Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The need for digital citizenship in elementary

Sometimes trying to follow the different conversations on Twitter is as hard as trying to watch the different scores and news on the sports channels' ticker on the bottom.  Blink at the wrong time and you probably missed what you might have been looking for.  There is no line-up to enter conversations, it seems as though you just jump in.  When the kids are lining up to jump in on the skipping rope, they do so because they have been taught the rules and expectations. This leads to the question of, who is teaching them the rules and expectations online?

I have learned about Twitter by being on Twitter.  No one has taught me about the tags or etiquette.  I have just been trying to figure it all out.  I would go to Google to figure out terminology I was getting like RT and tags.  I have mimicked what others have done and what I have seen.  I have tried using common sense but sometimes my eagerness may have overtaken me.  When two people are having a Twitter conversation, is it appropriate to add your 2 cents? The conversation is public and other people have contributed to a discussion that I have had, so does that make it right?  And herein lies the challenge, as a reasonably well informed educator on this topic, I am not sure.  Where does that put many teachers, parents and students?  Who is teaching digital citizenship and net responsibility?

There is an age-limit, supposedly, for Facebook and yet I have received Friend requests from current and former students who are not yet 13.  Their profiles are wide-open and they have hundreds of friends.The information that they have posted pretty much violates every suggestion for safety and privacy I have seen.  Their parents have no idea when I talk to them.  I have had to delve into youtube videos with highly inappropriate content, and again their parents do not know and were stunned to see the content and see all of the people looking at it.  The conversations that I have with the students demonstrates that they do not know.  Who is responsible to teach them?

Technology is changing at an insane pace.  Kids are seemingly on a technological trip reminiscent of Columbus' trip on the Santa Maria, a time where they thought there was land but no one knew for sure.  We are in uncharted water.  How can we teach ICT and not address Net Citizenship?  The last info tech BC IRP (Our curricular guide) was written in 1996 and is longer considered "curricular" but something that is to be taught within the confines of the other subjects.  If there is no guide and the experience at elementary can be limited to word processing and typing tutor are we meeting the students' and society's needs?

When should Net Citizenship be started?  Who is responsible for what?  What should it look like at each grade?  Are schools responsible for teaching the greater community as well?  There are so many aspects of Info Tech that impact the safety and emotional well being of the students of the school that it is going to take a crucial partnership with parents that must expand beyond calls about work completion, behaviour and help on field trips.  It is a huge journey and to be honest, I am not sure where to start as we are already way behind.


  1. Good questions, Remi.
    I've struggled with the Facebook thing as well. I've talked to various students (personally) about their privacy settings (or lack thereof) and have class lessons about that and about the content that's being shared on the net. Granted, my lessons for my middle school students looked different than the ones for my elementary students, but the main idea is the same. We can't control whether or not kids under 13 are using Facebook at home (that's between them and their parents), but we CAN teach them how to be safe, responsible and respectful online.
    I'm not sure at what age net citizenship should start. I cover online safety, etc. with grades 1 and 2, and I get into net citizenship a bit with my grade 3s, but it's not usually until grades 4 and 5 (when students start being 'online producers') that we delve into it a bit deeper.
    When do you start with your students?

  2. I started with my grade 4s and 5s 10 years ago when a kid was looking for info on an anaconda snake and clicked on anaconda entertainment... Thank goodness it was in the dial-up days and you could see the image just starting to appear very slowly. I made like Flash Gordon across the room and closed the browser!
    One of the challenges that I face is that as admin I am not teaching in the lab and trying to push something that is not in the curriculum is not easy. That is partly why I would like to get a bunch of teachers together to put something on digital citizenship together. I think it needs to be clearly defined starting in at least grade 2.

  3. Good post asking necessary questions. I am a curriculum coordinator in Iowa and our district is working on articulating this K-12. I think it's essential that we address it as part of our technology literacy.