As students head back to school this year, many have access to such devices as tablets and laptops, making this the perfect time for schools and teachers to set the tone for digital citizenship and to lay out their expectations for responsible use of technology. Last week, guest presenter and learning evangelist Steven Anderson discussed these issues during an August webinar for the Digital Citizenship Community on edWeb. "It's incredible, the amount of tools and resources we have ... we should be teaching students responsibility," Steven says.
As director of instructional technology, Steven was formerly in charge of the digital citizenship program for a large school district. “I was responsible for the program in 81 schools, 4,000 classrooms," he notes. "It was a challenge." He began by sharing what typically happens in schools' digital citizenship programs.
One of the most common mistakes schools make, Steven says, is that they tend to focus everything on an Acceptable Use Policy that's really a “thou shalt not” policy. “When we tell kids not to do something, what do they do? They do it,” he points out. So his district changed its Acceptable Use Policy to a Responsible Use Policy, and put the “should nots” in the student handbook. “In essence, an Acceptable Use Policy should empower kids,” Steven notes.
Another common mistake Steven shared is that schools often teach students just one lesson on digital citizenship at the start of the year, with no ongoing education. So, when poor digital citizenship manifests itself in students, it’s usually because they were only educated about that topic in a “one-shot” approach, rather than as part of a continuing effort to improve their digital citizenship skills. And often the focus of that single lesson was only on anti-cyberbullying education, rather than on the many other important topics related to digital citizenship.
To avoid these pitfalls and build a positive school culture around digital citizenship, Steven recommends four action steps for schools and teachers.
The first step is making digital citizenship a priority year-round rather than just at the beginning of the year. Second, he recommends setting up ground rules for students around digital behaviors. As he notes, “It’s not just the don’ts of the Acceptable Use Policy,” but includes rules about how you want students to communicate ethically and responsibly with one another, what kind of information is okay to share in a profile, or how to responsibly use and cite other people’s work and avoid plagiarism.
Third, Steven recommends that schools embrace digital communities. “In order to give kids a true taste of how to live in this digital world, they actually need to live in that digital world ... and they need to sometimes do it on our terms.” For example, schools using Edmodo can help teach students how “to practice [digital citizenship] in a safe environment.”
Last, Steven recommends that schools get parents involved by helping them guide their children in the digital world. Parents need to have a better understanding of how technology works in the classroom, Stevens says, and he encourages schools to have a “hands-on approach” to helping them understand not only how to educate their kids, but also what their kids are doing in the digital world.
“If you do those four things,” Steven says, “then you’ll have a super-successful digital citizenship program!”
If you missed this webinar, you can access it for free in the resource library of the Digital Citizenship community on edWeb. Even if you didn’t attend live, you can watch the recording and take the quiz to receive a CE certificate! Also check out Steven’s curated list of resources as it relates to the presentation.
Share below your ideas about how you plan to build a solid digital citizenship program for your school throughout the year.