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Tag: digital citizenship

Good Citizenship, Digital or Otherwise

The Art of Social Media

Last week was Digital Citizenship week, something anyone associated with a school was likely well aware of. Even those of us with only a tenuous connection had some idea the – do we call it an “event”? – was happening.

The overly-large school district for which I used to work and our local high school sent several messages to let us in the community know that they were right on top of teaching kids to be good digital citizens. During that week. I wonder what the focus is this week.

Anyway, ignoring my usual cynicism regarding the longevity of focus on issues like these in schools, I’ve always found the concept of “digital” citizenship rather odd. How is the behavior of someone considered a good citizen different in the digital world than it is in the physical world? Has the concept of a “good” citizen changed since the internet?

According to the district webpage1, digital citizenship incorporates a collection of nine topics, most of which are hardly exclusive to online activities.

Creative Credit and Copyright2
Digital Footprint and Reputation
Information Literacy
Internet Safety
Privacy and Security
Self-Image and Identity
Social Networking

I would argue that being a good citizen in the digital age is no different from someone who lived in the previous century. Or the one before that.

Certainly the means of communications is different. With instant publishing platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of social media, it’s far easier and faster to threaten someone or for students (and teachers) to foul their reputation.

But a large part of that list for being a good member of a civil society still comes down to making sure your public actions and statements represent the best of what you can be. As mother used to say, think before you speak.

So, do we still teach ethics and appropriate behavior in school, other than during Digital Citizenship Week? I’m sure some of that remains in elementary schools, just from the need to create a working community among kids who are new to the idea.

I’m not so sure it continues into secondary schools, outside of the usual collection of rules that every student gets during the first week of every year. And there is tremendous evidence to believe that ethics has been completely eliminated from business and law schools.

Anyway, the problem with setting aside one week out of the year to emphasize the traits of being a good citizen, digital or otherwise, is that the issue is minimized or ignored the other 51 weeks. It also sends a message, to both students and adults, that the idea is something we pushed last week. This week we’re worrying about something different.

There’s that cynicism about lack of focus coming through again.

Image: The Art of Social Media. Posted to Flickr by mkhmarketing and used under a Creative Commons license.

1. Which is not essentially different from many other district and organizational approaches to digital citizenship.

2. I have several issues with the way copyright is usually explained to students and the approach taken here is especially odd. But that’s a rant for another day.

Digital Citizenship Was So Last Week

Last week was Digital Citizenship Week. My Twitter and RSS feed was full of posts about activities teachers were doing with students around the topics related to working responsibly online. Lots of pictures of kids doing digital citizenship stuff.

But what about this week? Will Internet safety, validating information, and fair use of copyrighted content continue to be front and center in classrooms?

In most schools, the answer, of course, is no.

As with Hour of Code, Digital Learning Day, and many other education-related special events, these topics are highlighted for a specific amount of time and then we go back to “normal”. There’s a reason why none of them are scheduled in the spring during testing season.

Certainly there are some teachers who keep these important topics in front of their classes every day. Better yet, they continually model best practices for working on and learning with the web in full view of their students.

However, if any of these topics and issues were really important, they would not be optional, distinctive occasions. Digital citizenship, coding, and the rest would be a core part of the standard curriculum, essential learning for every student.

Instead of one-and-done annual diversions from “real” learning. After all, none of this stuff is on the test.

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