Schools taking responsibility for digital citizenship

One of the new courses in 2011 on which I am working at CSU at the moment is called Digital Citizenship in Schools. The opportunity to work with school educators on this topic is a complete bonus!   I feel this way because having recently left working in schools I am only too aware of how easy it is for schools to skirt the issues, or believe they are ‘doing something’ worthwhile – yet missing the point by miles!

It is important to open our eyes as wide as we can to the possibilities, and the far-reaching changes not only in technology tools ( such as computers, laptops, cameras, multi-purpose phones, ipads and portable devices, and ebook readers) but also in information access, and social communications that our digital world is inspiring.

The media constantly report stories about the shift in digital technology use among children and teenagers. These highlight the fact that ‘the shift’ is not just a topic for educators, but is a topic of interest, and perhaps concern, for all adults. Learning to play Angry Birds before you can tie your shoes is suddenly media news!  More importantly, though, is the need to grow in knowledge of the digital environment, and it’s influential role in learning and teaching.

So what are schools doing about it? Ask yourself.  Look around.  Look at your policies, community communications, and your teaching programs. Look at your teachers and figure out how many actually have a clue about any of this?

Fortunatley, there are some really strong role-models in the education community, who help lead the conversation, and now I have found something that I am VERY excited about!

iCyberSafe.com – Living in a Connected World


This outstanding website provides information, resources, videos, updates and more for the school community on all matters related to Digital Citizenship.  It’s so easy to build a resource like this for a school using WordPress – yet how many schools have done this?  I  could have built Joeys something like this in the wink of an eye – but of course, that’s just not the way it happens in schools. We had other initiatives underway!

But the question is  – what does it take to create a whole-school response to Digital Citizenship?  What it takes is a Principal with vision, and determination to break through traditional structures to get where we need to go.  This is why is was wonderful to read that Darcy Moore has such a Principal.

For the first time in 20 years I do not have English classes to teach. The principal has requested that I am ‘off the timetable’ and work with all students on digital citizenship and creating a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) or, if you prefer, Personal Learning Network (PLN). This is another small step towards creating an environment at our school where student learning is personalised with the internet in mind.

What Darcy describes as a ‘small step’ would seem to me to be a significant step, given the cost in time and staffing. I would like to find other schools that have taken bold steps to ‘go where no-one has gone before‘.  This is a new frontier  that must be explored, with conections made and tamed,  so that working with digital citizenship it is no longer seen as being groundbreaking.  How long will it take before digital citizenship just becomes citizenship?

final report from the Learning with New Media research group at Monash University’s Faculty of Education was recently released.  This report, called Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites provides an outstanding analysis of  some the issues involved.

The research findings of this project confirm that SNS usage is now playing an important role in the lives of Victorian middle school students, including in socialisation and identity formation. In fact, SNS use has become integrated into the everyday social lives of most Victorian middle school students.

The final words of the report urge:

There is a need for further research directed at understanding young people’s use of SNS and how they can better be empowered to be confident and safer digital citizens. There is also a significant need to further work to be done to assist teachers to be better equipped to understand their rights and responsibilities in the digital communication environment.

We have a  way to go!

Join us in the journey. Become proactive in your use of digital environments, and urge your school to explore and engage in these environments more (rather than shutting them down).

As a result of my work  with our Digital Citizenship course at uni we now have two ongoing resources that readers may like to tap into and help to build.

Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DigitalCitizenshipInSchools

Find us at Diigo http://groups.diigo.com/group/digital-citizenship-in-schools