Helping our students become good digital citizens begins with some big questions we must ask ourselves and a vision that extends beyond the walls of our classroom: Why do we exist? What is our purpose? What kind of world do we envision? What kind of humans are we trying to become? How do we get there? How do we respond to failure and our own personal frailties?
Many of the issues we as educators are trying to address, such as cyberbullying, sexting, pornography addiction and plagiarism are actually symptoms of a deeper brokenness in our world, communities, and families, just as bad fruit on a tree is a result of shallow and unhealthy roots.
We as teachers are trained to engage the minds of our students, convince them with facts that they need to behave in certain ways, but it is not enough to teach the facts and hope that minds and actions will be changed. Somehow, we as teachers need to teach to the heart of our students.
These are lofty goals and a worthy calling.
I really believe teaching digital citizenship is more about inspiring our students to be positive, proactive, empathetic, creative individuals who contribute to our global community than about giving them a set of rules of what not to do. It’s about giving our students a vision for how technology can be used to learn, create, advocate and communicate for a greater common good.
Let’s make digital citizenship a verb and help our students bridge the physical gap between communities by connecting, collaborating, learning and doing digital citizenship together with other students and classrooms around the world. Let’s help our teachers and students become active citizens and enablers of positive change. Let’s focus on empathy and help our students humanize the person next to them, as well as across the screen.
Curran, along with her nine year old son began the #DigCitKids website and blog in order to inspire kids everywhere to become ambassadors for good digital citizenship. They create monthly challenges for students to join. This month’s challenge is based on the following quote by President Obama:
“I want us to ask ourselves everyday, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people’s lives” President Barak Obama
The challenge is for kids to answer the following question: How are you using technology everyday to make a real difference for your community, other kids and the world? To me this sums what it means for our students to be good digital citizens.
In his article, Passport to Digital Citizenship, Dr. Mike Ribble talks about the need for teaching digital citizenship reflection. We should teach our students that we are forever learning, unlearning and relearning. The following cycle can be used as a framework for teaching digital citizenship: awareness, guided practice, modeling and demonstration, and analysis and feedback. This final piece, analysis and feedback, to me is the most important step that helps us teach to their hearts. Students need time and structure to reflect and ask the following types of questions:
- How am I using this technology to make a difference in my community?
- What is working?
- What is not working?
- Is there something I can change or try?
- Am I using this technology in a responsible way?
- What have I been doing with my time: learning, creating, playing, hanging out, wasting time etc?
- Why am I doing what I am doing?
By creating time and space for my students at the end of a lesson or inquiry, they will be able to look into their heart and self-reflect.
I decided to use, the white paper, Digital Citizenship: a Holistic Primer based on Dr Mike Ribble’s Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship as a framework for writing a sample RUA for our elementary school. My draft is coming together. While there is still much work to do, I am trying to focus more on how I want our students to BE rather than what they should or should not DO.
I am proud to work for a school like Concordia International School Hanoi, which values community, excellence, and service and exists to help students grow up to be thoughtful, active global citizens. We as teachers are able to integrate our values of love, compassion, community, humility and excellence with our value of high academic standards in order to teach to both the heart and minds of our students.
What are some other ways we can teach to the heart of our students?