and civic activities.” I responded well to this version of the definition of digital citizenship because of the word responsibility. This word is echoed loudly in the hallowed halls of eduction. We want our students to be responsible. When we enter the realm of online learning, it can be easy for students to hide behind the computer and forget the responsibility that comes with digitally interacting with others. To teach students that what comes out of their fingers is just as powerful as their mouths, and their online reputation just as impactful as their face to face reputation is a constant challenge among all educators.
I have heard the term Digital Citizenship many times. I attended a conference earlier this year and there was a break out session that really changed the way I thought about this topic. The presenter began her discussion regarding digital citizenship and how we as educators can teach students to navigate the online world. After about 5 minutes she said something that resonated. “Don’t be afraid of using social media to your advantage. Teach students how to use social media to promote good things that help change the world they live in.”
Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and others can be a positive vehicle for our students to express themselves and share ideas that can make the world a better place. Educators can use these as classroom tools. Online educators can use these as means to distribute information, or hold a lecture. It is possible to use social media to meet our students half way in the education process. Could a Facebook live be a good way to get a lecture out, could a private group be a means of distributing information?, could students create short stories or share experiences on social media? All of these things are examples of sharing and distributing information. Teacher, both online and face to face, do amazing things each day in the classrooms. Students and teachers can share this to the community via social media.
This all can be scary to many. I have had teachers say that this will open Pandora’s box to a world we cannot regulate. This is a opportunity to teach our students about the responsibly way to act online, and how to be thoughtful about what you post or share. Learning opportunities arrive at every corner. The world is shifting towards a larger influence of social media. From our government, news, to pop culture social media is one of the main means of sharing information. It is not a surprise that education may follow suite.
Digital Citizenship will be a norm for all students, soon if its not already. Hand in hand with how we expect students to act in class, or in online discussions, we will ask them to act online. If we as educators whole heartedly embrace the role of the digital space in our students lives we will bridge the gap and create learning opportunities that will motivate and engage students.