Digital Citizenship just as important as Social Media Policies when considering Online Behaviours

footprint

There is no doubt that considering how Social Media is used by ALL members of a school community (students, staff, parents) is essential in our digital age.  Often, we may find that staff can be just as prone to misusing (either intentionally or unintentionally) social media as students.  While many organisations are drafting policies to cater for the use of social media by their representatives, I believe, particular in schools, that we must begin with educating community members about Digital Citizenship in conjunction with any policy creation regarding online behaviours.

I was at a BBQ last week and the ideas of teaching Digital Citizenship and using Social Media in class were mentioned.  I was interested that many attendees scoffed at the idea of teaching this in schools and believed that this was something of a joke, with one person commenting that, “no one ever taught us to socialise at school and we turned out just fine”, and another suggesting that, “if schools didn’t encourage their students to be online they wouldn’t have a problem”.  Unfortunately, I think many parents have this same mindset when it comes to Digital Citizenship and Social Media, often believing that whatever will happen online will happen, regardless of what they are taught, or, they won’t have  a problem if they prohibit their children from being online.

This Science Friday podcast provides some real insight into the ‘why’ behind teaching Digital Citizenship in schools, as it suggests that teenagers have always needed to learn how to control social situations and being online should be no different.  We have always focused on ‘personal development’ in schools where we have modelled appropriate behaviours in social situations, we shouldn’t ignore that much of this socialisation has now moved beyond physical situations to online situations. Thus, I believe that as educators it is our responsibility to create awareness of what it means to be a digital citizen and model this behaviour, not only for our students, but also for their parents, our peers and wider community.

One thing we often overlook when we consider Digital Citizenship, is that we are not only teaching students how to be appropriate in their socialisation online, we are also teaching them how to be ethical and legal online.  It is essential for people to realise that as soon as they post something online they are becoming both a copyright holder and  publisher, hence, they need to consider how they are branding themselves personally and professionally.  In the video below, Barry Britt discusses the importance of students and teachers understanding the impact that their interactions and posts online can have on their personal and professional profiles.  Essentially, he suggests that we need to ensure both students and teachers have the knowledge to make decisions about branding rights.

Another important consideration concerning Digital Citizenship is catering for ‘context collapse’.  In her book It’s Complicated, Danah Boyd asserts that teenagers today are not doing anything different to what they have always done; the problem with the emergence of social media is that now the whole world can see how they are socialising.  Thus, they need to be aware of ‘context collapse’ – if they don’t  understand the context in which they are operating  online, their behaviour will often be misrepresented.  A teacher mentioned to me the other day that she was annoyed students had started following her on Twitter as she wanted to use it as a personal account.  This is a perfect example of ‘context collapse’  as this teacher obviously didn’t understand the social context around Twitter, highlighting the growing need for awareness around Digital Citizenship and the use of social media.

Digital Citizenship involves accepting that we need to interact online and brand and promote ourselves in a positive manner.  We must accept that we need to learn to control our social situations online, just as much as we do in a physical setting. Thus, if we begin a Digital Citizenship education in conjunction to creating policy around Social Media use, we may find that community members are more aware of and informed of acceptable online behaviours.

Letting Others Control How You Are Perceived Online

online-reviews

Question and Answer services and User Review sites have become increasingly popular features of Web 2.0 platforms as users connect with each other by asking or answering questions and posting reviews or services or products they have encountered. While in theory this concept is not a new one, the posting of these things online allows the option of anonymity, making the validity and reliability of content questionable and hard to trace. While in the physical world we can choose to gain opinions, answers and feedback from people we know and trust, we cannot guarantee this in the digital world. Also, instead of being able to judge an individual’s response by way of physical determents, such as body language and tone, their response is reliant on their ability to articulate themselves in writing (Jeon & Rieh, 2014, p.663). Consequently, while it may be useful to gather feedback, answers and reviews at the click of a button online, users are often taking a gamble in doing this, as unless they are able to trace or verify the source, they are relying on feedback from someone completely unknown to them, with motives that are completely unknown.

