Acceptance, Willingness, Open-Mindedness

Photo CC Wesley Fryer

The first time I heard about digital citizenship was in my ED-TECH class a couple of years ago. We did a little bit of research about it and our instructor gave us a short lesson. I think we had to create something electronically too. I can also remember being told, since day one of my classes for elementary teaching, be careful what you post on social media! Practically every class we were reminded to check our social media sites and delete anything inappropriate because our future career could be at stake!

Since I am a “non-traditional student”, I did not think too much about this.  Good luck finding stuff on me! I don’t (didn’t) have Twitter or MySpace or Instagram or whatever else. I have Facebook but I hardly ever post. However, I could see how some of the students in my classes might have a problem!

After doing some research, I gained more valuable information about this topic. The first article I read, I found this quote:

“To many kids now, they think that being on Twitter is, in some ways, like being with their closest friends.” George Courus

Yep! I agree! I have “unfriended” many people because of some inappropriate pictures or things they have shared. I have thought to myself that I wouldn’t even tell my closest friend that!

Since technology is becoming more and more a part of our lives, in and outside of school, these days, I have had to practice acceptance (that technology is not going away) and a willingness to learn about it as well as become open-minded!

According to the authors at CyberWise1, digital citizenship prepares students for the “information superhighway“. They say that the “rules of the road are literally being written” as I am typing this post.

While technology can offer “tremendous opportunities (connection, collaboration, learning community, information access)”, it can also be dangerous “(identity theft, sexting, cyberbullying, plagiarism, predators)”. It has been suggested that digital citizenship is for students AND parents and that the road to digital citizenship begins with “ethics”.

I agree that parents and schools have a responsibility to teach digital citizenship. However, parents cannot “teach” what they don’t know (and neither can teachers and it is more likely that a teacher will learn how to teach digital citizenship because they “have” to and want to because of its importance to these young and impressionable minds, whereas parents may not see the value in learning about it). Some of my Facebook “friends” obviously have no idea how to be a “good” digital citizen AND they have children.

Professor Howard Gardner suggests we look at five ethical issues. These issues are: “identity, privacy, ownership, trustworthiness, and participation”.  These five ethical issues can be used as “the framework for lessons in digital citizenship”. I agree with this. These issues are important to address. How do we protect our identity? How do we protect our privacy and why should we? Who owns the information we are using? What are trustworthy sources? How do we participate in a community (online and off)?

Before I became open-minded, I thought the answer to cyberbullying and social media was to cut all ties. I told myself to make a mental note to never accept a friend request from a student or parent, don’t follow them and try not to let them follow me and maybe just get off Facebook all together. However, I read an article that changed my thinking.  The author suggests that we friend students and allow them to follow us and be that positive online role model for them.

I did more research and I discovered a totally different way to view social media, a way completely different than what I think! I think that social media is a way to hide out from reality. Who’s really “real” online? It is creating a society of people who don’t know how to interact with people, don’t know how to use body language, and who write essays (in English class) in text (ex. R U there?).

Then George Courus caused me to rethink! First he shared this quote, “As the internet has become more central in our lives, we have begun to witness a revival of the importance of being human.” (Notter and Grant). Really?? We have?? Well, I missed that! He shares this quote in reference to humanity being able to share their own stories with people all over the world. He says that by sharing our stories we make connections to humanity.

While I agree with this (to a point) there is a fine line between sharing too much information too often. However, the examples he gave in his video, were appropriate and inspiring!

If we decide to begin to make these connections to humanity through the vehicle of social media and appropriately (through digital citizenship), we become in some ways, vulnerable. With this vulnerability, we could be bullied and taken advantage of (hence the importance of digital citizenship). Is it worth it?

Couros suggests that the Sincere Compliments video, “should be a standard we guide our students toward.  Nothing works 100% but we need to really be proactive as educators  in our work with students, not simply worry about covering our butts.  If we are really wanting to do what is best for kids, shouldn’t we be at the top (or at least working towards) the top?” This video is truly inspiring and I wonder if it would work in schools around me.

There is a program (a movement?) called Cyber Civics that some schools use. This involves teaching students about digital citizenship through role playing and skits. They are trying to teach students how to respond online to cyberbullying. They try to teach children that “your digital footprint lives with you forever”. When lessons on digital citizenship are offered in school, students are able to practice the skills in a “safe environment amongst their peers“.

Maybe “when students understand this concept (of digital citizenship), they will take an active role in managing their online reputations”. Maybe students will become agents of and for their own lives and their learning.

Quick Links and References!

George Couros Is your school’s “digital citizenship” practice a pass or fail?

CyberWise1 – What is Digital Citizenship?:

Professor Howard Gardner-Five Ethical Issues (taken from CyberWise1 What is Digital Citizenship?)

Read, Write, Reflect – Living Our Lives Online by Katherine Sokolowski

George Couros video that caused me to rethink!:

Sincere Compliments video:

Cyber Civics – CyberWise Website

Bud Hunt In Search of Agency



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