Here I am, in week 4 of an online masters course on digital citizenship and already I can see there is so much we need to be teaching children about being digital citizens that it is almost overwhelming. Though I am generalizing, as a school, a district, and a national public institution we are using the “two lives” approach as referred to by Jason Ohler and in my opinion, that’s not good.
“The “two lives” approach assumes that students should unplug when they enter school, and then plug back in when they leave and reenter the zone of continual connectivity that had no place during the school day.”
To date in our course, we have looked at copyright, (which could be a complete course in itself), digital literacies, social media as a tool for marketing and business applications, social e-commerce, global corporate citizenship, consumerism in virtual worlds and it is only week 4! These are all topics that impact students greatly, from a very young age, and they need opportunities to learn about them.
We simply cannot afford to ignore the issue of digital citizenship any longer, particularly with young children. Case in point: Many of my nine year old students play in virtual playgrounds like Neopets, Webkinz, Dragonvale, and Club Penguin. Recently the parent of one them came to me, upset that her child had spent $90 in Dragonvale, without her knowledge.
Critical thinking is touted as a key 21st century skill in the Inspiring Education document (2010, p.19). It is imperative we guide our students to think critically about the choices they make, digital or otherwise. But where and how to start? For many teachers, it means admitting there is a lot for us to learn about the life children are living outside school. Otherwise, we just ain’t cutting it.
Ohler, J. (2011). Digital Citizenship Means Character Education for the Digital Age. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(1), 25-27.
The Steering Committee Report to the Honourable Minister Dave Hancock. (2010). Inspiring education: a dialogue with Albertans. Retrieved from http://ideas.education.alberta.ca/media/14847/inspiring%20education%20steering%20committee%20report.pdf