EC&I 832

Lost in Cyberspace? Turn Your Digital GPS On!

In a world where computer screens are now the windows to the world, digital citizenship has evolved from a buzzword to a crucial concept. Ribble’s Nine Elements of digital citizenship is at the forefront of this, which acts as a trusty GPS for navigating the digital realm and keeps us from taking a wrong turn. As an educator, I have witnessed occasions where people misinterpret digital directions, enter them incorrectly, or simply left the metaphorical GPS turned off. So, how do educators navigate the intricacies of digital citizenship and teach our students to learn from these mistakes when everyone is on a different journey? Fortunately, there are multiple routes that we can take to make sure that everyone gets to their final destination in cyberspace safely. However, I want to delve further into some of the bumpy, unpaved, and swerving routes I have seen others take. By examining some common navigational mishaps within the Nine Elements, we can hopefully have smoother and well-informed travels through cyberspace.


Digital Access: Who Has It?

The COVID-19 pandemic generated more than just germs; it created discussions around equitable access to technology and online resources for students. This is because the digital divide became increasingly noticeable for educators as they tried to navigate between students accessing online information and technology and those who did not. According to a 2018 survey, only twenty-four percent of households in Indigenous communities had access to high-speed internet. To combat this, post-secondary institutions began to find additional funding sources to provide low-income and minority students with access to technology. That sounds great, right? Well, it did not work the way that they planned. More students began to miss online classes and fall behind in their assessments. Their instructors would finish the day wondering why their adult students were not engaged, even though they had access to laptops and NED connect devices. The culprit? The student’s children.

Educators were focused on the water droplet and forgot to look at the ripple it made. How does that old saying go? Parents would rather give their shirt off their back than have their child go cold? That is essentially what happened. Since the technology was often dispersed to low-income and minority students, it was the only piece of technology in the household. Therefore, parents had to choose between their education and their children’s. The children always won. Although educators had made a small impact on the digital divide, it was not enough. Post-pandemic (I hope), educators are now left to wonder how to ensure the long-term sustainability of digital inclusion efforts for minority populations.

Digital Communication: This is All Fluff!

Language Revitalization - University of VictoriaDo you remember receiving back an academic paper covered in red ink and the sinking feeling in your stomach? I certainly do. Integrating technology into education has changed the marking practice, as educators now have the opportunity to provide feedback directly in documents or through online rubrics. However, Western ideologies of right and wrong still exist in assessment rubrics and structures.

I want to tell you about a positive and constructive interaction that I had with a colleague several years ago. My colleague at the time struggled to understand why the Indigenous students in the class continuously landed on the low end of the online essay rubric. It was online, easily accessible by students, and she even uploaded a guide for understanding the digital assessment tool, so what could be the problem? As I looked over her assessment rubric, I saw the problem. It was filled with the term concise. This term gives no space for subjectivity, experience, or fluff, as it was commonly referred to when I was in school. Therefore, Indigenous students who were trying to position themselves within their writing, were given lower marks.

This moment of realization began a journey towards fostering a more inclusive and culturally sensitive assessment practice. As a school, we decided to collaborate through online platforms to revise the rubrics and guidelines to eliminate potentially biased language. Therefore, instead of emphasizing terms like concise, we opted for criteria that valued clarity, depth of thought, and subjectivity. Digital citizenship is about responsibly and ethically engaging in online spaces, not only as individuals but as a community. This experience showed the importance of digital communication in education, emphasizing how digital assessment and feedback tools can promote fairness, equity, and cultural awareness within learning environments.

Digital Etiquette: Not Only From 9-4

That Wasn't Me, That Was Patricia | Know Your Meme

Although, as educators we like to think that most of our students understand digital etiquette and how to behave online, we are often humbled. As some of my classmates pointed out this week, there can be a disconnect between what students post during and after school and the implications that arise. During school hours, students seem to understand the online policies and procedures surrounding negative, harmful, and inappropriate digital communication. However, once the school bell rings, a shift can occur. Therefore, most educators have stories about this shift and how out-of-school social media posts influence in-school interactions. I remember what it was like to think that what I did online did not matter and, thankfully, it only resulted in a poorly sung Taylor Swift song uploaded to YouTube because I thought that I would be discovered like Justin Bieber was.

This shift and disconnect is a reminder that our role as educators extends beyond the classroom and provides an opportunity for ongoing dialogue and education, both within the school and at home, to bridge the gap between in-school and out-of-school digital behaviours. By addressing this disconnect, educators can now empower students to make responsible choices online and understand the potential consequences and implications that their actions have.

There are more stories and experiences around Ribble’s Nine Elements of digital citizenship that I could tell you about, but I will save them for my next blog post. Although I jumped around in my blog post this week, I hope that you enjoyed it and are able to share some stories of your own about navigating digital access, communication, and etiquette.


  • Shella Gonzales

    Hi Chantal!

    Great post! Reflecting on who had access to technology during the pandemic it was an eye opener for me. At the the time I taught at a school that had lower socio-economic families who didn’t have access to technology. It was very tough getting in touch with those families and students even though it was those students that needed help with academia at the time. We tried to do some one-on-one video chats for some reading and it just didn’t work out. Parents had to work and unfortunately the student were left at home with no parental help or access to technology. Luckily, our division had some Chromebooks available for families to use and with the internet that was provided by Sasktel they were able to access Google Classroom and video chats.