While these question and answer and review sites provide a certain convenience for users who may be shopping or need a quick answer, we cannot overlook the potentially detrimental affects of the anonymity of these services, as evidenced in the video below, when 12 year old student Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide after she was bullied on popular question and answer sites, Kik and Ask.FM

 

This may be an extreme example, but it does lead us to question whether the anonymity allowed on such sites makes it easier for people to act without consequences of their actions.  This also leads to users being able to give an opinion or review of a person or business out of context, as is seen regularly on social media sites such as Facebook when disgruntled customers post their annoyance, anger or negative opinions on company pages for all users to see.

Even though question and answer and reviews sites are prone to negative feedback, many businesses revel in the free publicity and advertising they gain.  Racherla and Friske suggest that online word-of-mouth platforms such as TripAdvisor and Amazon have become the most valuable sources of information for online consumers, as these sites allow them to become fully informed as the product details and social interactions available allow them to become fully informed (2012, p.548). These same authors warn however, that there is still a way to go in terms of  the balances and checks put in place on these platforms to ensure that the user is gathering valid information and not experiencing a sense of ‘infowhelm‘ (2012, p.558). Additionally, more recent examples of customers being fined by companies for leaving bad reviews on word-of-mouth platform raise the question of how these sites are monitored and controlled.

Allowing others to control how individuals or businesses are perceived online is definitely a reality of Web 2.0.  However, as with any interaction in a digital environment, users must exercise digital etiquette and common digital citizenship practices to ensure that they are discerning in their use of these sites.

Reference List

Jeon, G. Y., & Rieh, S.U. (2014).  Answers form the crowd: How credible are strangers in social Q&A? iConference 2014 Proceedings (p.663 – 668).  Retrieved from http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/106410/Jeon_Rieh_iConference2014_answers%20from%20the%20crowd.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Racherla, P., & Friske, W. (2012).  Perceived ‘usefulness’ of online consumer reviews: An exploratory investigation across three service categories.  Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 11(6), 548-559.  doi: 10.1016/j.elerap.2012.06.003

 

A Reading List for Digital Citizenship in Secondary Schools

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A recent university assignment investigating Digital Citizenship in Education studied in the Masters course, Knowledge networks and digital innovation, being studied through Charles Sturt University (CSU) required students to assess digital citizenship needs within their school environments and make recommendations for future directions. One element of the task was to prepare an annotated bibliography of essential reading for college leadership teams. This is the bibliography prepared by Helen Stower and myself.  It contains some excellent resources for anyone considering digital citizenship priorities for secondary schools.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2015). General capabilities in the Australian curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/overview/general-capabilities-in-the-australian-curriculum

When considering the policy and procedures needed for a DLE, it is imperative to consider the concept of digital citizenship and how this will be managed and taught within the school in question, as this will directly influence the behaviour of staff and students online. The transition from analogue to digital classrooms places great pressure on educators to be aware of the behaviours of their students in digital and globally connected environments and, while constant monitoring of these behaviours is almost impossible, providing them with guidelines and models of how to interact in such environments will assist them in having successful learning experiences online. Consequently, it is imperative that educators and administrators become familiar with the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum as they provide insight into how aspects of digital citizenship can be incorporated across disciplines in a school environment. On this website, beyond the obvious links to digital citizenship and technology use in the ICT Capability, reading the information associated with the capabilities of Ethical Behaviour, Personal and Social Competence and Intercultural Understanding are of particular worth, as they have considerable implications for digital citizenship. The social nature of DLEs in online environments is relevant to the capability of Ethical Behaviour as students must ensure they are aware of the impact their behaviours can have on others and manage this accordingly. This also has relevance to the capabilities of Intercultural Understanding and Personal and Social Competence as students become aware of the differences between cultures in a DLE and be able to act appropriately and ethically in response to this. The General Capabilities must be considered when preparing policy and procedures for a DLE as teachers in Australia are expected to address and assess these across all learning areas.

Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st century fluencies for the digital age. Kelowna, B.C.: 21st Century Fluency Project.

