This week, we were called on to reflect on our own positions, past, present and future, with regards to digital citizenship.This is a timely blog prompt for me personally, as it provides me with the opportunity to reflect on my own growth since the Fall, when I began taking my first course with Alec Couros. This post will briefly summarize where I was, in the past. How things have changed for me, the present. Finally I will hypothesize where I see myself going, the future.
As far as I’m concerned, my past has basically included my entire life up until that point in the Fall when I first began taking master of education course connected to social media and education.
My childhood can be split into two parts. The first pat, growing up in the 80s, comprised of a pre-internet phase. The way I spent my idle hours, as a child, did not look all that different from my parents. Yes, we used different toys, and different things were popular. But the amount of hours spent outside, climbing trees and doing who knows what with friends cannot be counted. Oh yes, our worlds were rocked by Nintendo. But video gaming certainly did not take over my life. These classic games became one more thing to enjoy with our friends.
As a teenager, in the 90s, our lives were transformed by the dramatic introduction of internet into our lives. The screeching sound of our dial-up became a sign of progress. We could talk to our friends on the computer! ICQ! AOL! Chatroms!
As a young adult, although online technology continued to progress (dramatically), my own perception of its place in my life remained more or less the same. A useful and entertaining add-on. Separate from my real life. Two worlds apart.
As I just mentioned, my perceptions of online resources and technology has always been that of a separate entity. Powerful, useful, amazing, but separate. When innovations began to challenge those perceptions of online presence being entirely separate from our physical lives, I started to reject them. To me, Facebook was a useful way to connect with family and friends, but nothing more. The power of applications like Instagram and Twitter eluded me completely. (and I had little interest in discovering their power)
I don’t think there was a specific turning point, but over the past couple of years there has been a gradually deepening awareness that I was becoming unacceptably out of sync with my students’ lives. Their utter integration with social media was creating a sort of divide, as I did not really have any appreciation for what they were doing, or any consideration of the implications for my own role as a teacher.
This is where my present really begins. An intuitive realization that our physical lives are not entirely separate from our online lives. Our own Ministry of Education’s policy document on Digital Citizenship Education usefully discusses a two life vs. one life approach to teaching digital citizenship, with an emphasis on the growing inappropriateness of seeing digital citizenship and literacy through a separate life lens.
Fact Finding Mission
Intuitively, I get this. As I mentioned, it has been a growing feeling unacceptably of being out of sync with a critical element of my students’ lives. What really marks my present is going beyond simply having an awareness of something being missing, but doing something about it.
As part of my Masters of Education, I have begun targeting the series of courses offered by Alec Couros that seem designed with me in mind. I have begun actively experimenting with applications that employ social media skills to enrich my practice, like using Seesaw with my L.L.I. reading groups.
I have also begun taking an active interest in the ethical issues and dilemmas surrounding the increasing immersion of our digital and physical lives. My privacy project, for example, has me investigating the privacy and confidentiality implications of how we use the internet at school.
Through recent reading and blog reflections, I have also begun to truly appreciate the importance of the digital literacy skills that we, as teachers, are now being actively mandated to foster in our students. As evidenced by the Future Work Skills: 2020 report, the skills our kids are going to need to actively participate in the economy are very much gong to be bound up with digital literacy.
Clearly, my digital world is no longer separate from my physical world. They have crashed together.
Ok, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. For one, just because I’m late to the game doesn’t mean that Education hasn’t been moving this way for some time already. In fact, a simple google search for “Digital Citizenship in the Classroom” turns up 485 000 results in 0.39 seconds. Instead of seeing my own digital world as explosively colliding with my physical life, perhaps it’d be more accurate to see my digital life as merging into my physical life.
Where do I see myself going with my increasing realization that our digital worlds are a part of our physical world? For one, I need to put myself into a position to be a role model for the students in my school. As Stephen Noonoo point out, just because our students are coming to school already knowing how to use technology, it doesn’t mean they know how to use it appropriately. Through being a good example, I can be a relevant authority on managing a positive digital identity.
In all honesty, while this may be a new realization and shift in practice for me, I believe I am joining a established consensus on the importance of teachers being an active role model with digital literacy and citizenship. Teachers participating in Karaduman’s study explicitly state their perception that teachers not only need to see themselves as digital citizens, but model it for their students.
Integration – Real Context
Apart from being a good role model, which is important, how else do I see myself with regards to helping develop digital citizenship with students? Dennis Pierce discusses the critical importance of not treating digital citizenship as a skill, or class, in isolation. In order for their to be meaningful learning and connection, it will have to be addressed and practiced in a multitude of relevant contexts.
This rings true for me with what I already know and take for granted in my role as Learning Resource Teacher. A great deal of my behavioural support for students has to incorporate real contexts, or students risk not being able to apply learned skills. I can give them as many strategies as I want to help foster self and emotional regulation, but without practice and reflection on real events, those strategies almost seem to become pocket academic skills. The students can list them off, sometimes off the back of their hand, but may show little sign of being able to apply them.
Making this connection to what I already know definitely helps me to crystallize a view on my role with fostering digital citizenship. Co-teaching is a major element of my job. What better platform could there be for trying to helps student develop Ribble’s 9 elements of digital citizenship? Having two teachers in the same room affords all kinds of opportunity to experiment in less comfortable areas. Like digital citizenship, perhaps. For example, we can model/role-play digital etiquette online, and support one another in setting up controlled scenarios for students to practice that digital etiquette themselves.
Going forward, there is a level of uncertainty in where I am going with regards to my own practice in teaching digital citizenship. But I am going somewhere, and that somewhere includes my present acknowledgement of my digital world as being a critical part of my physical world. I need to make sure that my personal example, as well as teaching, demonstrates this acknowledgement, and fosters that same understanding in my students.
Thanks for reading!