Sunday, November 29, 2015

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child On and Offline

Source: J.Stewart-Mitchell
It takes a village to raise a child, both on and offline. In teaching digital citizenship, it’s not about a stand-alone lesson or unit, and we continue on with exploring other curricular outcomes. Digital citizenship is more than just teaching students how to behave ethically and safe online. It’s about giving opportunities for students to express themselves, share their voice and participate in the digital community. In order for students to understand what it means to be good digital citizens, they need opportunities to demonstrate digital fluency. Hiding from the dangers that may lurk in the dark shadowy corners will not help students become good citizens, they need to be active members of a digital community to truly get it, and this only comes with experience. Therefore as teachers we need to provide opportunities for students to learn how to interact in the online world within the classroom.

Source: J.Stewart-Mitchell & G. Rodriguez
The structure for teaching that experiential digital knowledge is where our project comes into play. In learning we need a framework for teaching that experiential knowledge which can be found in the essential transferable skills of 21st Century or modern learning. Skills which are about enhancing our student’s ability to communicate, create, collaborate, connect, curate, critically think, and of course awareness of citizenship. Students need to be able to share or communicate with others effectively using digital tools and programs. They need to be skilled with more than just using programs like Word or Skype, but truly understand what it means to use these tools effectively to share ideas or information and connect with their learning community.

Every day as teachers we focus on developing our students’ literacy as well as fluency, with the focus being on reading and speaking. As educators we devote a significant amount of every day focusing on improving reading levels, writing and overall language fluency. Reading fluency is about reading quickly and accurately, with natural expression and inflection, as well as appropriate pacing and the skills for decoding information.  But what are we doing to improve digital literacy or digital fluency? How are we teaching students to be able to use digital tools naturally with ease, knowing the most effective time and place for using various programs or platforms? How are we providing opportunities so that students with digital fluency are able to navigate apps or programs with ease, and are able to identify the best tool to further their communication or understanding? Digital fluency is about understanding the basics of how to transition from platform to platform, having the skill set to be able to be able to navigate and share information and create. Just as in reading and writing, we need to aim to provide opportunities so that students can become fluent in their digital fluency, and go beyond mere, digital literacy. So how do we do this?

As teachers we also need to provide opportunities to create or capture representations of student understanding. Give opportunities at school to engage in creating original digital representations or even ethically remixed works of others. This means combining digital citizenship with creating. As educators we need to ask ourselves as to how often are we providing opportunities to do more than consume technology. If students are remixing new videos, creating memes and engaging in games such as Minecraft, how are we combining some of these afterschool passions with learning at school?

Michael Fullen states in “A Rich Seam – How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning”, “digital tools and resources have the potential to enable, expand and accelerate learning in ways previously unimaginable” (p. 30), but he also states that technology is not going to make any impact on learning if we do not go beyond tools that encourage repetition, like drill and practice or just as a vehicle for delivering teacher identified curricular content (p. 31). Fullen furthers this argument by stating that technology will not improve learning, until students are given opportunities to use it to deepen their learning (p. 32). In order to “deepen learning”, there needs to be authentic opportunities for students to collaborate and engage in creating knowledge. The question is, are we giving them opportunities to create knowledge and contribute this knowledge to the online community?

Pillars of Digital Citizenship
Source: Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Continuum
So what does all this have to do with digital citizenship? The only way we can authentically provide students with the opportunity to see relevance of the pillars of digital citizenship, we need to have rich engagement with technology, not just surface level consumption. This means that as teachers, not only do we have to ensure that we model a “good” digital footprint, we need to actually have one. In order to be a role model, you need to engage and be active, be a participant. This means communicating, connecting, creating, curating, collaborating and engaging in problem solving or critical thinking.  In order to model digital citizenship, we need to be digitally present and demonstrate how to appropriately interact online. Part of teaching others how to form an authentic online identity is to provide that model – an intentional formed digital tattoo, as described in the TED Talk by Juan Enriquez: Your Online Life, Permanent as a Tattoo.