Literacy is not enough: 21st century fluencies for the digital age focuses on identifying the learning environments necessary to facilitate digital learning and methods for implementing these. The authors, Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churches have authored and co-authored several books, articles and blogs that focus on educating students to thrive in a time of exponential change. The central argument of this book is that the information landscapes of the 21st century require a shift in the way we teach and evaluate learning. The purpose of this book is to provide an impetus to initiate change and is best used to stimulate questions that challenge traditional pedagogical methods and structures with a focus on relevancy for contemporary learning. The first three chapters build the authors’ argument and the remaining chapters outline a core set of ‘fluencies’ (solution fluency, information fluency, creativity fluency, media fluency, collaboration fluency and global digital citizenship) and provide tools for teachers to use in order to develop lesson plans, create assessment tools and reflect upon professional practice.

Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends, 55(4), 37-48. Retrieved March 28, 2015.

Providing an overview of the issues schools need to consider as they set in place the policies and procedures necessary to establish a digital learning environment must address digital citizenship. The article, Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village, argues that student guidance in this area is essential in order to develop a society that is, “defined by effective attitudes and practices in digital decision making, ethical and legal issues, online safety, customer security, consumer security, and technology related health issues” (p.37). The authors qualifications in the field of education and a significant reference list are provided to validate the reliability of their research. The strength of this article is that it articulates all of the stakeholders involved in establishing a shared vision for digital learning priorities in schools. The article also provides evidence of the need to embed digital citizenship into curriculum and suggested methods for achieving this. It repeatedly argues that administrators and teachers need to be role models of digital citizenship as it is impossible to understand the behaviours and mindsets associated with online engagement unless they themselves are participants in the digital world, and this makes it a worthwhile read for college leadership teams.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2015). ISTE Standards. Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) provide a set of standards that are useful guidelines for the skills, knowledge and processes needed by students, teachers, administrators, coaches and computer science educators to succeed in the digital age. These standards were developed between 2007 and 2011 and are a very good framework for best practice strategies and an essential resource for establishing digital learning environments. ISTE’s goal is to, “empower all learners in a connected world” and they provide an international conference, website resources, and professional learning communities to achieve their vision. The standards are accessed via the ISTE website, where educators can find connected resources such as the Essential conditionsfor technology integration and Standards in action which are examples of educators enacting the standards in classroom settings. ISTE’s work is based on peer-reviewed research on effective learning and teaching with technology and is edited by people with expertise in the field of education.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century [White paper]. Retrieved from MacArthur Foundation website http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF.

Sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century, investigates the roles of schools in helping students acquire the skills they need to become full participants in society. The key argument of this paper is that the digital divide between those who will succeed in twenty-first (21st) century futures and those that will be left behind is determined not by access to technology but by access to opportunities to participate and develop the cultural competencies and social skills necessary in new media landscapes. The paper is thoroughly referenced and the principal author is Henry Jenkins, the Director of Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Executive Summary of the paper provides a succinct overview of why schools require policy and pedagogy shifts to focus on building participatory cultures. The remainder of the paper provides explanations of each of the skills required for participation and strategies for building these new media literacies.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2014). NMC horizon report: 2014 K-12 edition. Retrieved from New Media Consortium website http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2014-nmc-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Perhaps one of the most valuable resources for administrators and educators considering the implementation of Digital Learning Environments, the New Media Consortium Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 edition, provides a well-researched overview of emerging technologies likely to impact teaching and learning in schools over a five year period. This report covers the three main areas of: key trends, significant challenges and important developments predicted.   Crucial considerations for the digital age, such as rethinking the role of teachers, the safety of student data and hybrid learning designs are discussed in depth throughout this report and curated links to further reading and practical examples of how these concepts are applied to school settings are given for each area. What is also unique about the Horizon Report is that all of the background materials involved in the report, including research data and preliminary selections, can be downloaded for free on iTunes U. Often as educators we are exposed to research about new technology and pedagogical trends with little evidence of how they may impact our policies and practice, however refreshingly, the Horizon Report discusses the implications for policy, leadership and practice for each of the trends identified. When considering the policies and procedures necessary for a DLE, this report provides essential reading as it provides insight into thetechnology, skills and support that will be needed to remain current in teaching and learning in the digital age.

