Wednesday, August 5, 2020

We're All Digital Citizenship Teachers - Here's the "How To Guide"

As schools around the globe rapidly transitioned to remote learning, it became apparent that it is the responsibility of all teachers to engage students of all ages in a dialogue around responsible digital interactions. Most schools will not go back to ‘normal,’ and the importance and benefits of a digital education have become clear. School leaders have finally taken more seriously the work of bridging the digital divide. They are ensuring their students and staff have the technology and internet connectivity needed for success in modern times. 

Along with this shift comes the responsibility of ensuring every educator understands the importance of, and knows how to teach, digital citizenship at every grade level. While most schools taught students about digital citizenship prior to the pandemic, a designated teacher was usually responsible for this, often the technology teacher or librarian. 

Today, students need to have a better understanding of their digital footprint, how to effectively communicate, the tools they can use, strategies for when they feel unsafe online, and what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior. We don’t want inappropriate digital citizenship to impede sound teaching, learning, and relationship building. In some cases this has happened when students acted inappropriately online, resulting in teachers who responded by discontinuing their online instruction altogether. A Bronx middle school teacher shared why in a recent New York Post article: “There are a lot of us who aren’t comfortable with it. You never know where your face is going to end up right now.” 

Moving forward, it’s imperative that educators don't use these mistakes as a reason to stop engaging with students online. Instead, these incidents can be teachable moments. When students’ make poor choices, we can take the time to help them understand their actions and how to make more informed and responsible choices. 

We also must ensure teachers understand that they are role models online just as they are face-to-face. As stated in the New York Post article, teachers are routinely monitored online by their students. “They see us on Twitter, on Instagram,” one school staff member said. This is no surprise. Our students are growing up digital and they look to see how their teachers are behaving online.

All of this may feel new and even uncomfortable, however, our students deserve better. 

Learn how to get started. Check out my article on How to Teach Digital Citizenship in Tech & Learning magazine. There you'll find how to establish norms, assign roles, determine best practices, involve families, and select a curriculum.

Screenshot of "How to teach digital citizenship" article in Tech & Learning magazine

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