My sixth graders created blogs this week using Edublog to showcase their work for the school year. This blog will serve as their electronic portfolio for their time in middle school. As a kick off, we reviewed the idea of digital citizenship and how important it is for them to be responsible and ethical users of technology by showing a video that reminded the students of how posting photos and other content requires a lot of forethought and of the reality that deleting content doesn’t insure that it can never be viewed again.
So, “think before you post” should be the mantra of every sixth grader at our school. The key element in all of this is the expectation that each of our students become good citizens, in all areas of their lives, including their digital ones.
Some parents are quite concerned about sixth grade students having a computer with internet access in their rooms, where there are moments of unsupervised web-browsing time. This is understandable, and many parents view the web as the “wild west” – uncharted territory that holds unknown dangers. It is true that the internet can be dangerous, and it is the charge of parents and educators to safeguard their children and students as they utilize the technology offered to them.
How do we do it? Do we evaluate every website before a child visits it? Do we place restrictions and filtering applications on computers that might be used behind a closed door? Do we only allow students to participate in supervised internet searches? Do we sit by our children as they navigate the web?
Digital citizenship goes well-beyond safety and privacy issues. It is a complex set of skills that cover a wide range of topics: nurturing a positive digital presence, accessing and using information effectively and ethically, utilizing the “connected-ness” of the digital age in appropriate ways, respecting the creativity and online rights of other users, and so on.
In order for our students to be able to achieve this expectation of becoming good citizens, we must give them opportunities to exercise good decision making. An explicit curriculum should be taught and modeled by all members of the learning community. Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education has created an effective digital citizenship curriculum that covers the following areas in great detail:
1. Safety and Security
2. Digital Citizenship
3. Research and Information Literacy
Brain Pop, an animated web resource featuring a well-loved robot named “Moby”, also has several quality videos covering topics from “blogging” to “cyberbullying”.
Preventing students from being exposed to situations that require them to exercise decision-making strategies will not advance their ability to be ethical and responsible users of technology. However, a “hands-off” approach will not be effective. On the contrary, our students must be offered these learning opportunities within a supportive community of teachers and learners where explicit skills have been taught and are modeled everyday.
Delete doesn’t mean delete. Let’s give our students a foundation that will enable them to build a rich and positive digital presence.
Photo “Digital Citizenship”: digitalcitizenshipcurriculum.wikispaces.com/file/view/dc.jpg/195731964/dc.jpg