Before my class started blogging and creating digital stories, they had many questions regarding online use of blogs, social media platforms, and YouTube. Some students, rightfully so, were concerned about their privacy. Some students were more concerned about their communication and the digital footprint they would be leaving. As a result, before we were all comfortable with displaying our work digitally, we needed to address these concerns.
When it comes to digital citizenship, there are several elements (including elements of digital literacy) that are important to discuss and understand. Mike Ribble identifies 9 digital citizenship elements. In my classroom, I found myself covering the following:
Privacy/Security Many of my students were concerned that their blog posts would be read publicly. We had a conversation about ways to keep our work private on YouTube and blogging platforms. Of course, it still exists digitally; however, it’s important for them to know that they have options to keep their work private and to only share it with specific people.
I encourage students to make their work public, because that’s one of the ways we’re able to leave a professional digital footprint. As long as their work is professional and appropriate, it benefits them to share it publicly to create their digital portfolio and open themselves up to make professional connections.
In terms of security, students needed to familiarize themselves with options to keep their personal information private. It was also necessary to learn about virus protection, spam filters, and block options.
Digital Communication When it comes to communication, many students will be wary of writing and publishing online for the first time. Students are mostly concerned about being vulnerable with their thoughts and ideas, as well as their writing and composition. Encourage hesitant students to share their work with their peers before they publish. This will help alleviate some stress about other people reading their work, since it’s already been read by someone they know.
Encourage struggling writers to try out different platforms and see which ones are more comfortable for them to use. Many students might prefer the idea of micro-blogging, as opposed to blogging, and that’s perfectly fine. There are platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram that work really well as micro-blogging tools. Podcasts are another great platform for students to express their thoughts. In Reading & Writing in the Disciplines, “Writing for New Media,” watch as journalism students learn to consider the multiple perspectives of their audience and the importance of data collection while creating podcasts on the topics of their choice.
Digital Etiquette Just as there are etiquettes we need to adhere by in real life, there are ones we should follow in the digital world. It’s important for students to learn and understand that anything they put out in the digital world should exemplify their behaviour in the real world. Ask students this: “Would you say this to someone face to face?” If the answer is “no”, they should rethink publishing it.
Having a discussion about what digital citizenship means helps students to see that our presence digitally is no different than in real life. Our identities, work and behaviour need to always model professionalism as they tell the world more about who we are than we may realize. It’s also very vital for educators to remind students that once something is published, it has its own permanent place online, even with the delete option. This fact should not intimidate us or students, but it should be a reminder to only put work out there that shows that we’re good citizens.
For an example of how to bridge discussion skills from the face-to-face classroom to an online community, watch Reading & Writing in the Disciplines, “Designing the Classroom to Support Understanding.” Students practice respectfully and confidently discussing their ideas about controversial topics in the classroom and take those skills with them to online discussion forums for homework.
How are you teaching digital literacy and citizenship?