EdTech guru, Vicki Davis states that she approaches digital citizenship in two ways, proactive knowledge and experiential knowledge. Experiential knowledge is giving students exposure to the essential skills or fluencies. Proactive skills is about teaching students how to be protect themselves and their identity online while sharing their voice. In an article, “5 Reasons You Should Be Teaching Digital citizenship”, author Paul Barnwell provides five reasons why schools need to take the lead in promoting digital citizenship and media literacies in curriculum, both in and outside the classroom. His reasons include:
  1. The gap is growing.
  2. Digital footprints are easy to leave
  3. It’s ‘real life’
  4. There is a culture of multitasking
  5. Content curation is an emerging literacy

After taking this course, I have come to the conclusion that there are tons of reasons for teaching media literacy and digital citizenship. The key is that the message needs to start at Pre-Kindergarten and continue on to grade 12. It’s not up to one teacher or one area to teach this information and skills, it’s up to everyone. In order for the message to sink in, we all need to sing from the same song sheet. There are definitely many convincing reasons as to why we need to teach Digital citizenship in schools, but the question is, how do we fit it all in?

Source: J.Stewart-Mitchell
Many teachers wonder how to fit in digital citizenship into a curriculum that is already seems incredibly compact. Teaching Digital citizenship is like teaching Treaty Education, you integrate where it is authentic and appropriate. The worst mistake is to think that it is about teaching a unit at the beginning of the year, and expecting students to apply the learning. It is about teaching mini-lessons where they fit. In a blog post I shared a couple days ago, I shared my reflections on a session I facilitated on digital citizenship for High School Teachers. In that session all of the teachers were involved in building lessons that integrated digital citizenship and the other digital fluencies. These were not digital citizenship lessons, but instead curricular or outcome focused lessons that authentically brought in the citizenship elements. That was the key. Teachers were encouraged to focus on their subject area outcomes, and not specifically on citizenship. Because of this, it was an easy “sell” to teachers. It must be easy for teachers to integrate, and that is what the Continuum allows – easy integration into multiple subjects and grades. But at the same time, as Carla stated in her post, it’s also important to maintain the integrity of the courses – so again there needs to be the awareness of how to make it authentic.   

Source: J.Stewart-Mitchell
As schools provide more and more opportunities for using digital tools in learning, there is a responsibility for ensuring that these tools are used appropriately. Therefore digital fluency and digital citizenship go hand in hand. However there comes a time when as parents and teachers we need to step back and give our kids the opportunity to exercise what they have learned. Rochelle points out in her post that, “we can show them the way, but students need to choose for themselves.” This is so true, as long as we are having the conversations and teaching students how to navigate effectively and behave ethically online, then we have to trust they will do it – and then monitor to see if they are!

So who is responsible for digital citizenship? Is it the kid who posts sexy photos of themselves in an online chat-room? Is it the parents who state that they are overwhelmed by this new emerging online world, yet purchase smartphones and set few boundaries on their use? Or is it the lack of education provided in school in how to be more mindful in our use of technology? The answer is, it is everyone’s responsibility. We all need to talk about it and communicate the same message. As stated earlier, it takes a village to raise a child. Today this reality is all the more apparent, as we all learn how to effectively navigate our way in this digital wilderness.


  1. You draw some very apt conclusions and I strongly agree. We cannot be passive in our own or our kids digital consumption, active participation, from parents, teachers, and kids is required to develop the skills needed to be good citizens in every area of their lives.

  2. I agree that digital citizenship needs to be addressed throughout the year in lessons that make it meaningful. I know I struggle to think about where I could fit digital citizenship into the math curriculums that I teach...I feel the same way about trying to integrate Treaty information into those classes. I don't want to throw content into my lessons for the sake of having it included. It needs to be valuable to the students. That being said I am going to be making a conscious effort to look for places digital citizenship can be integrated in meaningful ways moving forward.