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital Citizenship in Schools : Nine Elements All Students Should Know (2nd Edition). Eugene, OR, USA: ISTE. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com

Digital Citizenship in Schools: Nine Elements All Students Should Know is the work of Mike Ribble and offers an overview of the behaviours, mindsets and skills necessary for successful participation in a digital society. Following this overview, Ribble provides a framework and lesson guides for schools developing digital learning environments that necessitate digital citizenship education. For the purposes of this research task, Section 3: Creating a digital citizenship program is particularly useful for identifying the digital learning issues affecting education. The structure of the book allows easy access for educators to use sections and chapters on an‘as needs’ basis, and as such, provides a useful reference source. Ribble’s qualifications support the reliability of this source and include: the attainment of a Doctor of Education, authoring a number of works (books and journal articles) on digital citizenship education published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and a position as District Director of Technology. Chapter 2: the nine elements of digital citizenship is recommended for school leadership teams to become familiar with the areas encompassed in responsible, appropriate behaviour with regards to technology use.

School Technology Branch, Alberta Education. (2012). Digital citizenship policy development guide. Retrieved from Alberta Education website http://education.alberta.ca/media/6735100/digital%20citizenship%20policy%20development%20guide.pdf

The Digital Citizenship Policy Development Guide published by Alberta Education acts as a guide for educators and administrators who are looking to establish a digital citizenship policy within their institution. Structured around Ribble’s research on digital citizenship, this document provides an overview of digital citizenship policies and practices while drawing from relevant school-based research. Although set in an American context with examples taken from schools in Alberta, the structuring of this guide around Ribble’s Nine (9) Elements of Digital Citizenship makes it relevant to educational institutions universally. The key purpose of this guide is to provide guidance in policy development to ensure the protection of students working in digital learning environments. While the introduction of this publication alone is essential reading in its definition and explanation of the relevance of digital citizenship in schools, each one of the nine (9) elements of digital citizenship are explored in relation to student and educator considerations, organisational requirements and policy considerations through Chapter Four (4). Although the laws discussed in this resource are applicable only to readers in Alberta, the application of digital citizenship policy to these laws provides brilliant precedent and discussions that could be applied to any educational organisation, regardless of its location. This resource is an excellent starting point for readers investigating policies and procedures applicable to Digital Learning Environments as it links relevant twenty-first (21st) century learning standards such as the ISTE NETs for students, teachers and administrators to digital citizenship frameworks. Of particular relevance to education administrators looking to create policies and procedures relevant to DLEs, is Chapter Five (5) Digital Citizenship Process and A Road Map, which draws together policy, outcomes, leadership and stakeholder involvement. The Digital Citizenship Policy Development Guide was particularly useful when conducting this environmental scan report as it assisted in modelling how frameworks and research can be mapped to establish relevant policy and discussed issues that may be pertinent to a DLE, such as cloud computing and Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).

West, M., & Vosloo, S. (2013). UNESCO policy guidelines for mobile learning. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002196/219641e.pdf

Developed in consultation with education experts from a range of over twenty countries, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Policy Guidelines for Mobile Learning provides essential guidelines related to embedding ICTs in school policies and procedures. Aimed particularly at policy-makers and administrators, the document recognises that all new policies within a school must consider the opportunities afforded by mobile technology and digital environments. Thus, these guidelines assist readers in understanding the benefits of mobile and digital technology and how they can be incorporated to improve teaching and learning. The chapter entitled Policy Guidelines for Mobile Learning starting on page twenty-nine (29) of the report, assists administrators and policy-makers in understanding and taking-action to include mobile learning in their policies and procedures, including areas such as teacher training and support, optimising educational experiences for students and advocating for safe, responsible and healthy use of mobile technologies. This section also highlights practices that should be examined, avoided and provided in policies and procedures, allowing educators to consider how this would affect a DLE in their own school environment. Therefore, this document is integral reading when considering the policies and procedures needed for a DLE in a school environment.

