Digital Citizenship for the 21st Century
Blog on May 23 2022
If you are just making sure that your students’ passwords and identities are protected online, you are not teaching them digital citizenship. Of course, understanding the importance of protecting your identity online is a vital aspect of becoming a digital citizen, but there are some other important components to practicing good digital citizenship. We sometimes incorrectly assume that our students, who have been exposed to technology since they were born, should know how to properly use it. In many instances, students have only just touched the surface of technology’s capabilities and uses for the good of society.
Why teach digital citizenship?
The first concept of citizenship in America “began in colonial times as an operative relation between people working cooperatively to solve local problems and participating actively in democratic decision-making.”1 As teachers, the purpose of having students become good digital citizens is to prepare them to be empathetic and active members of society, as we increasingly move into digital spaces. Students should understand that the technology at their fingertips needs to be treated as a resource for the greater good of society. It’s also important for them to be efficient in utilizing it in safe and appropriate ways.
Pathways and goals for digital citizenship
Goals to achieve with your students in gaining digital citizenship can include:
- Using technology to make your community better
- Respectfully engaging with people who share different opinions from your own
- Utilizing technology to shape and change public policy
- Understanding the validity of online sources
Creating a pathway to digital citizenship is the best way to incorporate this learning into your classroom. There are many different ways you can engage your students in developing digital literacy and good digital citizenship. A possible pathway may look something like this:
- Understanding digital privacy
- Make sure students are aware of the permanence of their actions
- Engage in positive and ethical behavior when using technology
- How to give proper credit when using someone else’s work
This pathway is not a difficult one, but it is one that should begin at the elementary level and continue through the high school level. Repetition is also key in making sure that students understand how to apply good citizenship concepts to new situations. Digital citizenship should be taught in every subject, especially since the concepts behind it, such as collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity are all part of the learning process.
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