Foundational Supports: School and Teacher Roles in Digital Citizenship (ECI 832)

“Shouldn’t they already know this?” and “Isn’t this just common sense?” are questions that I have heard from others when discussing how students are using technology or interacting with the digital world. There appears to be many assumptions that because my students are adults that they should already be aware of how digital media affects their lives or be able to independently access and navigate technology with few supports. According to Ribble and Park (2020), “There cannot be an assumption that everyone understands the tools just because they grew up exposed to the technology. Even those who seem to have mature technology skills still need assistance to become effective users of these tools.”

At the beginning of ECI 832, I chose to make a digital scope and sequence for Life Transitions 30 for my major project. (See introductory post.) The driving reason behind my decision was a growing realization that my past educational focus had been limited. I had spent time asking students to google their names to be aware of what potential employers or landlords might view. I had gone through the use of technology forms and made sure that students were aware that they needed to use the school’s technological resources responsibly. Additionally, I had facilitated students learning to use different tools like Word and PowerPoint. Those were as far as my forays into creating learning opportunities had gone.

Life Transitions 30 contains core modules and a variety of optional modules. I grouped these according to connections between the modules and identified common areas. I have created four major units in Life Transitions 30: Unit 1-Personal Inventories, Goals, & Documentation, Unit 2-Relationships & the Family Life Cycle, Unit 3-Independent Living & Consumerism, and Unit 4-Health & Well-being. Using Mike Ribble’s categories of digital citizenship, I will be focusing on the broad areas of Safe (Protecting), Savvy (Creating), and Social (Respecting). It is my intention to embed digital citizenship into each of the modules as a key part of developing personal goals, accessing documentation and government services, enhancing personal and professional communication, becoming a savvy consumer, and supporting overall health-mental and physical.

When I consider the roles that schools and teachers should play in about digital citizenship, the first thought that pops into my mind is that no man (person) is an island. I feel that far too often educators lack a comprehensive direction or vision for digital education. They may end up doing their best to met students’ needs based upon the educator’s comfort level and breadth of understanding with digital media and citizenship. Students enter my classroom with their own strengths and knowledge areas. By starting with a strengths-based approach that recognizes and respects what my adult learners already know, the school and staff can provide foundational supports that model and provide guided direction in identified areas of need.

In my college, they attempt to address this issue through providing individual educators with access to a wide variety of tools and present us with learning opportunities. These are in-line with the college’s strategic vision towards building E-shaped learners. (Discussed in an earlier post.) However even with these in place, I feel that there is still much room to grow and develop a stronger, more comprehensive understanding of the role of digital citizenship and literacy within adult education. This needs to be explored and developed comprehensively with collaborative teams on a ground-level approach with both student and teacher perspectives included.

Administrators should develop and encourage a collaborative learning environment for all staff and be an active participant in learning as a learner and a facilitator. Key areas of focus should be coaching others to develop leadership skills among staff, building a collaborative vision, strengthening student, staff, parent, and community relationships, and participating in strategic planning.  It is important to create a safe environment through enhanced communication and respectful relationships. Effective strategic planning involves school unity and collaborated mutual goals. Leaders must be adept at employing organizational strategies, developing clear processes, and developing teams to address the many demands. Team planning and collaboration should be followed by deliberate and meaningful reflective practices from both administrators and educators followed by shared learning that advances professional competencies along a continuum.

Successful implementation of media literacy education at the school level is facilitated by approaches to pedagogy that combine and/or cross boundaries between spaces and roles — the classroom and the extended ‘third space’, teachers and students working in partnership to co-create learning, and professional development in hybrid combinations of physical and virtual networks. This work also speaks to the need for media educators to be
confident in accepting the need for the concept of ‘Bildung’ itself to change, as opposed to thinking of digital media as merely contributing to it as a stable entity.

McDougall et al. (2018)

Digital citizenship and digital literacy are critical in addressing the societal environment in which we live. Students are surrounded by a digital environment in every aspect of their lives, personal and professional. To understand that the digital world represents the real world for students means that educators need to feel confident in navigating a digital environment through social media and technological tools. Additionally, we are working to effectively develop students’ self-efficacy in utilizing technology for future education and employment demands. Digital citizenship is a broad canvas that should be embedded throughout all curricula and goes beyond surface-level interactions.

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6 Responses to Foundational Supports: School and Teacher Roles in Digital Citizenship (ECI 832)

  1. Gunpreesh . says:

    Patricia, you are doing a commendable job in teaching digital citizenship to your class. I like the Life Transitions30 as it sounds and shows innovation and includes the aspects of teaching digital citizenship. The digital world s growing up so fast, with so many new rules and new technologies I being an adult get confused with so many things. At first, we think that we know so much about digital media literacy but as soon as we start working with those things and read about them, many new learnings come up.

    • Patricia Ives says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Innovations are consistently occurring, which makes it even more vital that we all work together to learn and adapt.

  2. Kelly Ziegler says:

    Great job integrating this content into your teachings in real time! The only thing that I worry about is that there is a lot of time for kiddos to make misinformed choices if they aren’t explicitly learning this content until LifeTransitions30. In no way is this something that you can control, and I am glad that it is actually more present in one curriculum, I just worry that we are missing out on good teaching for years prior to getting here.

    • Patricia Ives says:

      Oh yes!! I totally agree that this learning needs to start happening much earlier and at different levels.

  3. Cymone says:

    Thanks for sharing Patricia. I too take for granted, albeit with my high school students, that they should know what they are doing with tech- how to scan a doc to pdf and sign it for instance, or how to edit online and submit via email their changes. The fact of the matter is we all need to learn it no matter what the age is as the world around us is not waiting. Are you a leader in the types of professional development opportunities your college provides? Who decides what teachers ‘could’ or ‘should’ learn to change/adapt their pedagogy? It certainly takes leadership and collaboration to make big changes!

    • Patricia Ives says:

      I am not a designated leader. However, I have offered to help others as I can, and my supervisors have asked me questions about online programming.

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