Leave a digital footprint that you can be proud of.
Importance of Teaching Students Digital Citizenship
This paper presents information regarding the importance of teaching and modeling digital citizenship to provide students necessary tools to become successful 21st-century learners. Digital citizenship can be defined as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use” (Ribble, 2015). Students are becoming increasingly tech savvy and need guidance to learn what appropriate behavior looks like online, and how to safely navigate using technology. It is estimated that two-thirds of teens use technology daily through online assignments, playing games, watching videos, and using social media (Curran, 2012). Students are often provided little guidance on how to use these online resources responsibly. Many teachers are unprepared in regards to training and schools lack appropriate classroom technology needed to teach students about the importance of digital citizenship. To keep students safe when using technology students need to be guided towards appropriate behavior and understanding of digital citizenship. The nine elements of digital citizenship include digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security. This paper will focus on some of the most influential elements out of the nine, which schools need to be proactive in teaching to students. For students to be productive responsible citizens online, schools must provide students access to online resources while teaching and modeling digital etiquette, digital communication, and digital law.
Digital etiquette includes more than just laws and regulations, but how to use technology responsibly with appropriate behavior (Ribble, 2017). Students need to be taught how to act appropriately online to develop their digital citizenship. Previously, parents were expected to teach their children online etiquette, however, parents may not know how to use the technology that their children are exposed to (Ribble, 2015). It is believed that to address the problem of students lacking etiquette education, students should be taught responsible technology use at school. Getting students involved in a character digital education program can provide a proactive approach instead of reactive. (Ohler, 2012). The iCitizen project developed by Dr. Curan is one example of beneficial nature of exposing students to digital citizenship education. Students communicated in open forums using social media initially bring awareness to cyber-bullying, and define digital citizenship. This project transformed students attitudes and taught them that developing empathy brought students together in a positive way.
Technology has enabled students to have access to make comments or post pictures within seconds to potentially reach thousands of people, anywhere at any time (ikeepSafe, 2012). The negative and hurtful comments that others make online is referred to as cyber-bullying (Brewer & Kerslake, 2015). This is a major issue that affects the majority of school-aged students. It is reported that as many as 42% of students claim in some form to have been bullied online (Strutt Central, 2012). It is difficult to accurately measure the number of affected victims, but it can be agreed that the consequences can be detrimental to student’s well-being. Cyber-bullying can alter one’s mood to anger, increase insecurity, lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. We need to teach students that anything posted online can be permanent and how to responsibly confront cyber-bullying. As educators, we can take steps to limit cyber-bullying and encourage healthy online interactions.
The increase of technology has enabled students 24/7 access to communication with others through social media, email, texting, and electronic devices. This opportunity has placed pressure on educators and districts to decipher the benefits or distractions these devices cause. Many school districts are unsure of how to allow the freedoms of technology within the school day while providing a safe learning environment. School leaders need to determine which devices and websites are educational and appropriate for students, then decide how to teach this information to students (Ribble, 2015). When schools lack communication or education of these resources students are forced to figure these things out on their own or unable to figure these ideas out at all. If we allow students access to online devices we can provide meaningful lessons on responsible online communication (Ohler, 2012). When schools block internet resources or punish students for inappropriate online behavior, this only treats the symptoms and lacks to address the real issue.
Importance of Digital Footprint
It is reported that 92% of teens use online resources daily, and 24% of these admit that they use to access online resources constantly (Lenhart, 2015). It is evident that students more than ever are using technology and depend on it for schoolwork, social activities, and communication. Students need to understand how the use of technology impacts not only their lives short-term, but decisions they make using technology could impact their future. Students are rarely unplugged and because of this, we need to educate them on important issues that affect their lives, their digital footprint. A digital footprint includes online information that exists based on their activity online (Common Sense Education, 2017). Students now use technology to tell their story through social media, creating videos, and posting pictures. Students need to be aware that their behavior online is permanent, even if something is deleted, the information could have been saved from someone else. Anything posted online can be traceable and permanent. Online activity needs to focus on creating an image that is positive and reflective of something they could be proud of.
