In my current teaching role, Business Technology, I begin my class with teaching about digital citizenship. Teaching this and exercising this skill has become a day-to-day activity as we live more and more of our lives in a more digital manner. I believe it is an inevitable fact that we will have more of our lives online in a manner you may never know as we leave a bigger and wider digital footprint. However, there are things we can do to make sure that our footprints leave a positive mark versus wreaking havoc in many features and facets of our life. Describing three of the most impressive character traits of an exemplary digital citizen within a digital learning community isn’t an easy feat, but here are my most important!
Digital Citizens are:
1. Cognizant- Although we now walk around with a world of access in the palm of our hand, literally, an exemplary digital citizen is aware of the immense amount of knowledge we hold and can impart. However, this same knowledge can be deemed as a distraction according to those who are leading students on this path.
“At the same time, these teachers juxtapose these benefits against some emerging concerns. Specifically, some teachers worry about students’ overdependence on search engines; the difficulty many students have judging the quality of online information; the general level of literacy of today’s students; increasing distractions pulling at students and poor time management skills; students’ potentially diminished critical thinking capacity; and the ease with which today’s students can borrow from the work of others.”
Being aware of the way it can be used forces us to create a cognizant mind in students to help decrease the feared dependence. Mindful of the “bad” ways technology can do should help us to understand that being acting as a digital citizen can improve our learning experience and overall knowledge seamlessly in the classroom and beyond. Teachers and students must remain mindful of the ever changing world of technology and the impact we can have on it, as well as ours on it!
2. Connected- As we move forward in a world where we encourage use of technology and access to the digital world, we must remain connected. Based on research, “Technology disparities have the potential to reinforce or even deepen existing place-based inequalities in health, the labor market, the democratic sphere, and access to public goods.” Although think that access to the internet is enough, we must also realize there are many more areas of technology where we can connect as well. For instance, as an educator owning a smartphone was once deemed as “connected”. However, now that is not enough! A connected educator is one who interacts through social media, is aware of trends and tools to improve his/her classroom, and frankly isn’t afraid to connect with others. Being connected helps the digital citizen remain abreast of what is best for him/her and allows areas of growth to remain active and amplify over time.
3. Kind- Such a simple word, but being kind is often an afterthought in the digital world. As we move to less personalized experiences via the internet, it is still such a good feeling when we do have kind experiences on these platforms. This can mean various things for people. For my students, this may mean thinking before you post a comment on an Instagram post or for me replying to a post on Twitter asking for help even if it doesn’t deal directly with me. In our schools we now celebrate Kindness Week, which to me is quite sad, because this means we are reteaching and preaching an emotion which should be a part of our daily life.
As we move through our lives, it is important to remember the footprints we leave digitally cannot be replaced. They are forever there for the world to see and with a simple keystroke you can impart so much, but you could also take so much away. It is our duty as users of the internet to be mindful of our role as digital citizens, after all aren’t the 3 traits of an exemplary digital citizen those we should exude in every walk of life?