Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tool 10 - The Digital Citizen

Discuss at least three things you would want to make sure your students understand about being good digital citizens.

First and Foremost is to impart a genuine understanding of citizenship. We teach it in terms of belonging to a society or organization. These are the issues of rights and responsibilities. It is a give and take dynamic. Rather than being just an island, free and beholden to no one, free to starve and die from the elements, we benefit from social relationships. In return for the benefit we are beholden to others and owe certain responsibilities. Digital citizenship is therefore primarily about responsibility. This manifests itself in being responsible for ones level of knowledge about the workings of the Internet environment. It is not responsible to accept as fact anything or the first thing one encounters. Conversely, it is not responsible to discount the veracity of an item or fact just because it came from the Internet.

The pre-Internet communities to which we belonged were basically small and confined to a small geographic area. Post Internet communities have no geographic boundaries or limitations. Anonymity is built in as is malicious purposeful subterfuge. One’s protectors and filters are not available to do their job. Digital Citizenship is secondarily about safety. Yes there is deceit, dishonesty, and outright danger on the Internet. There is also the largest, most updated/updateable, and democratically managed information source ever devised by humankind. Just as bad information is plentiful, so is the good in abundant supply. Perspective is paramount.

An aspect of both responsibility and safety is the concept of empathy. The absence of geographic boundaries and the advent of asynchronous communication that transcends time zones requires the responsible digital citizen to be cognizant of cultural differences and the permanency of Internet content. This involves the nuances and limitations of language translation as well as the wide range of normalcy concerning gender roles, religion, economic status, and political sensibility. In its advanced stages this requires the development of a broad world view that replaces an entrenched ethno/geo centricity. Initially, it is a lesson in basic manners applied to a world devoid of face to face interaction…Netiquette!

Share at least one of the resources mentioned above or on the Ed Tech website that you plan to use instructionally.

Through participation in the Digiteens project and the Flat Classroom Certified Teachers program, both created and facilitated by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, I have delved fairly deeply into this topic. It would be hard to imagine a day working with students in an online environment that some aspect of Digital Citizenship is not touched on if not discussed directly. As a language arts or literacy arts facilitator, the concepts of intellectual property, copyright, and creative commons licensing are vital to what I do. When you add a vibrant element of social media to the mix, the responsibility for one's safety and to the larger society in which you place yourself become constant considerations. I have used the Atomic Learning offerings with students as well as many of the artifacts posted on the Digiteens wiki as instructional tools. The new semester brings both expository and persuasive writing projects and with those a new flurry of instructional activity surrounding fair use and proper citation protocols. I have considered having student complete mini-projects including video artifacts on such issues. Where once the importance of citation was one mainly concerning form, I believe today's students need dedicated and persistent direct instruction on the ethical foundations behind the rules and formats.

Explain briefly how you plan to share the idea of digital citizenship with your parents.

I have extended invitations for self viewing and held evening sessions with parents to discuss Digital Citizenship issues. I use the Frontline series of documentaries on the issues of Internet Safety and how growing up in a digital age has impacted, both positively and negatively, the way students learn. These efforts will be revisited again in January as we prepare to participate in the Flat Classroom Project. I find this to be an issue that parents are genuinely concerned about and are grateful to have the opportunity to discuss it with other parents and their children.

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