Technology is increasing pervasive in all aspects of teaching and learning, whether it is the kindergarden student using the gesture based systems like the ipad to enhance their learning and to create objects and engage or the senior student researching, collaborating, communicating and socialising. No matter what the opinion of the teacher as to the its worth, its positive or negative effect or its importance, information and communication technologies are increasingly ubiquitous. The futility of trying to avoid and ignore the potential for learning and teaching is being overcome by grassroots action by the students, example and modeling by the adopters and vision from school leadership.
With the huge potential that Information and communication technology has to offer for teaching and learning also comes a matching potential for distraction, illicit and inappropriate activity and poor judgement. Guidance is often missing in the home environment as the parents lack the depth of knowledge and understanding to provide sound subjective advice, effective monitoring and appropriate modeling. This is not through lack of interest, in most cases, but rather from their limited exposure and experience with this rapidly evolving and changing environment.
The graduate of this enabled and connected world should be a Global Digital Citizen. They are respectful and protective of themselves and other people as well as intellectual property. They are pro active and intolerant of abuse, standing up for the rights of freedom of expression and communication, while condemning excesses and bullying. They communicate fluently in different mediums and operate in a world without borders or censors. They understand and celebrate the cultural differences and subtleties that flavour the diverse world they live. It is a world potentially without restrictions except for the moral and ethical values that underpin their immersion, shape their interactions and guide their decisions.
The teacher holds a cornerstone role in the development of understanding, the appreciation of culture and diversity and the formation of the moral and ethical basis that, like the cornerstone of a building, provides a strong and stable foundation for life in both the real and virtual world they co-inhabit.
The teacher is guide, role model, monitor and often mediator or arbitrator.
As the teacher stands at the front of the room directing and facilitating learning they model ethical practice. Through their actions or their inactions they shape the moral and ethical framework of their young charges. If they fail to acknowledge information sources, to respect copyright and intellectual property, or act inappropriately in their online interactions, they write on the ethical blackboard of their students that such behaviour is acceptable.
The inverse is also patently true. The mentoring teacher who nurtures respect, who through their actions protects themselves and others helps to shape and form appropriately the moral fibre of the emerging adult. The mentoring teacher insists on behaviour that is appropriate. They value tolerance and considered deliberate action exemplifying both in their classroom practice.
It is not enough to just model the behaviour that we wish to develop and expect that the students will adopted it. The time spent in educational institutions are formative, our young people are discovering themselves, challenging authority and pushing boundaries. It is a time of exploration, of risk taking and experimentation. So it is not enough to expect that just by our mentoring we will form the ethical basis of the global digital citizen. There must be a degree of monitoring and supervision and with this recognition of action, accountability for behaviour and consequences that match the crime but also the developmental age of the student.
The most salient lessons are not learnt by avoidance but by facing you action, its impact and the consequences.
While we as educators understand that exploration and experimentation are inherent in shaping and forming the person, this is not an excuse for actions or behaviours that are inappropriate. There needs to be recognition of action and its impacts, of the wider consequences of the behaviour and its significance.
As teachers how we deal with these situations is critical, we can not be blinded by emotion nor can we be divorced from our relationship with the youth. Rather we must be fair, even handed and understanding, seeking growth and understanding rather than vengeance, fairness and justice rather than prescriptive consequences laid out in a structured pattern of offenses and punishments.
Underpinning all aspects of global digital citizenship are relationships. As different personalities, cultures, expectations and beliefs collide their will be conflict, this is inevitable. Here the role of the teach is that of the mediator. They provide strategies, resolve conflict, arbitrate disputes but even more critically they model tolerance where appropriate and action when required. They support freedom of expression within the boundaries of the appropriate.
The teacher shifts, over time, responsibility for mediation from themselves to their students. Their young people become the moderators of their environment, tolerant of difference but brave enough to stand up and defend their stance, their rights and the rights of others to be be free of persecution and bullying. They apply the mediation techniques and skills ably modeled by their teacher to their day to day interactions be they real or virtual.
More than teaching a subject
All teachers are teachers of citizenship. In the previous sections there was little mention of technology, because Global Digital Citizenship is applicable to more than the digital medium. Global Digital Citizenship pervades every aspect of education, its core virtues of respect and protect and themes of tolerance, understanding, accountability, responsibility, fairness, justice, action and consequence are critical to all we do as educators.
It is therefore vital that all members of the teaching fraternity model, mentor, monitor and mediate espousing the same virtues.
While it is perhaps a bold statement to make, if a teacher can not support these ideals through their actions, then perhaps they have chosen the wrong profession to be a member of. Teaching is no longer about the just subject and just imparting knowledge, it is developing the whole person, it is holistic, encompassing and immensely fulfilling.
The skillful practitioner.
The educator who engages and models global digital citizenship is a skillful practitioner able not only in their curriculum competencies but in the core competencies and virtues they uphold. They are:
- tolerant and considerate
- risk takers
- accountable and responsible
- experienced in a variety of mediums and adopters of technology
- adaptive and creative
- life long learners accepting the challenges presented to them
- passionate, enthusiastic and optimistic
- ethical and appropriate
The teacher is no longer just the master of their subject. They are much much more. Their classroom is no longer defined by four walls and a blackboard, but stretches far beyond the physical boundaries of their school. We are global teachers, ethicists and moralist, masters of our subject and students of the world.