    I agree with you about having digital etiquette all the time and not only during 9-4. This is something my students have yet to learn. I teach in a grade 4/5 Split and my grade 4s are only starting to use Chromebooks at school and social media at home. I make it a priority to teach them about digital etiquette and this year I hope to inform parents about it as well.

    Thanks again for your post!


  • Jordan Halkyard

    Great post Chantal! You offered a lot of valuable into the world of digital citizenship that I hadn’t considered before.
    Thinking back on my own experience, I have had similar situations to you and Shella where I have seen many students who lack access to technology and how this affected their educations. This was especially bad when I worked in a more rural school, and there larger gaps between students who had access to technology and those who didn’t. It was very difficult to try to teach in the same classroom where you had kids with every new gadget on the market who was sitting right next to a kid whose only access to wifi was from sitting in the McDonald’s parking lot at night. These types of issues are only going to continue to get worse as technology continues to grow and prices to access it continues to go up.

    Great work!

    • Chantal Stenger

      Hi Jordan,

      As you and Shella highlighted, teaching students with very different levels of tech literacy and access to tech is challenging. In a computer course I taught once, the gap was evident and I had to adapt my teaching strategies. Therefore, dual assignments were available for each Microsoft Office application (Word, PowerPoint, etc.). Students were able to choose whether they completed the beginner or advanced assignment. Eventually, as the semester continued, I would bridge the beginner and advanced assignments and have the two groups work together (ex: the beginner must set up the template while the advanced must input formulas). This allowed for some differentiation in my class, which all the students were happy about.

  • Cole Nicolson

    I connected with your comments on digital etiquette in particular, Chantal. I shared some of my own stories from my school in class this week about digital etiquette (or lack thereof). The out of school vs in school comments you made are particularly important. We are finding more and more at my school that outside of the classroom online interactions are being made very REAL as they are brought into the classroom and cause harassment and in some cases even violence.

  • Ramona Alexson

    Good post with lots of food for thought! Lost in cyberspace is a phrase that can certainly apply to most of society, especially when tech assisted learning is the future of education. This thought makes me excited for our roles in the future as we navigate this space together. Thinking back to my own introduction to tech in the classroom was in the late 90’s with the original MacIntosh desk computer with floppy disk storage and dial-up access only (I can still hear that awful dial-up buzz). Fast forward to the 2000’s, when our school pushed learning presentation software which required many hours of instruction. Today’s instant connections to the world wide web make communicating and sharing a norm with our students. Digital citizenship needs to be taught so our students can learn to use personal judgements and agency as they work with tech. I agree that our roles as educators does extend beyond the classroom, maybe not in a physical sense but we can lead our students to make good decisions as digital citizens.
    A story I can share as an Indigenous educator working in a First Nations school is teaching cultural awareness and values etiquette can apply to building digital citizens. My grade 12 Native St. class spent 2 hours on the land, learning to appreciate the gifts and showing thankfulness for what the land provides (bounty and benevolence). We then wrote land acknowledgements which we will publish and post in the school. As part of these lessons, we read Buffy St. Marie blog, book “Hey Little Rockabye” and youtube video. My students made connections to her worldview as an Indigenous woman and their personal worldviews and discussed the location factor of worldview (Hawaii and Sask). We will look at the New Zealand curriculum and Te Maratango link next week hoping to make more world connections. Using the web to enhance the lesson has digital citizenship implications as my students can use personal agency to interact with online content. Thank you for listening!

    • Chantal Stenger

      Hi Ramona,

      Thank you for sharing; that is a great story! Teaching cultural awareness, values etiquette, and connecting it to digital citizenship is such a great approach. Keep up the good work!

  • Kimberly Kipp

    Hi Chantal,
    I appreciate the attention you have given to the challenges we, as educators, face in navigating the digital world with our students. I was particularly struck by your realization and journey toward more inclusive and culturally sensitive assessments. Rewriting the rubrics as a school team sounds like a worthwhile endeavor more divisions should undertake. What differences have you noticed in your students and staff since this shift?
    Thank you for the additional insights and ideas! I will be discussing this particular idea with my staff this week.

    • Chantal Stenger

      Hi Kim,

      Since the assessment rubrics were changed, the faculty had a greater sense of collaboration and shared purpose. The students immediately felt more at ease because they would receive similar rubrics from different teachers, which eliminated the need for students to write different for each class. We noticed that students and faculty appreciated the lack of a “grey” area. Sometimes, depending on the rubric, it can be hard to determine if a student has “explained in great detail” or just “explained in detail”. By revising our rubrics to be more inclusive and using clear terminology, everyone understood what was expected from them. Teachers received fewer questions about the rubric, and students received higher marks, so it was a win-win situation!

  • Echo

    Hi Chantal,

    There is still a digital divide, with 2.7 billion people globally still unconnected, a significant digital gender gap, especially in the least developed countries, and a rapidly widening artificial intelligence divide. Time is of the essence. Countries and communities must seize the momentum of technology to accelerate sustainable digital transformation for all. There is no simple, uniform way for everyone in the world to be connected to the digital world. We need to act together to harness the full potential of digital technologies to build a fair, prosperous, peaceful, inclusive and sustainable future for people everywhere.


  • Keren Tan

    hi chantal,

    about the “Digital Access: Who Has It?” i relate in that situation, as a teacher in Philippines majority of the students do not have an access online and also no device to use during the pandemic, so only few students in every grade level has an access online, which their parents prefer to have a mode of learning for their children, but the funny thing is even the parents do not know how to operate the Google Meet which we use for our online class. so it hard sometimes to implement technology in our school, because the thing is we also lack in technology and digital materials for learners.


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