We Ain’t Cutting It, Baby


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 Record48(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


About sandralbecker

An educator who is passionate about the creation of a school Learning Commons, which supports inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration.
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4 Responses to We Ain’t Cutting It, Baby

  1. kelasher says:

    As an educator, I agree that digital citizenship needs to be addressed. You suggest that children need opportunities to learn about the many facets of digital citizenship, and that we should guide them to think critically about the choices they make. Again, I would wholeheartedly agree. Speaking as a parent, however, I feel that the primary responsibility for teaching my children to be good digital citizens falls on me, not my children’s teachers. I ensure that my children behave responsibly online, just as I teach them behave appropriately in other contexts as well, such as the grocery store or at a restaurant. Though speaking about the benefit of internships as environments for learning, McEachern makes a crucial point which I believe applies to all learning when he said that “..instruction cannot substitute for actual experience. The give-and-take that comes from interacting with a real audience, in real time, can only be learned directly.” (2011, p. 490). As demonstrated in how the interns learned about more about managing social media writing through a real world situation, (McEachern, 2011), authentic learning experiences provide the best opportunities for learning. What more authentic learning experience could you imagine than the one which involved spending $90 in a favourite activity? This life lesson could not (nor should it) have occurred in a classroom. I do not mean to suggest that there is not a place for such discussion and learning at school. As a teacher, I absolutely see the importance of teaching the concepts,of digital citizenship to my students, through both direct instruction and modelling. Sharing the lesson about spending money in an online game with other students may save another parent similar grief. But given the volume of curriculum in the area of digital citizenship alone, educators should not be required or feel burdened to take it all on themselves. What do you see as the role of parents in addressing the ‘two-lives’ approach?

    McEachern, R. W. (2011). Experiencing a social network in an organizational context: the facebook internship. Business Communication Quarterly, 74(4), 486-493.

  2. I agree with the point you make when you say, “The primary responsibility for teaching my children to be good digital citizens falls on me, not my children’s teachers.” In a perfect world, this is very true. However, many parents today do not have the knowledge, skills, or background in technology to teach children the skills they need. I refer to your recent blog posting to make my point. With great courage you very honestly stated, “I have no experience or (even full understanding) of virtual online communities. . . . Nor had I really ever stopped to consider how organizations that use social media to connect with customers need employees that can manage and maintain the company’s image. . . .I have never even heard of Groupon or Living Social. . . . Perhaps most embarrassingly, I did not know that the ‘s’ in ‘https’ stood for secure.” You finish the post with this comment: “We cannot assume that participation alone will guarantee sufficient knowledge. We must teach them how to communicate and navigate safely and successfully in a variety of digital consumer contexts.”

    It is true that educators cannot and should not be asked to take this all on themselves. But perhaps we need to be the societal leaders. Could we not, as educators, establish authentic learning contexts that address already existing curriculum as well as issues in digital citizenship? I do not think this will be easy or without challenge. But I think we have to get started. It is no longer good enough for me to say, “That is someone else’s job.” As I mentioned in my post, “For many teachers, it means admitting there is a lot for us to learn about the life children are living outside school.” In that sense, I think you have already begun.

    Lasher, K. (2013, February 1). Knowledge consumer or consumer knowledge? (Web log comment). Retrieved from

    • kelasher says:

      Touche! In highlighting my lack of knowledge as a parent, you have indeed made clear the need for teachers to help address issues in digital citizenship. It was never my point to suggest that teachers shouldn’t be involved. But not only am I a parent who doesn’t know, I am also a teacher who doesn’t know. Who is teaching me? If I am to have sufficient knowledge to impart to either my students or my own children, I need to have said knowledge. I will readily take the lead to find out what I need to know, but at times it seems to be a case of not knowing what I don’t know. My principal has referred to this as “unconscious incompetence”, a state in which an individual is not aware of their lack of knowledge or skill. How can we ensure that teachers and parents know what they need to know, especially in view of the fact that new digital tools and environments are emerging all the time?

  3. ttallerico says:

    Hi Sandra,

    As I have read and reflected on the articles, discussions and blogs this week, I have been thinking about what a teacher’s responsibility in this area of digital citizenship is and what should belong with the parents. I can see that it may be possible to create some authentic learning experiences that could incorporate many of these understandings in the school setting however I don’t believe that the school can or should be replacing the parents in educating their children in regards to online consumerism. As researchers Grant et al (2011) state “it is unclear to what extent family spending behavior contributed to the shopping behavior” of the students interviewed. We cannot know what a family’s ideas are in regards to what they consider to be appropriate online consumerism.

    Everything we take on as education system it is meant to be in tandem with the parents and so it should be with digital citizenship. You state “We simply cannot afford to ignore the issue of digital citizenship any longer, particularly with young children.” I strongly agree but also think that neither can the parents. Like any good partnership, there will need to be dialogue back and forth to bring potential situations to light as well as possible strategies to deal with them. As a former Grade One teacher, we regularly had sessions with the parents in supporting young learners to read. We provided parents with information on what to expect from a beginning reader and strategies to use at home as they did their home reading. We shared our expertise to enable us to work as a team to provide our students with the consistent support they needed to develop the skills to become successful readers.

    As you suggested in your response to Kim “perhaps we need to be the societal leaders” when it comes to digital citizenship. The way that I think we could be most effective is by sharing our knowledge of digital citizenship with parents in order to provide them with the information they need to support their children in the digital world. We could have information nights, put tips in newsletters or on the school website as well as having school based activities in which the students lead their parents through the vast world of digital citizenship. Ultimately, I think both teachers and parents need to take on a meaningful role in educating today’s children and will make the most difference when we approach this increasingly important issue together.


    Grant, J., Potenza, M., Krishnan-Sarin, S., Cavallo, D., & Desai, R. (2011). Shopping Problems Among High School Students. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3086496/

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