Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Hand writing Digital citizen with marker, concept background
Photo by dizain on Adobe Stock

In our recent class, we discussed important things like staying safe online, when it’s okay to use technology, how much time we spend on screens, avoiding plagiarism, and others. These topics all relate to being a good digital citizen. As our world becomes more digital and connected, knowing how to behave responsibly online is becoming increasingly crucial.

“Digital Citizenship is more than just a teaching tool, it is a way to prepare students for a society full of technology.” – Dr. Mike Ribble

Digital citizenship means being a good and responsible person online, just as we learn how to behave in the real world. It’s like knowing the rules of the road or how to behave in public places, but for the internet and technology. For example, we teach our children not to talk to strangers on the street, it’s also important to be cautious online. Even though we might feel cozy and safe behind our screen, it’s actually like being out in a public place where anyone can come up and talk to you.

What is Digital Citizenship?

According to Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship article, digital citizenship is defined as the ongoing development of standards for using technology responsibly, appropriately, and confidently. As technology continues to advance, so does the potential to abuse it, it is important to educate students about the digital world around them and how to be good digital citizens.

Based on the Digital Citizenship in Schools, Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey talk about the concept of digital citizenship in the classroom. They define 9 elements of digital citizenship, which they called “norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.” These elements relate  to technology usage inside and outside the school environment, that we need to cover with our digital learners:

  1. Digital Access refers to whether someone has access to a device, Internet, or both. Even though we live in a digital world, not everyone has access to technology. As teachers, we should be aware of this digital divide, and provide alternatives for each student’s needs.
  2. Digital Commerce is buying or selling items online. For example, we can teach students how to check if a website is safe, especially when they are entering credit or debit card details while shopping online. They should look for website addresses starting with “https.”, where “s” stands for “secure” and shows that the site has encryption to keep their financial information safe.
  3. Digital Communication involve sharing information, expressing ideas, and maintaining relationships through online platforms. It’s important to teach your students how to communicate safely and effectively online.
  4. Digital Etiquette or “netiquette” is treating other users with respect and avoiding inappropriate behavior.
  5. Digital Fluency or Literacy involves knowing how technology works, thinking critically about the content, figuring out what’s true and what’s not, and making smart choices about what you watch or read.
  6. Digital Health and Wellness refer to the effects technology has on our bodies and minds. It covers things like learning proper sitting posture when using a computer, limiting excessive screen time, and dealing with cyberbullying. It’s also important to teach children how being online too much can affect their mental health if they don’t find a balance.
  7. Digital Law covers the legal rights and limitations regarding technology use. In the classroom, teachers can talk about preventing plagiarism.
  8. Digital Rights and Responsibility refers to digital rights that people have online, and responsibilities that come with them. One of the examples of digital rights and responsibilities is freedom of expression on social media. However, the responsibility that comes with it is being respectful and not to harm others.
  9. Digital Security and Privacy teaches students how to stay safe online, which includes learning to avoid viruses, scams, and interacting with strangers. Teachers should educate students how to protect their devices and personal information from potential cyber attacks.

Why Teach Digital Citizenship?

Technology is totally changing everything about how we live, work, and learn. It’s like our online and offline worlds are blending together more and more. And I think it’s pretty awesome! Now students can connect with others, dive into interactive learning that goes beyond just sitting in the classroom, and so much more. But we have to remember that as our world gets more digital, the things we have to deal with, our rights, and what we’re responsible for are also shifting. Even though kids might seem tech-savvy, many of them lack important digital citizenship skills to stay safe online and don’t fully understand everything about it.

Being a good digital citizen means getting involved, and schools need to make sure students have a safe place to learn how to participate in online spaces. It’s like teaching a teenager to drive. We wouldn’t just talk about it – they need to actually get behind the wheel. Similarly, teaching digital citizenship means letting students go online and learn by doing. We must teach them the necessary skills how to navigate the digital world and there is more to it than just typing on the keyboard!

We must guide kids on how to explore the internet, be mindful of what they encounter online, value others’ work, keep their own and others’ privacy safe, and create a positive online presence. For me, digital citizenship goes beyond a once-a-week lesson; it’s about understanding how technology affects us and our society.  Jason Ohler’s article provides some ideas for teaching digital citizenship in schools. I agree that it’s crucial to equip students with the skills to navigate the online world responsibly. As future teachers, we should shift our perspective on digital citizenship and integrate it deeply into our school environment, where everyone understands human and social side of using technology.

A Teaching Approach Beyond Just “Dos” and “Don’ts”

We live in a digital world where using technology is unavoidable, and honestly, why would we want to avoid it? There’s so much potential for connection, learning, and creativity! So, we definitely don’t want to block technology or make everyone scared of using it. I believe that teaching children about digital citizenship is far better than trying to control them. They can easily find ways around restrictions.

So, what is the best approach for teaching about digital citizenship? I don’t think just giving students a list of rules about digital citizenship and online safety is enough. Creating posters is a good start, but I believe teaching about digital citizenship should integrate the following strategies and what element of digital citizenship I think they fall under:

Digital Communication

DIGITAL MARKETING new startup project MILLENNIALS Business team hands at work with financial reports and a laptop
Photo by onephoto on Adobe Stock

Integration. I believe it’s crucial to move beyond separate lessons and integrate it into our everyday curriculum. For example, I would include blogging practice into the classroom. It’s such an effective and fantastic way to teach students about responsible online behavior and being a part of online communities. What’s important is that these platforms are open to the public. We can’t just talk about digital citizenship, but we have to practice it by exposing students to real-world online experiences. Even if it’s through teacher-controlled platforms at first, incorporating public experiences into our classrooms can make a big difference.

