Global Digital Citizenship is a critical element of any teaching program at any level. Our students are connected. Irrespective of the age of the student they are wired. We are seeing devices reducing in cost, increasing in availability and entering most classrooms and almost every school.
If you ask a students a question there first response is likely to be to “google” it. If you go to a library for research, the students are most likely to use the computers.The digital world is a world almost universally without boundaries (Some countries do still attempt to restrict access, but these are usually the same countries that are restrictive with their people as well). Visiting, talking, chatting, messaging are seemless, real time and simple. The distance between two people is now measured in milliseconds rather than miles.
All of this, the speed, immediacy, accessibility and ease of use means that Global Digital Citizenship is paramount.
I think there are four aspects of this.
- Clarity and rationale – Whether we are giving the students guidelines (my personal preference) or sets of rules there must be clarity and a transparent rationale behind the statements we make. Too often the communications that the students and staff sign to are not explained, written in quazi-legaleze and are too specific. I have seen schools and school districts present year1-3 students with documents to sign, stipulating what they can or can not do, written in language that I struggle with. The fact that the language used means the kids DO NOT understand it and therefore it is irrelevant AND the reality that a minor signing an agreement is immisable is often ignored. So a better option is to write guidelines that are flexible, encompassing and age specific. This adds CLARITY. The guidelines must have a logical basis – this is what we need from you and THIS IS WHY WE NEED IT – this is the rationale. If you can not provide a reasonable explanation for a decision or guideline then it is a POOR decision.
- Understanding and Purpose – this is the communication aspect with the students and the community. You have to develop and instil in the students an understanding of WHY we are making these recommendations and setting these expectations. They need to see the bigger purpose of respecting and protecting themselves, other people and intellectual property. They need to understand about their actions and the consequences of these. They must be aware of global considerations and inherent in this the cultural difference that exist. Again this is age specific.
- Monitoring and consequences – As critical as rationale and purpose, monitoring and consequences should be transparent, timely and appropriate. We are building a trust model, which digital citizenship inherently is, but there must be a process of keeping safe and learning lessons. It is appropriate to have filtering of the internet at different age levels, it is critical to have tracking and recording of use and access – but these MUST be CLEARLY communicated. There needs to be immediacy in dealing with actions that are unacceptable, whether it is inappropriate content, actions or communications. The consequences must reflect the action. I would guarantee that most schools would have different levels of consequences for similar real and virtual actions. Consider this…. a student goes into the music department and steals a CD of the latest popular music – the consequences of such theft would be severe. Take the online equivalent the student uses the schools network to pirate (steal) the digital equivalent of the album. The students is likely to be told this is not appropriate. How are the two actions different in the underlying action -both are stealing media. But one is considered a lesser crime or action. Similarly how is cyberbullying less damaging than bullying face to face?
- Individual and community involvement. In developing and implementing our digital citizenship guidelines and processes we sought, valued and used feedback from staff, students and the community. We ask our parents to apply our guidelines at home. We had our students critique our guidelines and THEN WE MODIFIED THEM based on student voice, where appropriate. Getting buy in and understanding from all sides is critical. If the student is involved in designing, implementing and using the guidelines they develop ownership and it becomes their guidelines and their ethical and moral compass, a compass that is hopefully aligned to respecting and protecting themselves, other people and property by their actions, behaviours and in some cases inactions.
So what have I missed?