Digital Citizenship in the School

I’m a week behind in our blog posts, so I’m actually reaching back to last week when we were asked to reflect on digital citizenship in our schools and what the teacher’s role is in this process. I have to be honest, I’m still having mixed feelings on this topic and how it should/could be approached. There are many people in our class who feel very passionately that digital citizenship should be its own class and I see a lot of merit in that. As we continue to lean into technology, these are skills that are a part of our every day lives and it is necessary to be able to safely and responsibly navigate the online world. In the article Bart recommended this week, it stated two crazy (American) stats that stood out to me:

Americans spend an average of 473 minutes a day consuming media & that worldwide we spend an average of 145 mintues a day on social media!

That’s almost 8 hours consuming media, with 2.5 of those hours being on social media! At first I kind of scoffed at those numbers, especially because I’m not a big social media user, then I thought about how much time I spend on my laptop at school, reading the news on my phone, or using streaming platforms and I can see how those numbers can get high quickly. With such a significant portion of our day being wrapped up in the online world, it makes sense to ensure that students know the ins and outs of it.

That being said, many of our recent articles point to the skills needed to be media literate and a good digital citizen. Many of these skills have to do with conducting good research, understanding bias, figuring out the goal of the author, etc. and this transfers into a lot of classes that we already teach. For example, I teach mostly social sciences and some ELA and these skills are things that we work on organically when we are researching, looking at current event items, or reading articles or stories. In fact, in the article that Christine share, What is Media Literacy, it states that the most effective way to teach media literacy is through every day activities rather than a sit down lesson. While I think these skills are important and necessary for students to gain, I don’t forsee a digital citizenship or media literacy class becoming mandatory – at best it would be an elective – so it might be more prudent to focus on delivering these skills in the classes that are already delivered than adding an elective that many students would not take. The worry here is that some teachers may not feel like they are qualified or have the knowledge to teach digital citizenship to students and assume that other teachers will, therefore avoiding it. There is a risk that students do not get adequate instruction this way.

The jury is still out on whether or not I would like to see digital citizenship as an individual class or whether I think it should be tackled within the classes we already teach, but either way I loved Kelly‘s article, Making Digital Citizenship “Stick”, because it was a really straight forward guide on how to implement digital literacy skills. The article states that we should allow students to lead the process and that we should look for opportunities to learn new technology. I think sometimes as teachers we get wrapped up in the idea that we have to be perfect and know all the answers, but I actually think that students enjoy watching us learn new things alongside them. I don’t think we necessarily need all the answers, but we do need to have the conversations to get us thinking about this topic as our world becomes increasingly tech based.

3 Replies to “Digital Citizenship in the School”

  1. John Danaher says: Reply

    Great points made here! I agree! It is very easy to skip over the digital citizenship component of classes because we can assume teachers before us have covered it. My division has PAA outcomes dedicated to digital citizenship (and ties in the faith-based component) which gives us the requirement to complete them, and luckily we are given resources to tackle content as well. A stand-alone class might be difficult to sustain… I almost wonder if there could be a course, similar to the graduate studies class that is mandatory before starting your masters, that students could complete in high school? I think our elementary teachers have a huge responsibility to start these conversations at a young age (similar to reading or math) so that middle years and high school classes can scaffold on those basic digital literacy skills. Great post! Thanks!

    1. Holly Alexander says: Reply

      That is excellent that your divison has this built in! You’re right, I think there is a lot of responsibility on elementary teachers here. I just worry that high school teachers aren’t always continuing the conversation. Also an interesting suggestion about the little starting course – I assume you’re refering to the Academic Integrity one? It’s certainly doable. For example, in high school we have 15 minutes of homeroom time every day in my school division and some of this time could be geared towards a digitial citizenship component.

  2. Kelly Ziegler says: Reply

    Awe, I wish that my division would move towards a model that builds in this type of learning. Too often we assume that kiddos are coming to our classrooms with the knowledge they need from previous grades to pick up and go forward with whatever we are teaching and the tools that we are using. We miss the mark when we do not prepare our students for future learning and their futures in general. I think we need to do a better job of being proactive instead of reactive, which we have seen all too often with our kiddos.

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