How can we expect students to master anything if we don’t allow them a safe space to practice?
Imagine three scenarios:
Student A struggles with subtraction, especially 3-digit numbers.
Student B wants to join the basketball team, but has never played before.
Student C is learning a new language but isn’t confident speaking it yet.
How might an innovative educator address these?
Perhaps for Student A, you show him a new strategy and give them additional questions for review at home.
In Student B‘s case, you may encourage her to take a risk, shoot a few balls, maybe even pair her with a previous team member to prepare for tryouts.
For Student C, you could provide space and time for the students to apply their oral language skills and engage them in discussions in this new language.
Pedagogy and teaching styles may differ but ultimately we can all agree that regardless the skill or outcome, practice makes perfect… Or at least, helps us feel more confident and competent.
Fears surrounding children and online predators exist in every school community. However, unlike many other academic areas, when it comes to online profiles and digital footprints, myths tend to outweigh actual truth. As a result, many parents, teachers and administrators seem to prefer complete abstinence over preventative practices.
Whether we’re comfortable with it or not, 21st Century digital literacy skills continue to evolve and permeate our students’ day-to-day lives more than ever. As educators it’s our responsibility to ensure they are provided time and space to practice online safety and develop a positive digital footprint.
Early Modelling: Grooming digital virtuosos
How early should students practice digital citizenship? Like any accomplished athlete or virtuoso, practice is part of their daily life. The ‘game’ or the ‘instrument’ is a part of them, and is an ingrained habit. Why not teach digital citizenship along with letters and numbers? Why not engage in those discussions with young students, about ownership of creative materials and model attribution with images and media used in the classroom?
So…what could this look like?
This year we introduced eBooks to Grade 1 and along with teaching them how to save and upload Google Images from the iPad to My Story App, we also taught them how to narrow their search for Creative Commons Images:
After teaching an initial 5 students how to narrow their Google Image searches, we then had those ‘tech experts’ teach the rest of the class (20 students) throughout the writing period. This freed the classroom teacher and I up for conferencing with individual students and supporting them as they build their eBooks.
What are other educators doing?
In researching ways to engage teachers and students in discussions about Digital Citizenship, I found this recent Edutopia article from Vicky Davis. I like how there is a balance between online safety and developing a proactive, positive digital footprint.
Do students know how to create a secure password? Do they know that email and online banking should have a higher level of security and never use the same passwords as other sites? Do they have a system like LastPass for remembering passwords, or a secure app where they store this information? (See 10 Important Password Tips Everyone Should Know.)
Do students know how to protect their private information like address, email, and phone number? Private information can be used to identify you. (I recommend the Common Sense Media Curriculum on this.)
3. Personal Information
While this information (like the number of brothers and sisters you have or your favourite food) can’t be used to identify you, you need to choose who you will share it with.
Are students aware that some private things may show up in photographs (license plates or street signs), and that they may not want to post those pictures? Do they know how to turn off a geotagging feature? Do they know that some facial recognition software can find them by inserting their latitude and longitude in the picture — even if they aren’t tagged? (See the Location-Based Safety Guide)
Do students understand copyright, Creative Commons, and how to generate a license for their own work? Do they respect property rights of those who create intellectual property? Some students will search Google Images and copy anything they see, assuming they have the rights. Sometimes they’ll even cite “Google Images” as the source. We have to teach them that Google Images compiles content from a variety of sources. Students have to go to the source, see if they have permission to use the graphic, and then cite that source.
Do students know how to get permission for work they use, and do they know how to cite it?
Do students understand what viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware, and identity theft are, and how these things work? (See Experiential Knowledge below for tips on this one.)
Do students understand the professionalism of academics versus decisions about how they will interact in their social lives? Do they know about netiquette and online grammar? Are they globally competent? Can they understand cultural taboos and recognise cultural disconnects when they happen, and do they have skills for working out problems?
9. Personal Brand
Have students decided about their voice and how they want to be perceived online? Do they realise they have a “digital tattoo” that is almost impossible to erase? Are they intentional about what they share?
In my opinion, these 9 P’s strike a perfect balance between the two opposing camps of “to teach or not to teach” digital citizenship in the classroom. I like how these P’s are both preventative and proactive, empowering students to be knowledgeable and well-rounded in their online presence. The one P I would add (to make it an even 10) would be Productive Footprint, which connects to Personal Branding but also could link to action-related presence online. How is their online ‘brand’ impacting the greater community? For example, many students are unaware of the effects they could have both within their local and global community if action were part of their personal brand. What is their cause and how can they make a difference? Planting the seed for positive action may be the key to bringing about global change in terms of students’ footprints online. I think this is the one aspect of citizenship that is lacking on the digital front, especially in schools. Using our ability to connect and engage with global issues will help our young students to be not just positive, but productive digital citizens.
Promoting Digital Leadership
While digital citizenship may be just another branch of citizenship we are addressing in schools, leadership is one that has always been prevalent. How can we promote digital leaders?
According to ISTE Student Standards, part of modelling digital citizenship is being both a productive citizen and a leader. This further emphasises the subdued link between both online safety, citizenship and leadership.
Screenshot from ISTE Student Standards PDF
Give them the space to make mistakes and improve
So we understand the importance of digital citizenship, and are committed to following the well reputed ISTE standards as a guide, but how committed are we providing the space for practice? No basketball team could ever win a game without having weekly (or daily) practice. In what ways are we giving students time for application of these DC skills?
Putting students onto the blogosphere, creating a classroom twitter account, or joining a global collaborative project are relevant and rich spaces for students to practice these skills. Regardless of the platform, connecting students with other schools and communities, gives students them the chance to make mistakes, improve and excel as digital citizens. It’s all possible. By changing our perspectives on the role of citizenship, we can promote change and foster true digital virtuosos.