One of the beneficial aspects of technology use is for students to have an opportunity to view, locate, and download resources. (Ribble, 2015). Students have a responsibility to follow property rights, copyright laws, and legal online actions. Students struggle to decipher what is legal, or illegal online and are unaware when they act irresponsibly. Any violation of these laws is real and will result in fines, or other consequences. It is important for students to understand the severity of some of these actions and how to prevent these consequences from occurring. Laws have updated to not only include online behavior during school hours but behaviors outside of school. This requires schools to be involved in pressing charges, regardless of when the online incident occurred. Students and teachers need to be provided training and guidance on how to react and prepare for these possible actions.
Sharing pictures online
Technology has provided a path for students to easily access and share information online. Students are able to easily post pictures online or send pictures with their cellphone or another online device. It is reported that 80% of teens have had exposure to explicit material online (Shapiro, 2014). The accessibility of this information has brought about new laws and regulations in regards to explicitly sexual shared photos (Ribble, 2015). Sharing photos of underage participants can be considered child pornography regardless of the solicitation or if the recipient of the photo was willing. If a participant even has these photos on their electronic device, they can be charged criminally along with a destroyed reputation. Students need to understand that their behaviors online usually cannot be undone. If students are unable to be taught digital citizenship, they are likely to make mistakes online that could have a life-long permanent effect or the possibility of negative consequences.
Challenges in Teaching Digital Citizenship
There is a gap between those that significantly understand digital citizenship and those that have little knowledge of what digital citizenship encompasses (Polgar & Curan, 2015). The minority that has a high level of understanding exists in concentrated academic groups. If the schools and the community lack the knowledge themselves they will be unable to teach students the importance of online behavior. Educators need to be given ongoing consistent training to be equipped with proper tools to educate students on how to access resources and act responsibly online.
Students Lack Digital Access
Technology has improved and changed at such a rapid rate, that some schools are unable to keep up with these demands (Ribble, 2015). Students have unequal access to technology because of socioeconomic status, physical location, and disabilities. Some schools lack resources while wealthier districts provide each student with an electronic device. In rural areas, many lack the high-speed internet connection when compared to schools in urban areas. Students may not have the resources necessary to learn online etiquette and practice proper communication. This lack of technology access limits opportunities for teachers and students. Students should be given equal opportunities regardless of social status, disabilities, or location.
Today technologies availability and affordability have provided an instant outlet for students. It has been reported that 92% of teens use online resources daily, and 24% of these admit that they use to access online resources constantly (Lenhart, 2015). It is evident that students more than ever are using technology and dependent on it for schoolwork, social activities, and communication. It is important for students to understand and learn how to appropriately behave online and use technology effectively. If students lack the tools necessary to be responsible citizens online they can be vulnerable to not complying with laws and regulations and lacking appropriate communication skills. We need to educate students about digital citizenship by teaching and modeling digital etiquette, digital communication, and digital law to keep them safe and show them how to be responsible digital citizens.
In conjunction with this paper, I created a presentation video to educate both teachers and students what digital citizenship is, and how to be a responsible online citizen. The platform I chose was PowToon, an animated video resource. In previous projects, I have created a PowerPoint and used Kaltura to transform into a video, Screen-cast-omatic, and Movavi editing software in which I used my phone to film footage, added voice-over, and music to make a video. For this class, I wanted to challenge myself learning a new software of animated video. I felt that this would be an additional software tool that would be beneficial to experiment with in hopes to teach other teachers. PowToon was very user-friendly, but the disadvantage is you have a limited amount of time for the audio per slide. This was different from the previous software I had used, which had no audio restrictions. However, the animated format was much more effective than converting a PowerPoint into a video. The software makes it easy to use pictures that have a Creative Common License, and PowToon includes templates that can be easily transformed. There wasn’t anything I would have done differently, aside from spending more time perfecting the presentation. I am hopeful that the video will assist teachers and students in understanding the importance of digital citizenship.
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