First Impressions of Digital Citizenship

Week One’s introduction to digital citizenship came as reinforcement of currently practiced ideas. After reading and watching the week’s resources, I realized that everything my parents taught me about being a positive citizen in the “real world” parallels the meaning of being a positive citizen in the real world. The intriguing and somewhat scary conclusion drawn is that in the near future citizenship and digital citizenship will be 100% synonymous. We still seem to be in a transition period between the culture of “two worlds” to the culture of “one world” (Ohler) On one side of the educating world is a tenacious group of traditionalists desperately desiring to cling to their storied practices. The other is made up of chameleons that are constantly absorbing information and adapting their practices to best fit their target audience. Educators must hold themselves accountable to model proper digital citizenship to promote a digital world that benefits each citizen that engages with it.

One of my favorite studies conducted in the field of education is the “Hole in the Wall” experiment. Sugata Mitra discovered that humans will adapt their practices to learn how to use the tools they are provided with. Humans are naturally self-directed learners. They only become stagnant when unchallenged and provided for. The largest problem in my organization my students face concerning the use of digital tools in their learning experience is access to the digital tools they desire to employ. Unfortunately, the lack of access stems from school policy and not lack of resources. My school was build less than a decade ago and has a multitude of computer labs, laptops carts, and a phenomenal media center. However, the technology policy states that all students must put all devices “Off and Away” through the entirety of the school day. My organization operates under the “two lives” approach described by Jason Ohler. Students must separate their digital lives from their educational lives, because the importance students place on their digital lives is distracting to their educational well-being (Ohler). This deliberate restriction of the students’ access cannot be maintained efficiently and more importantly, cannot create a learning environment conducive to 21st century learners. Digital literacy, an essential component of digital citizenship and citizenship in the 21st century, suffers under the restriction of access. By providing the students of my school with the access available to them, the student will learn to use the tools they are provided with and can improve within each element of digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship can be defined as engaging within the digital realm to ensure the positive development of the realm and those who occupy it. Citizenship during the 21st century demands digital citizenship. The qualities of digital citizenship demand digital citizens to demonstrate the equal parallel qualities of citizenship while participating within the digital world. Digital citizenship will not be completely synonymous with citizenship until all members of the global community have equal access to the digital global community. However, the two concepts will join under an equal definition through the employment of the second most important element of digital citizenship: digital literacy. Those who do not have access to the digital world and those who are not digitally literate cannot achieve the remaining elements of digital citizenship. I cannot expect my students to excel in the digital world if they have never been given access to hone their skills when using digital tools. I cannot expect my students to understand how to effectively use digital tools if they have never been introduced to those digital tools. It must be the responsibility of schools to provide their students with access to digital tools with proper instruction on how to operate using digital citizenship.

References:

Ohler, J. (2012). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital

age. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 77(8), 14-17. (PDF:

Ohler_Digital_citizenship_means_character_education_2012.pdf)

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