What a conundrum for this week’s post – what exactly is, or should be, the teacher’s role in educating students about digital citizenship? Much like any other emerging need in education, there seems to be this tug of war between society’s needs and what education can do to attempt to meet it. In the middle of this challenge are educators and time.
Do not dismiss me just yet, as it sounds like I am going to rant about the plight of the teachers. Poor us!
When you think of events, circumstances, or situations that have emerged over your career and have ended up changing how education looks or feels, what comes to mind? A quick rattle of my brain and I arrive at inclusion, First Nation, Inuit, and Métis related outcomes, truth and reconciliation, and outcome based reporting. I am sure that there are countless others, but these stick out to me because they have lasted. The last curriculum update for a majority of middle years subjects took place over 10 years ago. 10 years ago FNIM outcomes sent educators for a loop. If only the future could be seen back then as those outcomes, in every curriculum, gained relevance over time.
Educators play that role of unbiased, fact-based presenters of information that build the future contributing members of our communities and society as a whole. As discussed in earlier weeks, our community is no longer just the physical structures that we move in and out of throughout our day, and the people that we meet when we take our dog for a walk or go to get the mail. Society and communities have become more digital and, like every physical community, needs upstanding members. Over last couple of years, there have been times where I felt embarrassed to be a teacher, only because I teach at a school, and the word “school” has been associated with some not so proud moments in Canada’s history. Ultimately though, schools are looked at as a place where change can be brought about, beginning at a young age, and building skills and understanding as students progress.
The school that I work in does not have anything in place regarding digital citizenship for students. The closest thing we come to is an “Appropriate Use of Technology Agreement” and its corresponding Administrative Procedure. It is a very reactionary situation, littered with rules or expectations, and consequences. I know that I have been guilty of jumping to a consequence rather than using it as a teachable moment. Is that what my role is as an educator? Monitor and police online activities? It should not be, but at times it can sure feel like it.
A more proactive approach to digital citizenship would be more beneficial to staff, students, and society. Like any change, it will go through some challenges before the improvement is seen. I truly believe that incorporating digital citizenship into education is needed to be a responsive to the needs of today’s student. Sprinkle in some explicitly digital citizenship outcomes into the different curricula, divisions have the power to have some locally developed options as classes, educators comfortable enough to merge digital citizenship needs and existing curricula together, or developing a digital citizenship curriculum for a specific subject or class are all options worth exploring. But it has to start somewhere.
This week’s readings brought up some topics that enhance the value of our students becoming media literate in a digital world. Identifying fake news or bias in reporting is so important. Remember when the local publication came out every Thursday and you got to read who won the bridge game down at the local ‘Club 55’? For me, the Kelvington Radio was how I knew what was going on in my community. We had a second newspaper start up in our community, and through that other option for news, my parents shone a light on bias in reporting. That was a long time ago though. News, or fake news, is at every individual’s fingertip, whenever they want it. It would be rather valuable to learn to figure out if what I am reading is true or not. To do that though, consumers of media should know how to really evaluate digital media for reliability and accuracy.
Creating content is another area that young people should learn about, rather than from. Yes, mistakes will be made, but understanding those mistakes in advance may serve as a deterrent. Maybe. Going back to my newspaper comparison, letters to the editor was the easiest way to spread one’s message to the masses. Now, people are just a social media account away from sharing their opinions, beliefs, and experiences from the world. We are a ways removed from the regulars at the coffee shop raising eyebrows at someone else’s opinion and maybe not giving a, “Howdy!” the next time they walk in. The stakes are potentially much higher.
Good digital citizens have to come from somewhere. Like the instances mentioned before, making changes in education to incorporate digital citizenship will take some time and lessons will be learned along the way. There may resistance, there may the feeling of, “another thing to do.” If schools and educators have played an important role in creating contributing members of society, why should they not be a part of forming good digital citizens?