Holy! Some how, with all the busyness with classes, assignments, and Winter Break I totally missed writing one of my weekly blog posts about digital citizenship. With that being said, I better share with you what I have been thinking about!

What do you see as the major challenges around teaching digital citizenship in the classroom?

My initial response to this question is related to how technology is used, not the technology itself. Nicole Krueger refers to this in her article about teaching digital citizenship. Before we even think about trying to use and incorporate technology into our teaching and learning, we need to teach students how to use it properly. The challenge behind this is that the students are getting mixed signals as to what is “okay” usage. Different rules apply when in different places. This is true, but students still need to know how to use it safely, regardless of where they are. Just like we have driver’s education before people can drive, digital literacy must exist – one of Ribble’s Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship  – before children can become completely immersed in technology.

Another common problem that we face with technology, whether it is in education or not, is that it is forever changing – and fast. This can be an issue for teachers because there really is not enough professional development for them to have knowledge as current as the technology. Lee Watanabe Crockett talks about this in 6 Technology Challenges Facing Education What I think can pose as an even bigger problem in addition to this, is that the students are usually one step ahead. I can remember in middle school, proxy servers were setup to stop students from accessing social media sites like Facebook. However, we still found ways around it. Students are using technology way more than a lot of the adults in their lives and as a result, they catch on a lot faster too.

The last kind of larger challenge that I see with teaching digital citizenship in the classroom is the resistance that can come from those who are outside the classroom. I think this is partially because there is a lack of understanding for how it works and how it can be incorporated. I often find that when people hear things on the news about negative experiences as a result of social media/technology, people automatically think that is what it will be like in every case. They immediately assume the worst case scenario. Realistically, most experiences won’t be like that if children know how to use it safely and the expectations associated with its use. I also feel that there is  some resistance with using technology in the classroom because people think it inhibits face-to-face social interactions. This is what Nathan Jurgenson speaks to in his article The IRL Fetish.  Although the type of interaction that takes place online is slightly different than that in real life, children still learn how to communicate and will continue to communicate in an offline setting.

This video mocks the interaction that takes place online – showing the difference in online/offline interaction. It seems totally ridiculous, but that is because the language is taken completely out of context. People don’t act this way, regardless of how technologically saturated their lives are. However, there is still a resistance towards having students use technology on a regular basis because it is thought it will cause them to become “socially inept.”

How do you see digital citizenship fitting into the curriculum? 

I feel that there really is no one answer to this and depending on how you plan to use technology in the classroom, that answer will change.

  • Inquiry/Research – One of the first things I do before I have students start a project that requires them to acquire information from online resources is teach them how to evaluate the resource for its credibility. Students need to be learning the correct information; therefore, they need to learn how to filter out the wrong stuff first. Two areas that I know this connects to the curriculum directly is in ELA and in Health.
    • Math
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      Academic Help – The students that need extra support with the learning that comes from the curriculum can receive it in many ways if they have access to technology. This can range from tutorials, to videos, to apps, to online tools, and the list goes on. Using technology for this can be a lot more beneficial for students because they can, depending on what they are using, access the information in multiple ways at the same time. For example, reading a text book only allows you to read the text and have a still visual connected to the text. On the other hand, students that would watch a video on how to do the same thing would get the information visually (in motion and text form) and auditorially. Better yet, they are more likely to engage with what is being taught if the information is presented in a way that is more attractive.

  • Finally, I see digital citizenship fitting into the curriculum in terms of the way that learning communities can be created. Students can interact with other students, classrooms, and schools in ways that were never possible before. It also lets classrooms access places beyond the school for learning experiences. An example of this would be taking a virtual field trip (via something like a video conference). Technology really does expand the boundaries placed on learning.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Frits Ahlefeldt FritsAhlefeldt.com Flickr via Compfight cc