Zellweger Moser, F. (2007). Faculty adoption of educational technology.Educause Quarterly, 30(1), 66-69. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM07111.pdf

Zellweger Moser’s research entitled Faculty Adoption of Education Technology provides an in-depth examination of the ways in which technological support provided by the employing institution can influence teaching staff when integrating technology in their teaching and learning. Although Zellweger Moser’s research was undertaken in higher education facilities, it includes several considerations applicable to teaching staff in both primary and secondary environments. Figure One (1) entitled, Faculty Educational Technology Adoption Cycle on page sixty-six (66), is an adoption cycle proposed by the author that incorporates factors such as time commitment, competence development and student feedback that are likely to impact upon teacher adoption of technology use and digital environment s. On page sixty-eight (68) of the document Table One (1)Negative Educational Technology Adoption Scenario and Figure Two (2) Faculty eLearning Behaviour and Support, address the issues identified in this environmental scan report of staff preparedness and buy-in and the role of senior and middle management in supporting a DLE. Zellweger Moser’s finding that level of support given to teaching staff when adopting technology and DLEs significantly influences the success of such initiatives cannot be ignored in the policies and procedures of an intended DLE.

Image Attribution

Nominalize, Social Media Blocks Blogger Linkedin Facebook, Public Domain

Getting Started with Digital Citizenship: Social Media and Networking

Social media and networking present the perfect platforms to encourage collaborative an co-operative perspectives through technology use. It is our role as educators to embrace these in our learning so that we can model, participate in and extend this opportunity to our students. The first step in this process as educators is to become digital citizens and connected learners ourselves, so that we can effectively and successfully extent this opportunity to our students.

The interactive infographic below provides a bank of resources for educators to use as a guide when their begin their journey as connected learners, exploring digital citizenship through social media and networking.

Click on the image to interact with the resources via Thinglink

Who ‘Owns’ Digital Citizenship?

pointingfinger

Secondary educators are big on ownership.  We all ‘own’ our particular specialty, role or discipline and it becomes difficult for us to fathom stepping outside of this.  We know where to go or who to see when we need something.  For example, we have  Curriculum Leaders who ‘own’ their specialist discipline, Librarians who ‘own’ information access, and Deputy Principals who ‘own’ student behaviour and learning directions. Of course, what I mean by ownership is managing, leading or taking responsibility for a particular area within the school.

Early definitions of Digital Citizenship were quick to attribute ownership of the concept to technology specialists such as eLearning Managers and Instructional Designers, and this is understandable when we take the work of those such as Ribble, who prescribed Digital Citizenship as, “a concept, which helps teachers, technology leaders, and parents to understand what students/children/technology users should know to use technology appropriately” (2010, p.1). In 2015 however, the concept of Digital Citizenship has evolved so much that technology use forms just one part of it, we must also consider the need for digital citizens to integrate the use  of technology seamlessly and effectively as part of their learning ecology. This then involves digital citizens being digitally literate,  participatory, collaborative and able to master the unknown as it presents itself.    Subsequently, if we refer to Digital Citizenship as digitally belonging to, benefiting from and participating in a collective where certain rights and responsibilities need to be upheld, it becomes clear that, apart from the physical and digital realms, there is no real difference between civil or digital citizenship.  Thus, the responsibility or ownership of Digital Citizenship in our school settings becomes problematic which raises cause for concern, particularly in our current climate where we are educating students in a world that dictates digital participation as  a prerequisite for successful advancement in society.

The problem seems to lie in the fact that many educators believe Digital Citizenship education involves providing students with the knowledge and skills to interact and engage in digital learning environments.  My questions is, how can we do this adequately as educators, if we do not hold this same knowledge and ability?  The answer is that we can’t.  If we are to teach Digital Citizenship to our students, this involves also, “transforming [ourselves] into professional[s] who can effectively research technology trends, monitor the uses of technology, avoid the fear factor and model legal wisdom, in order to make vibrant learning opportunities for all” (Lindsay, 2014). Thus, while  the responsibility for Digital Citizenship in schools may have initially been seen as one for media specialists or eLearning managers, it becomes apparent that this will be ineffective if the ownership falls to these departments alone.  Each individual educator must take responsibility for owning, modelling and practicing Digital Citizenship so that they can participate as active citizens in our digital world.

