As part of our role in educating young people, teachers/schools have a shared responsibility with parents to educate students on what it means to be a digital citizen. In our school, particularly at the grade 10 -12 level, it feels like it is a “What Not to Do” rather than modeling or teaching correct behavior. Policies and procedures can only go so far – proper use and etiquette while online must be modeled and encouraged at a young age. We cannot expect students to know how to use the tools; devices are more and more intuitive and user-friendly than at any other point in history but that does not mean that we should ignore teaching our students how to use the devices safely and smartly.
With the plethora of media sources and the absolute tidal wave of information which we can be exposed to in a relatively short time frame while online, it’s more important now than it has ever been to ensure that we are teaching students the skills they will need in order to navigate the information highway. Sticking with the basics – to identify audience, purpose, and intent of every piece of information – will help students quickly and easily determine if a source is credible.
I find it particularly scary that the very tool that can be used to bring the world closer together than ever before is also used as a way to isolate people. Having so much power and information at our fingertips is not necessarily a good thing. As Andrea Quijada mentioned in her TED Talk, students spend at least 7 1/2 hours a day interacting with media. Students often comment to me that school interferes with their “real life” and that what they are learning in school is not transferrable to their life outside of school. Just as there are behaviors that we must learn before we can read, there are behaviors we must learn in order to use and decipher media effectively.
Teachers are an important part of learning about digital citizenship but where do we even begin? Most of us are teaching a generation that is learning in a completely different way than we learned ourselves. Where do we begin? Well … it just makes sense to take what the students are interested in and start there. Many students would much rather play Fortnite with their friends than read a book and do ELA homework. If educators can find a way to bridge student interests with the curricula – that’s where the magic happens.
In her TED Talk “The Challenges of Raising a Digital Native,” Devorah Heidner, Ph.D. says that “before we try to catch our kids doing the wrong thing, we need to think about have we done a good enough job modeling the right things. Have we thought enough about what we want them to do as opposed to the idea that we are going to catch them doing the wrong thing.” If we want to raise kids who are thoughtful and can use media in positive and effective ways. The most effective way to do this is to start with what they already know and work with them to co-create learning opportunities. They need our mentorship!