“Digital citizenship” is a phrase that is getting tossed around quite a bit lately in my district. We are in the middle of an iPad rollout: 1:1 devices for kids grades 3-12 and a smattering of devices for grades K-2. A few years ago, when our district started this process, we were asked to write a grant (of sorts) stating why we should be one of the first schools to receive technology, how we would implement it, and our plans to teach appropriate use. As a result, “digital citizenship” became the buzzword. Meriam Webster defines citizenship as, “the qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community.” I fully support teaching students to be active and positive citizens, but are “come to school with device fully charged” or “bring device to school daily” really measures of good citizenship? To me, they are not, but until recently, I had a hard time explaining why. I started to think about what makes someone a good “regular” citizen: They are caring towards others. They strive to make a positive difference in their community. They are trustworthy and reliable. None of these things have to do with how charged I keep my technology. Keith Heggart recently wrote a post on Edutopia titled, “Why I Hate “Digital Citizenship.” His post put into words what I had been thinking, but unable to articulate.
Heggart makes that claim that what we are really teaching is digital responsibility. Follow the guidelines. Bring your device to school. Don’t share your passwords. As he mentions, that’s how to be sensible online. Heggart goes on to state that if we are really teaching digital citizenship, we should teach how to correctly debate and discuss online and to engage their democratic leaders in dialogue through the internet. Common Sense Media is a site frequently used to foster digital citizenship in schools. October 19-25th is Digital Citizenship Week. Their blog post states that LAUSD, a major player in the digital conversion world, is pledging to teach 5 lessons that week: safety/privacy, password creation, cyber-bullying, information literacy, and digital footprint. Under Heggart’s definition, only one (cyber-bullying) or maybe two (digital footprint) of these 5 lessons are actually about citizenship. The rest are about responsibility. Below you will find two posters available on the Common Sense Media website that are good examples of the differences between the two:
Right now, my district doesn’t have a universal citizenship/responsibility curriculum or philosophy. We do, however, put a strong focus on student/community citizenship and I want to make sure that transfers into the ditigal world. Personally, I like Common Sense Media and the resources it has made available to me as we undergo this digital conversion process. I do think that it is equally important to be both digitally responsible and an active digital citizen. We should, however, teach kids the difference between the two. Digital citizenship should focus more on the interactions that occur with the use of technology, where as digital responsibility should focus on safety and care. My concern is that if we gloss over responsibility as citizenship, the major issues in digital citizenship such as cyber-bullying and social activism will fall to the wayside when, in fact, they are just as (if not more) important. How does your district define “digital citizenship?” Do you have any documents you can pass my way that will help my district on our journey towards technology integration?