Making Sense of Digital Citizenship: Part 1

A number of districts across Indiana are preparing to roll out new 1:1 initiatives this school year. Where do they begin in terms of teaching digital citizenship? I suggest they begin with defining digital citizenship for themselves. There are certainly plenty of existing resources that define digital citizenship; however, I believe groups must come together to share, evaluate and collaborate to make sense of this broad concept. Ideally, schools will form a committee of stakeholders to lead the process. Together, this group should come to an understanding of what digital citizenship means so that they can develop a definition that fits their users and setting.

If a group were to start Googling “definition of digital citizenship” they would be overwhelmed with the results. In fact, even with critical evaluation, I could fill a complete Symbaloo Webmix with nothing but blog posts defining digital citizenship. So narrowing my choices down to six wasn’t easy, but I think I managed to include different perspectives worth considering. I created this Symbaloo Webmix on digital citizenship for a presentation last year and it includes a variety of resources, many of which have definitions tucked inside of them, but the blue buttons are the ones I suggest focusing on for discussion. The six include a mix of quick reads, visual organizers and more in depth whitepapers. Whether you select to use these resources for discussion or find others, I encourage districts to spend time getting the information and making sense of it for themselves as a first step. I should note that I strongly encourage districts to ground their definition in ISTE’s NETS. Look at the student and administrator standard 5 and the teacher standard 4 to get a sense of what falls under digital citizenship.

Once a group has developed their personal definition, then I suggest they look at developing an analogy or even multiple analogies for sharing what digital citizenship means and how they will approach teaching it in their learning community. I know that seems like a lot of work (and typical of a former English teacher to assign), but this process brings clarity to issues you’ve identified, makes you further problem solve, and connects your audience to your definition. I talked about analogies that have been institutionalized in my post Digital Citizenship Is More than Living by a Set of Rules.  Since then I’ve come across this blogpost by Dan Haesler Driving down Social Media Way, which does a wonderful job raising concerns about the driver’s training approach to teaching digital citizenship.

One of our priorities as we integrate technology has to be that we are examining our understanding of what it means to be a fully engaged digital citizen. Has your district formed their own definition for digital citizenship? Have you developed an analogy that describes how you approach digital citizenship? If so, please share in the comments!


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