creating responsible students by teaching digital citizenship in the classroom

What is digital citizenship?

If you asked 10 people to define it, you’d most likely receive 10 different answers. It’s complicated, and the terms “digital” and “citizenship” are broad.

As a pioneer in the field, Dr. Mike Ribble created the foundation for digital citizenship by establishing its nine elements, which are widely used. Often referred to as the “Godfather of Digital Citizenship,” Ribble defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regards to technology use.”

His nine elements of digital citizenship are digital access, digital commerce, digital communication, digital literacy, digital etiquette, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security. His seminal work led the way for others to explore the safe, savvy and ethical use of technology.

My own definition is based on Dr. Ribble’s research and is a direct result of working with students on the iCitizen Project. My ultimate goal is to help students think and act at a local, global and digital level simultaneously.

Ways to Help Students Under Digital Citizenship

The first step to helping students become responsible digital citizens is to make digital citizenship a verb. We can’t just read or write about it; we need to do digital citizenship everyday. We need to encourage our students to use social media to solve problems and change the world.

Encourage your students to think of themselves as skipping stones. Your actions both on and offline have a ripple effect. Each day, choose to send the most positive actions out into the world. Skip your stones, and send a chain reaction of goodness and kindness. Lead with empathy, and solve problems in your own community. When you change your own communities, you change other communities in the process. It is the ripple effect in action.

1. Change the design of your classroom.

In her article entitled “Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks,” author Kayla Delzer details how she redesigned her classroom to be more conducive to a collaborative learning environment for her second grade students. The flexible seating and open floor space empowers her students to choose the space that works best for them to learn. This is a game-changer. Providing the choice and ability to move ensures that the student who could not sit still in a traditional classroom will no longer be penalized for disrupting the class.

2. Add student voices to your classroom.

Your classroom should be full of student insight and opinion. Invite your students to solve problems and create solutions on topics that can connect to the nine elements of digital citizenship. Carve out time for students to participate in Genius Hour and Makerspaces projects.

Amplifying student choice and voice in the classroom will bring out the genius and maker in every student and is the key to making learning meaningful.

3. Provide teachers with the chance to connect.

Encourage your teachers to attend an Edcamp, and then ask them to bring the experience back to the district on a professional development day. Lift blocks and bans in your school that prevent teachers from connecting with each other. Encourage teachers to join other connected educators during a Twitter chat.

Let them be content creators and learn alongside our students.  The possibilities are endless.  Social media as a learning tool has the potential to revolutionize how students communicate, connect, network, solve problems, collaborate and learn.

The bottom line is that we need to embed digital citizenship into our curriculum and instruction every single day. This way, our young people understand it, practice responsible digital citizenship and use technology in impactful, positive ways. Our students’ futures are depending on us to teach these lessons.

Marialice B.F.X. Curran, Ph.D., is the co-founder of the Digital Citizenship Summit and is instrumental in the development of digital citizenship curriculum and instruction in K-12 education, teacher education and professional development. She developed and created the first three-credit digital citizenship course in the country and is committed to student voice around the safe, savvy and ethical use of technology. She is passionate about empowering students around the world with positive and practical solutions. An international speaker and named one of the Top 10 Digital Citizenship bloggers to follow in 2014 by Common Sense Media, Curran co-founded (2011) and moderates the digital citizenship #digcit chat on Twitter and also serves on the leadership team for the Digital Citizenship PLN through ISTE.

To connect with Marialice, follow on Twitter @mbfxc and LinkedIn