A quick Google search for my name brings up this image and very little other evidence that I might have any kind of digital presence– the reality is I rarely post anything on social media and still don’t quite understand the allure of TikTok and SnapChat (I snap one person, she sends me cute videos of her kids). The digital sphere is one that I am still learning to be comfortable in. I suppose you might call me a digital introvert– I exist in these spaces quietly.
Although I might call myself a digital introvert, over the last couple of months I have progressively come to realize that my digital and non-digital identities are very much intertwined or reflections of one another, that I am leaving behind digital footprints and artifacts through my work, schooling, and personal life. Gui (2008) poses the question “[w]hat does it mean to be ‘me’ in the contemporary age– where do I begin, and where do I end?” This is an essential question to ponder as the boundaries between physical and digital spaces have rapidly begun to disappear– where we function across these spaces almost seamlessly and frequently, without much conscious thought. As someone who is naturally introverted, it is of little surprise that I would be introverted in digital spaces– preferring to leave a quieter and perhaps less obvious digital footprint in my wake.
For my students, their realities are very different, they have and will continue into adulthood defining and forming their identities across digital and non-digital spaces with little to no distinction. While I would argue that my students are certainly more comfortable with curating their lives across multiple platforms and spaces, this process still requires an understanding of their own identities and sense of self– of who they are currently and will become as digital and non-digital citizens in this world. Produced by Common Sense Education (2019), this video shows teenagers discussing how they view the curation of their own digital identities and some of the challenges that they view in these spaces. Simply put here, the formation or curation of a digital identity has simply become an extension of the identity formation in the non-digital world– these are processes that are equally as tangible and consequential to one another.
From an educational standpoint, our job then continues to function as it has in the past– to support our students in developing the critical thinking skills and processes that they may need in order to be engaged citizens in all communities they may occupy and to have the space needed to (re)define themselves and their identities as they grow into adulthood. Ribble’s (2023) 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, provides a framework through which we might begin to develop curriculum and educational practices that build and support the development of digital citizenship skills and competencies. As educators, (just as we have always done) we will need to shift towards pedagogical practices that are informed by emerging technologies and that address the needs of digital and non-digital citizenship development and engagement.
AGParts Education. (2023). [Infograph 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship]. AGParts Education. https://agpartseducation.com/9-elements-of-digital-citizenship/.
Common Sense Media (2019). Curated Lives. Common Sense Media.https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship/lesson/curated-lives.
Gui, A. (2015). Extended Personal Identity in the 21st Century. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4(11), 8-14.