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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Importance of Teaching Digital Citizenship

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas with you. This is a guest post from Salima Hudani. 

With technology playing a central role in education, teaching Digital Citizenship I believe, is a foundational and non-negotiable message that should be taught explicitly to all students. Digital Citizenship not only teaches students the etiquette involved in being a smart and effective participant in a digital world, but it empowers and equips students with essential life tools to help them navigate challenging digital based situations. I am a strong believer that until this becomes a natural and intrinsic process engrained for our students, Digital Citizenship should be taught.

Visiting and connecting with different classrooms over the last four years, I’ve seen that students do not understand the basic foundational principles of Digital Citizenship and are often in awe when I share with them why it’s important to safe. I believe students need to know that they are not alone when they post something online into a chatroom or onto a forum, even when it’s done in the privacy of their own home, it is visible to others. They need to know that a friend online, isn’t necessarily a friend to be trusted. Students also need to know that personal information can become public information extremely fast. Creating a positive Digital Footprint online is something that I encourage, but how do we teach students how to decide what’s valuable material to place online? How do we teach our students to become effective critical thinkers who question and critique not only their own actions but also understand how their actions may affect the Digital Footprints of others?

As a school authority, we began teaching Digital Citizenship explicitly. We commenced by introducing the concept of the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship to all students from K-12. Displayed in classrooms, is a poster that identifies and defines each of these elements and includes a statement for each element as well as a statement that brings the element into child friendly language. We adapted this poster based on Alberta Education’s Digital Citizenship Policy Guide (link opens a PDF), as well as Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. What I love about this poster is that it is divided up into 3 parts that highlights the importance of Digital Citizenship to students.

1. Respect and Protect Yourself, Digital Wellness
2. Respect and Protect Others, Digital Interactions
3. Respect and Protect Intellectual Property, Digital Preparedness

The contents of this poster is taught to students and readily connected to authentic experiences. For example, when logging into a website, a teacher would mention “Digital Security”, one of the Nine Elements, and why it is important to keep information safe. Teachable, authentic moments are key. As a system we also developed a working Framework of Digital Citizenship Targets that we felt would be important for all students to understand. These targets are what teachers use to help guide them in teaching Digital Citizenship.

In addition to teachers teaching Digital Citizenship, I personally have taught one Digital Citizenship lesson to EVERY classroom from K-8. In the hopes of delivering at least one foundational message that builds common language across our system. The lessons have been adapted for each level but have the same underlying theme. I rely heavily on lessons from Commonsense Media as this site has lessons and activities which easily match up to our system’s Digital Citizenship Targets.

As transformative a force as technology can be, I agree that fixating on danger isn’t the way forward, but we must take measures and owe it to ourselves to better prepare students to greet the many positives and challenges the connected life brings, by preparing Digital Citizens.

Salima Hudani, is the Director of Educational Technology, at Foundations for the Future Charter Academy in Calgary, Alberta Canada. She is well known for her passion, insight, and enthusiasm for working collaboratively with educators to develop the best possible educational technology integrated learning environment that promotes innovation, creativity and digital know-how to help reinvent teaching and learning. She advocates the importance for students to learn how to use technology wisely and safely, with awareness and compassion so that they can become informed and productive citizens in a global digital society. She holds a BA, B.ED, and M.ED from the University of Calgary. 
Personal Blog- http://salimahudani.com 
Twitter- @salimahudani 
Resource Site for Teachers Developed by Salima- http://ctiresources.ffca-calgary.com

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