We currently live in a digital age where we are surrounded by technology everywhere we look. Our children are considered to be digital natives that are being brought up in a society that heavily relies on the use of technology to function and we can not dispute the fact that technology plays a leading role in the lives of our younger generations. Looking back at my own experiences as a student, I can honestly admit there has been a significant shift in the use of technology in the classroom and I am noticing that we rely on technology more and more every day. Things have certainly changed over the past 30 years when it comes to technology and “with this rapid change comes the need [educate ourselves on] digital citizenship – the roles, responsibilities, and skills for navigating digital life” (Future Learn, 2021).
Since technology plays such an integral role in the development of our student’s lives, it would only make sense that schools take on the task of teaching digital citizenship within the classroom. I believe that a key concept to consider when teaching digital citizenship to children is to highlight the importance of acting responsibly while staying safe. As Susan Halfpenny from the University of York explains
“On a simplistic level, we might take digital citizenship as the ability to access digital technologies and stay safe…However, we also need to consider and understand the complexities of citizenship as we start to become a digital citizen, using digital media to actively participate in society and political life” (Future Learn, 2021).
Therefore, we are not only wanting to teach our children how to access digital technologies in a responsible and safe manner, but we are also encouraging them to be respectful members of society – whether they are offline or online. In the grand scheme of things, I feel that educators are striving to ensure their students not only become digital citizens that can access different digital technologies responsibly, but educators are also attempting to help their students become good digital citizens “who [are] informed about the various issues that come with the incredible benefits of technology” (Future Learn, 2021).
I believe that every teacher will introduce the topic of digital citizenship in their classroom in their own unique way to fit the needs of their students. Teaching digital citizenship is a very delicate concept and there can be many approaches one can take when teaching it to different groups of students. My students are a little bit younger and I consider what I teach them regarding digital citizenship to be more of a stepping point/introduction to digital citizenship that my colleagues can, later on, elaborate on in the following years. When I first introduce any new technology or app to my students, I ensure to walk them through step by step while reiterating my expectations numerous times. For example, when we try out Kahoot for the first time, we do this as a whole group from accessing the website to logging in and starting to play the game together; we wait to ensure that everyone is logged on and on the correct website (and I love to watch how classmates that manage to log-on quicker than others, will try to help out their classmates if they are getting frustrated). Those first few times, we also discuss the importance of selecting appropriate nicknames and avatars. When they are so young, you have to ensure to explain everything from locating the URL bar to getting them to accurately input websites and log-in information (this sounds like an easy task, but I can not tell you how many times I have provided my kiddos with websites/log-in info and they are not able to log-in because they have input their information incorrectly lol). With my Grade 2’s, I am trying to help them become independent while also encouraging them to act responsibly so that I can trust them when they are accessing different technologies during class time. It is impossible to think I will be able to keep track of 23 students during tech time and be able to watch over all of them at all times; hence, it is extremely important that I can trust my kiddos to act responsibly and respectfully while we are engaging with different digital technologies in class. It is essential for my students to understand that they need to make good choices when it comes to using technology within our classroom. We go over repeatedly what my expectations are when it comes to how they behave online/offline and how they treat others. Being respectful and responsible is huge for this age group when we begin to introduce digital citizenship in the classroom. I also find it incredibly helpful that any website I am sharing with my kiddos and giving them access to, I have already explored ahead of time to ensure it is appropriate while coinciding with our curricular objectives. Within our school, we also send home a contract at the beginning of the school year regarding the use of technology that parents (and students) must read and sign before their child gains access to different technologies available at school.
With our ever-growing use of technology, it makes the most sense that schools would take on the role of preparing students to interact with all these different technologies accordingly. It is certainly a demanding task that educators have been entrusted with. We are asking educators to introduce students to a variety of digital technologies, teach our kids how to access them responsibly, remain safe while interacting with them, and be respectful members of society (online and offline). I do not believe there is one specific way we properly teach digital citizenship – as I mentioned earlier in this post, how we approach the topic of digital citizenship within our classroom will vary greatly depending on the group of students and their needs. What I can communicate confidently is that schools do have a responsibility to introduce the concept of digital citizenship and set up our kids to become good digital citizens that can think critically about all the positives as well as the negatives that are linked to the abundant amount of technology we have at our fingertips.