One of the things that we talk about a lot at the beginning of the school year is digital citizenship. Digital citizenship refers to how our learners use their devices and develop their online reputations through posts and virtual interactions as opposed to in person. I see interactions taking place on different forms of social media and a lot of times, it is clear who has an understanding of how even virtual conversations can impact others.
To me, digital citizenship refers to the following:
- How is the content I am creating benefiting the site I am sharing on?
- Is the content I am consuming reputable and credible? (see Website Credibility for an activity to do with your students)
- Would I believe the content I am reading if I heard it in person?
- Would I say the content I am writing if the person were right next to me?
- How am I building my digital footprint?
These questions can be separated into two categories: consumption and creation.
This week, I was talking with a family member of one of our students. She was sharing with me that her child believed that everything that was shared on a certain YouTube channel was factual because it looked real and it seemed like something that might be plausible. Through a conversation that analyzed each event in the video and considering how everything would unfold off-line or in reality, they were able to come to the conclusion that the video was in fact made up or extremely exaggerated.
With this story in mind, it is great to remember that digital citizenship is more than just being appropriate online, it is also about knowing what information you are consuming. The attached lesson, Website Credibility, is a fun exercise to get students thinking before they cite random websites or go on believing in jackalopes. In general, are students able to recognize inaccurate or flawed information when they see it online? How do we decipher fact and fiction when reading online information?
Through a lesson on website credibility, students will start to understand that not everything they read online is true just because they see it on a screen. Instead, they should analyze the source and think critically about how plausible everything being said really is.
Creation with technology is always a goal because it shows me that students can do more than simply understand what they are consuming; they can take their knowledge further and apply it to a product they make (blog, website, photograph, video, KeyNote, art project…).
Students are even creating when they are using our programs, like Imagine Math, to chat online with teachers. This means that they should be considerate of the words they are using and they should stay aware of how the person on the other side of the screen may feel when they see what is being created.
I would encourage students to use empathy as they are creating their online content whether it is a public YouTube video or a private chat with an online teacher, students should stay considerate of how their impact is going to affect the people seeing it. Holding these conversations and getting learners in the mindset of visualizing the person on the other side of the screen can help us make sure that our learners see the potential positive power of the content they create.
In general, the bulk of digital citizenship comes down to critical thinking and empathy – is the information being shared and viewed credible and is it going to make the internet or site a more positive place?
These ideas are great conversations to have with our students as they use their devices to connect with each other and to connect with online teachers. It is a great opportunity to help our learners develop positive online communication and social skills while they are still learning because, in doing so, we can help them feel empathy and understand how their words, even when sent from the other side of a screen still impact others.
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