Digital Citizenship – Partners instead of Policing

The use of digital tools has exploded across our classrooms and has enabled teachers and students to learn in ways that never was imaginable only a few years ago. Web services and apps change so quickly that teachers often have a difficult time staying on top of what’s new and what is impacting our students in their digital lives.

In many classrooms the goal has often been to filter out anything that could potentially be seen as inappropriate and have students live in this false utopia of a digital space. This normally occurs through stringent policies on school networks. Is this the reality for our students when they go home? Are all of these sites and services blocked?

One of our jobs as educators is to help students develop the necessary skills to safely and responsibly navigate the digital world. By preventing students from having open access to online resources we are setting them up for a world that doesn’t exist. That’s why it is so important to emphasize a culture of positive digital citizenship in our classroom.

Many of us would kickstart the year with a digital citizenship “bootcamp”. This usually took place over a series of days and included lessons that touched on many of the elements within digital citizenship. Once the students finished the program, they would be good to go for the rest of the year. This is a great way to highlighting many of the main issues when interacting online, but these concepts, like many of our teachings, need to be constantly reinforced throughout the school year. Constantly reflecting on our digital footprint and critically thinking about what we come across online needs to become part of classroom culture.

The 21st Century Global Competencies highlight both global citizenship and character as essential skills our students need in order to be successful and positive contributors to our digital world and workforce. We aren’t able to teach our students how to do this by policing the internet. Instead, let’s focus on partnering with them to create a positive digital culture in our classrooms.

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