The objective of this packet is to provide educators with details on the nine elements of digital citizenship. These elements can be incorporated into their classroom policies and performance standards regarding technology usage. Additionally, educators can utilize the information included in this packet to introduce their student's parents to the concepts of digital citizenship, helping to build the bridge between educators and families in today's age of expanding use of educational technology.
The Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship outlined here are an excellent starting point in defining your relationship and/or the relationship your children and students have with the organic and everchanging world of technology. In some ways, it is this evolving nature of technology that makes it so hard to handle. It changes extremely quickly, and no one really has all the answers regarding its use. Instead of being intimidated by technology, learn the ins and outs of it and work towards the ideal of involved and committed Digital Citizenship.
One important tenant of digital citizenship is that access to technology should be available to all. This concept reflects challenges that are present in our non-digital society. Most all citizens believe, in theory, that everyone should have access to education, health care, the right to worship, etc., but the reality of providing these to all citizens of the world is virtually impossible. It is at the root of wars, political divisions and religious fanaticism. It is unreasonable to think that everyone can receive equal access to technology, but it is a noble goal towards which to aspire. Digital citizens should continue to lobby for more digital access, in more locations, so that more people can benefit from it.
If the sales figures for Black Monday are any indication, we as a society are fully embracing digital commerce. Digital citizenship encourages people to embrace digital commerce and continue to strive for safe and secure utilization of shopping, banking, and engaging in other commercial transactions in technical venues.
Digital communication is another element of Digital Citizenship that we seem to be embracing wholeheartedly. Digital communication includes emailing, texting, instant messaging, utilizing cell phones, etc. As digital communication continues to grow, it is important that we not forget how to communicate face to face. If we lose our humanity, technology will be a poor replacement. Utilize digital channels of communication to enhance your ability to communicate, but do not allow it to replace your ability to communicate.
As digital citizens, it is our responsibility to develop and continually enhance our technological knowledge. We should support and encourage the acquisition of technological knowledge by others. We should model the positive and proactive use of technology for good causes, personal and professional growth and education.
This is a real weakness among many users of today's technology. Picture the guy who spends the entire meal in a resturant on his cell phone talking so loudly that he disrupts everyone around him, or the peer that sits across the table from you in an important meeting constantly checking emails or playing Angry Birds. Perhaps you can't teach old dogs new tricks, and it is too late to instill rules of etiquette onto these rude digital citizens. However, digital etiquette should be an integral part of the education of our youth. There are times when cell phone usage is inappropriate. There are ways that you should address and interact with elders regardless if you are online or in person. Educators and parents must be willing to communicate these elements of etiquette to the young technology users in their lives. It begins with rules. For example, no cell phones should be allowed at the dining table. Ever! It's an equally important lesson as "Put your napkin in your lap." It prepares young digital citizens for life in the real world.
As citizens of our city, state and country, we are governed by certain laws. As digital citizens there are also laws that apply to our behavior and interaction. There should be no stealing, no plagiarism, no abuse of others. Many intellectual information laws are violated in this new digital age, i.e. copyright infringement and trademark abuse. The digital world is so enormous that it is difficult to police. Therefore, we digital citizens must be vigilant in reporting illegal behavior, if we see it, and we personally should only engage in behavior that is above reproach.
In the words of Spider Man's uncle, "With great power comes great responsibility." The global and instantaneous nature of our digital age puts enormous power into the hands of everyday citizens. In order to keep the right to digital access, we must strive to always use it in responsible ways. Sadly, when there is abuse of these rights, the solution is often to withdraw all access (for example, a few students abuse the privilege of having a cell phone at school and thus, all students are banned from using cell phones - even if for an educational endeavor). Those committed to the concept of Digital Citizenship must take their rights seriously and their responsibilities even more seriously, setting positive examples and helping guide the integration of technology into new areas.
The physical and psychological well being of children in the digital world is a critical issue that keeps many parents awake at night. Childhood obesity is epidemic and a generation of children sitting in front of a computer screen is certainly not helping matters. Parents struggle with how to allow their children access to technology while protecting them from online predators and cyberbullying. Fortunately, awareness is on the increase as to how to protect children on both the physical and psychological fronts. I reiterate the point that I made early on in this series of packets - knowledge is power. It is the responsibility of parents and educators to understand the world in which children live, play and study, and they must guide them in being responsible digital citizens.
Digital security is basically protecting yourself in the digital world - protecting your identity, your data, your money, etc. While there are many publicized breaches of "secure" information featured regularly on the news, for most of us, a few simple steps can safeguard our cyber security. Backup data regularly. Create strong passwords and change passwords regularly. Be aware of internet scams and do not share information with anyone that you don't know. It is good to have a healthy dose of skepticism to keep yourself and your information secure.