This is why we can’t place the ownership of Digital Citizenship on one particular faculty in our schools, all educators are obliged to take control of this in their professional practice and teaching and learning.  In their article Informal Learning and Identity Formation in Online Social Networks, Greenhow and Robelia suggest that while our students are more than able to use, participate in and master online applications such as social networking sites, they were both unaware of and lacking in the ethical and legal knowledge needed to understand interactions on these sites (2009, p.135). Alarmingly, Greenhow and Robelia  suggest that, “such ill-formed and only partial understandings of [students] rights and responsibilities in semipublic online spaces, especially with respect to legal issues of copyright and fair use, mirror the lack of understanding on the part of educators who are supposed to model digital citizenship behaviours” (2009, p.135). Similarly, Lindsay and Davis assert that often digital citizenship becomes problematic when individual teachers lack the understanding and skills necessary to integrate and utilise technology effectively in their own practice, leading to a climate where, “respect for student ability to manage and improve their digital citizenship is not always present, sometimes due to an inability of the teacher to manage and understand his or her own online and digital life in a rapidly changing world” (2013, p.111).

Digital Citizenship is a concept that reaches across disciplines, contexts and ability-levels and one that is equally as important for educators as it is for students.  Consequently, we can’t expect our students to be successful digital citizens, if we do not take ownership of it personally, and model and practice it in our own learning ecologies.  Digital Citizenship must be ‘owned’ by every educator of the twenty-first century – not just those of us who are ‘technologically able’.

Reference List

A young man pointing finger. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.
http://quest.eb.com/search/115_3953868/1/115_3953868/cite

Greenhow, C., & Robelia, B. (2009).  Informal learning and identity formation in online social networks.   Learning, Media and Technology, 34(20), 119-140.  doi: 10.1080/17439880902923580

Lindsay, J.  (2005).  ETL523 Digital citizenship in schools: Module 1.2 [course materials].  Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-270076-dt-content-rid-635861_1/courses/S-ETL523_201530_W_D/module1/1_2_Dig_citizen_educators.html

Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. A. (2013).  Flattening classrooms, engaging minds: move to global collaboration one step at a time.  Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Ribble, M. (2010) Welcome to the digital citizenship website. Retrieved from http:// http://www.digitalcitizenship.net

Digital Citizenship 3.0: More than Cybersafety

Constantly in the media we hear news  about the ill-effects of students using the Internet, Digital Environments and Social Media and debates are raised regarding the appropriateness of this in school settings.  Often what follows are movements that push for cyber-safety programs in the hope that these programs will teach our students to use online environments effectively. What is often overlooked, is that teaching cyber-safety in isolation will only cover one aspect of students’ participation in online environments.  To ensure they are able to exist successfully in the twenty-first century environment, we need to consider the bigger picture – digital citizenship.

What is Digital Citizenship?

Ribble, Bailey and Ross refer to digital citizenship as the ‘norms of behaviour’ associated with technology use, referring to the use, abuse and misuse technology fitting into nine main categories as listed in the image below (2004, p.24).

9elementsofdigcit

What I love about this definition of digital citizenship is that it covers all of our interactions online, not just the negative ones. This, I believe, is realistic.  If we simply taught cybersafety and only highlighted the negative things that happened in digital environments, this would be the only exposure our students had to behaviour in digital environments.  By provided digital citizenships programs that model appropriate behaviour, we are setting our students up with clear examples and expectations of the behaviour we want to see online. Effectively, we should approach the behaviour of students online no differently than we do their behaviour in physical environments.

What should we focus on?

