The question of how we teach digital citizenship is one of the trickiest conversations I engage in with people. It’s like the Fixx’s song of my teen years, “One Thing Leads to Another.” Usually the question is put to me by a concerned teacher or administrator looking for a solution. That would be fine, but so often they are not prepared to engage in the process of reaching it. Sadly there is no magic wand that we can wave over students (or adults) to guarantee digital responsibilities will be upheld and digital reputations will be honored. Yet, no one wants to be liable for when things go wrong. And the reality is that things will go wrong when you provide a large number of students with connected devices.
Digital citizenship certainly is about behaviors and every school has been teaching appropriate offline behaviors for generations. I suggest examining existing school procedures that relate to behavior and ethics. Where might it be as simple as adding “online or offline” to expectations?
I also encourage you to create a common language. What messages do you want engrained into your culture?
Most districts have an existing Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Part of the work in preparing to teach digital citizenship is to go back and review this document. Does your AUP focus on what students should not be doing or what you want them to do be doing? There has been a shift in thinking when it comes to policy and that it is to focus on the responsibilities and the positive behaviors. I’ve collected some resources around this approach for schools. Understand that technology will be constantly changing and policy needs to be flexible and adaptable. In 2012, I took part in the review of my district’s policy and this is what we came up with. You will notice that the first section addresses the necessary disclaimers while the second section focuses on three main expectations. Each of these expectations is followed by a list of ways to demonstrate the responsibility.
- I accept responsibility as a member of (the district’s) community to demonstrate legal and ethical behavior in my use of technology.
- I will protect the integrity of my data , personal privacy and property rights and that of anyone else when using technology.
- My use of personal devices and (district) technology will be with the objective of improving instruction and learning.
As I meet with educators for digital citizenship professional development, I will be asking if these three statements are enough. Are they enough to open the dialogue about what it means to be a good digital citizen? Are they enough to frame conversations about appropriate use and safety?