We live in a digital world, but we’re fairly analog creatures.
Just think about the five most important technology trends of the 21st century: search, smartphones, mobile operating systems, media, and the cloud. Now think about whether or not any if of those trends made it into your school? Perhaps, if you’re lucky, they all did. Things change fast in the digital realm and the increasing changes have shaken up learning so much that schools are just now beginning to absorb the aftershocks. More and more schools and teachers are encouraging students to post to blogs, text each other, and do their own work on their own devices brought from home. The learning benefits of flip classrooms, gamification, and social media have taken the internet by storm all while delivering overwhelmingly positive results. Generally speaking, learning looks different now. Much of the firm foundation that education has comfortably sat upon for the last three decades has shifted and it’s time now that all of us recognize and admit that the landscape will remain altered forever.
The following article from @MindShiftKQED titled, “Making Media Literacy Central to Digital Citizenship” does an excellent job summarizing the evolution of digital citizenship, alongside the rising popularity of teaching and learning through videos on the web. Seeing how students consume information and interact with each other on the web continues to change and evolved, it’s important to note that digital citizenship in itself should not remain stationary. Tanner Higgin from Common Sense Education, who authored the above @MindShiftKQED article states that,
“We need to move from a conflation of digital citizenship with internet safety and protectionism to a view of digital citizenship that’s pro-active and prioritizes media literacy and savvy. A good digital citizen doesn’t just dodge safety and privacy pitfalls, but works to remake the world, aided by digital technology…”
So the question becomes, why haven’t we considered changing the way we view Digital Citizenship after all of these years? A DigCit version 2.017. Why can’t we look at Digital Citizenship as an evolving software or digital platform that occasionally needs updating? We update our phones, our apps, and our laptops at least once a year but, still somehow choose to maintain an outdated version of Digital Citizenship in our minds and in our classrooms.
Engineering with Empathy
In my view, school documents pertaining to Digital Citizenship should be intertwined or merged with the Communication Charters or Essential Agreements that mirror how we speak and care for each other in the real world. This would help the school develop a shared vision of Digital Citizenship while also acknowledging the importance of including all stakeholders. It also places it at the forefront of many discussions pertaining to the parallel skills in and outside of a digital space.
Getting the students involved in the creative process allows for each voice to be heard and for each class to develop a collective understanding of its importance within the school and at home.
The synthesizing of these two school-related documents should also occur with more explicit emphasis on Common Sense Media and the ISTE Standards. This collective culture pertaining to #DigCit can be spearheaded by the admin or leadership team, but ultimately will be individualized and purposefully designed for and by each grade level.
The following infographic from iste.org outlines the parallels between being a good citizen and a good digital citizen.
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics via
Perhaps, once a common understanding is reached within each grade level, we could then ask teachers to share and compare their “tech agreements.” This will help the school and the teachers develop a better understanding of what it looks like it the grade level above and below them. It also allows them to survey what the students want. This slow burn to the vertical alignment starts with the same sequence with teachers as it does with the students. Develop a shared vision by unpacking the language and understanding of each teacher’s perspective, and make connections between being a good citizen and good digital citizenship. Afterwards, take the time to go through that delicate process of understanding the causation, the parameters, and the process to allow student-teacher ownership. This type of discussion will probably be ongoing, but that is a good thing!
The bridge between the digital divide separating digital natives from digital immigrants and outdated views from updated perspectives can be engineered with empathy, just as long as we don’t lose focus of our shared set of values. We can’t grow too comfortable in our acceptance of the way things are either, even if they might be okay today. Technology is an industry of increasing disruption and change, but within disruption and change, there is always an opportunity for growth, refinement, and behavioral action. Positively laying the structural framework, that connects everyone is our role as educators.
How do you identify consistencies that help bridge the digital divide and get everyone over to the same side?