Communication. I believe that it is important to provide students with hands-on practice. For example, we can create a safe space in the classroom to simulate online discussions, maybe using sticky notes or a cool tool like Padlet to help students learn how to properly post and interact with one another. Additionally, digital citizenship isn’t just something for school – it’s a community effort. I think it’s important to make sure that there’s an ongoing communication between teachers and parents so their messages align with what is being discussed in the classroom. This approach creates a strong support system for students. It means kids feel comfortable bringing up topics both in class and with their families, knowing that they’re on the same page.

Digital Etiquette

Concept of etiquette and netiquette
Photo by Elnur on Adobe Stock

Interactive Discussions. For example, I might present a situation where a classmate receives a mean comment on social media and ask the students how they think the person should respond. This will open up a discussion and make them think critically about their online behavior. By engaging in this interactive discussion, students learn about the norms and expectations for appropriate behavior online and contribute to their development of digital etiquette skills.

Self-image Is Important. I think the acronym “THINK” is really helpful for students when it comes to posting online. It’s crucial to remind students that what we share can be seen by anyone and anywhere. Once something is online, it’s there forever, so we need to think before we post. We need to be mindful that our online actions can have real-life consequences, especially when it comes to future opportunities like jobs. To help students maintain a positive online presence and digital footprint, as teachers, we can encourage them to ask themselves a few questions: “Would I want my parents to see this?”,  “Could this affect my future career?”, “Could this hurt someone’s feelings?”, or “How do I want others to see me?”. If the answer to any of those is no, then it’s probably best not to share it. It’s a good way to remind students to be smart about what they share online.

Storytelling. I find storytelling to be a powerful tool to make messages more relatable and impactful. Just like hearing about suffering in a distant country might not grab your attention, but a personal story could move you deeply. That’s why I would love to use stories and real-life scenarios in my classroom. I would introduce real-life case studies of digital citizenship that gone right or wrong. For example, we might analyze a news story about someone getting in trouble for cyberbullying and discuss what could have been done differently. This helps students understand the real-world consequences of their actions online, violation of other’s digital rights, and reflect on their own experience. This strategy can also address the rights and responsibilities element of the digital citizenship.

Digital Literacy 

Word cloud for Digital literacy
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Strategies. When it comes to teaching digital citizenship, it’s not just about telling students what not to do. We also need to give them practical strategies to know what to do instead. For example, instead of leaving a negative digital footprint, we can teach them how to create a positive online presence. Another good example is instead of sharing personal information online, we can brainstorm safer things to share, like nicknames or safe topics. These ideas can be little lessons we can cover as a part of a regular curriculum. It can teach students how to navigate the online world confidently while minimizing risks and maximizing opportunities for positive interactions.

Interactive Games and Quizzes. I would incorporate educational games and quizzes into lessons to keep students engaged. For example, we might play a game where students have to identify fake news headlines or complete a quiz on online privacy settings. It can help to reinforce important concepts and develop essential digital literacy skills, while having fun. I came across this tool called Minecraft: Education Edition and it’s a great resource to turn learning tasks into fun games.

Project-Based Learning: I’m a big fan of project-based learning because it allows students to apply what they’ve learned in creative ways. For a digital citizenship project, students could create educational posters, videos, or social media campaigns to raise awareness about online safety and responsibility. It’s empowering for students to take ownership of their learning and share their knowledge with others.

“SEARCH” Strategy. This article talks about introducing students to the “SEARCH” strategy. Starting with a Google or Wikipedia search is common, but it’s important to teach students how to identify reliable sources. This strategy helps students to develop essential digital literacy skills related to conducting online research.

  • Select research questions and tools, have clear questions and choose the right search engines.
  • Extract keywords and pick out important words from your questions.
  • Apply search strategies and use techniques like quotation marks or specifying the type of information.
  • Run your search and check out the results from multiple sources
  • Chart your search and keep track of what you’ve looked for and where.

Digital Health and Wellness

Balance. Excessive screen time can significantly affect children’s health, both physically and mentally. According to the research, spending too much time on screens doubles the likelihood of depression or anxiety in teenagers. Also, increased screen time, especially before bedtime, raises the risk of insomnia symptoms and affects the sleep quality. It’s important to facilitate discussions about the importance of taking breaks from the screens. For examples, teachers can design a “digital detox” plan that can help students to take breaks from screens and engage in alternative activities.

While I didn’t cover all nine elements of digital citizenship, I shared some examples to illustrate how teachers can educate children how to be a responsible digital citizen and encourage a safe online presence. It’s OUR responsibility to create a safe environment where students can learn and practice good digital citizenship. There are so many great resources out there, please click the links below to learn more tips, ideas, and lessons for teaching digital citizenship!

2 thoughts on “Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

  1. Hello Mariia!

    Your blog post on digital citizenship is both informative and practical. Highlighting key elements such as digital access, communication, fluency, and health underscores your commitment to preparing students for the digital age. Your focus on teaching proper use and understanding the balance of technology’s effects is commendable. It’s clear that you are dedicated to equipping your students with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the digital world responsibly. Great work!

    1. Hi Nicol! Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you found the post helpful. Teaching digital citizenship is indeed essential for preparing students for the digital age!

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