While the message of digital citizenship is beginning to filter through, with many schools adopting programs that focus on modelling and establishing positive behaviour online, the 2013 study by Gfk bluemoon for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) entitled, ‘Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media’, suggests that we must now focus on how to make students aware that their actions online are permanent, and not easily erased. The concept of a digital footprint is something that students find difficult to grasp, as the future seems such a long way away.   digital footprint yellow new fontAs adults however, we know that what students put online will increasingly affect their job opportunities in the future, as employers can find inappropriate comments, images and interactions with a simple Google search.  This emphasises the need for us, as educators, to provide students with real-life examples of positive and negative footprints and model digital footprints through our own actions online, particularly with the emergence of mobile social networking and geo-spatial tagging. For example, I often ‘Google’ myself with students to demonstrate how we can manipulate the information about us online in a positive manner.  In my belief, this is just as essential as being aware of cyber safety and responsible behaviours.

Here’s Why YOU Matter..

Interestingly, the ACMA study found that many students model the online behaviours of their parents and older siblings. While many parents believe they are supervising the behaviours of their children online, often this is limited to managing the time they spend online, not the content they are accessing.  Also, parents believe that it is adequate to monitor their child’s interactions online through ‘friending’ them on Facebook,  completely unaware that children report all of the important online interactions happen through  chat and private messaging.  The ACMA study also indicated that students are more likely to take greater risks online if their older siblings are active online, without the maturity to realise the consequences of their behaviour.  Similarly, if classroom teachers are not modelling positive Digital Citizenship in class, students are less likely to believe that they should be good digital citizens.   This refers back to the difference between education and modelling.  My concern is that we can spend time in school teaching and modelling appropriate online behaviours, but parents, other teachers and the wider community have limited awareness of Digital Citizenship and thus, aren’t modelling these behaviours to the students.  This provides a disconnect between what students are learning in school and what is actually happening in the ‘real world’. Hence, the ACMA findings that students are often aware of what constitutes appropriate behaviour but ignore their learnings in favour of partaking in behaviours that ‘everyone else is’, make perfect sense. Understandably, students are less likely to heed advice from parents or teachers who aren’t ‘tech savvy’.

Digital Citizenship is not only for students!

Last year I was invited to a class to teach the students about Twitter and set them up with their own accounts as part of their PLN (Professional Learning Network). After guiding the students through the process and discussing who they should follow to assist them in their learning, I asked the classroom teacher to call her Twitter handle out for the class. The  particular teacher was very quick to inform them that her Twitter was for ‘personal’ use only and that they shouldn’t, under any circumstances be following her online.  And, there is the disconnect. As educators we must be prepared to model and engage in the same behaviours online that we expect from our students.  This means, knowing how applications works, understanding the terms and conditions of each program as well as the privacy implications of using this tool.  Again, we are drawn back to the thought that our behaviours in the physical environment, in this case our classrooms, should be no different to the behaviours we exhibit online.  If we want out students to be effective digital citizens, we ourselves need to be effective digital citizens.

Community responsibility

So, in schools, we need to focus on developing digital citizenship as a community.  We must be aware of the impact our behaviour and knowledge about online environments has on our students.  Our professional development programs must be inclusive of staff, parents and the wider community, not just students.  And essentially,what it all boils down to is, we must practice what we preach. Digital citizenship is clearly more than cybersafety, consider the role you can play as an educator, parent or community member in building and enhancing the positive behaviour of your students online.

Reference List

Gfk bluemoon for the Australian Communications and Media Authority. 2013.  Like, post, share: young Australians’ experience of social media.  Retrieved from http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/About%20Cybersmart/Research/~/media/Cybersmart/About%20Cybersmart/Documents/GfK%20Blue%20Moon%20Qualitative%20Like%20Post%20Share%20%20final%20PDF.pdf

Ribble, M. S., Bailey, G. D., & Ross, T. W. (2004). Digital citizenship.  Education Horizons, 8(3), 25-27. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/fullText;dn=140679;res=AEIPT

Observing the Transition of Year 7 into Secondary in Queensland schools

Geography class. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.  http://quest.eb.com/#/search/139_1931997/1/139_1931997/cite

Geography class. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.
http://quest.eb.com/#/search/139_1931997/1/139_1931997/cite

Over the last few months I have been fortunate enough to make two visits to a primary school as part of program to  shadow and observe a year 7 teacher and their class in preparation for the transition of year seven into secondary at my current school. This program has been an invaluable experience as it has allowed me to consider how I would alter my practice to cater for the entrance of younger students into the secondary environment.  Even though, I only visited one particular school, I thought I would share my three biggest observations from this experience to assist those educators who are also preparing for the addition of Year 7 into their secondary school.

Integration of Learning Opportunities

Firstly, in a secondary environment, we are used to dividing learning into subjects with few connections or interactions between the teaching of these.  What was refreshing about the Year 7 classroom I visited, was that learning reflected the real world- it was integrated across all disciplines and teachers demonstrated to the students the importance of these connections through their ability to cater for teaching and learning beyond their own specialist areas.  Interestingly, this is quite a daunting concept for many secondary teachers who are uncomfortable when forced to consider subjects beyond their realm of study.  What we must be aware of in catering for the addition of Year 7, is that we can’t automatically expect students to change from such integrated, realistic learning into separate, distinct subjects overnight.  We first must assist them in developing the skills that will prepare them for learning – no matter the topic or area being studied. This will produce learners who are prepared  for life-long learning and specialisation in areas of their interest as they move towards their senior years of schooling and university entrance.

Flexibility in Teaching and Learning Spaces and Physical Environment

Students in the Year 7 class that I visited were prepared for learning to be flexible and could easily to change their focus from teacher-guided work to student-driven work, depending on the context and task at hand.  Similarly, the physical spaces in the room changed constantly to reflect the learning that was taking place.  Students moved their desks into groups when collaboration was needed, rows around the teacher when listening to instructions and moved to sit on their own if the wanted to work independently.  This flexibility in teaching and learning styles and classroom spaces allowed students to feel comfortable and accepted in their environment. They  were able to easily identify how learning would happen best and change their environment to cater for this. Providing for flexibility in our teaching and learning spaces is something we often claim not to have time for in the secondary environment, however, is something that could easily be considered through the furniture and environments we supply for our students (of course, allowing for this often needs to come from the school administration in their purchasing of resources).

Personal Organisation and Management

One major factor we must consider in assisting the transition of Year 7 into secondary, is the level of organisation and personal management that students will need to build to be successful in secondary school.  Much attention will need to be paid to how we can best assist students in moving from a very structured and organised primary environment to a fast-paced, self-managed secondary environment.  Factors such as recording homework and assessment dates are monitored closely in primary school and often, each class has a clear role and part to play in the running of the school.  The class that I observed, were constantly prompted by their teacher to record homework, work on specific parts of their assessment to ensure they meet deadline, ask parents for money for lunch and prepare for extra-curricular or whole-school activities.  This is something to be mindful of as we welcome Year 7 into the secondary environment, as they will need to develop management skills that assist them in being successful learners and members of the community.  While we like to insist that secondary students should be able to manage their own personal commitments, this is a practice that needs careful modelling and monitoring in the transition to a more independent environment.

Using Technology and Digital Citizenship

While  the use of technology students have been exposed to is reliant upon the primary school they come from, as a whole, they are not used to using technology at the level of secondary students.  Year 7 students at my school will be coming in to a ‘Bring Your Own Multiple Device’ environment in which, a primary device of a particular standard is mandatory, and students are able to use any other device (such as a tablet or mobile phone) if they wish.  The Year 7 class that I observed share a school laptop trolley between the rest of their Year 7 cohort and manage the files they use via their USB.  They were mostly reliant on their notebooks and physical resources provided for their general school work, using the laptops only for word processing.  Obviously, this will provide a big gap in their knowledge of technology use, management and digital citizenship when they enter secondary school where students are able to use their personal devices for internet, software and application access and management of notes and resources. While students in primary school are made aware of digital citizenship, they often aren’t provided with environments in which they can put their knowledge to practice.  This emphasises the need for secondary schools who do provide a wide range of access to technology, to put programs and opportunities in place for students to develop the skills needed to operate with technology and in online environments effectively.

While there are many other factors for us to consider in transitioning Year 7 from a primary school environment to a secondary environment, these are the biggest differences I noticed during my primary school shadowing experience.