As educators of 21st century students, we sometimes assume that because our students have been born into a digital world, they know a little bit about the rights and wrongs of connecting within that world. After a year of iPads in our school, it has become apparent to our educators and administrators that adolescents might be well versed in digital technologies; however, they are not well versed in the digital ethics or aware of the footprints they are leaving online.
While almost every student in our school has access to an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone at home, these mobile devices not only create numerous exciting entertainment and learning opportunities but also open the door to new challenges. Cyberbullying or inappropriate web publishing happens more often through the use of the simple built-in camera than a regular computer! In addition, it is becoming increasingly more challenging to keep track of who is doing what with the device or whether the device itself is safe.
According to Holly Clark & Tanya Avrith at Edudemic “Our students are like cowboys living in the wild wild west. Without any guidelines or structure they can get in a lot of trouble. Armed with a concrete plan for teaching about appropriate use you can guide your students to become better digital citizens, who will learn how to build their digital presence in a positive and productive way”.
This year I hope to create a structure for our students and focus on digital citizenship through conversations, activities, and practices with students. I also plan to bring in experts to come and speak to our students about the seriousness of their digital footprints and how to enjoy certain social medias but how to stay safe doing so. Sharing online resources with our educators, students as well as our parent body will be important in creating a community culture of positive digital citizenship. For example, there are various classroom and home educational opportunities on Common Sense Media that are easy to follow and share. They offer a free K-12 Digital Literacy & Citizenship classroom curriculum that educators can follow and easily implement with their students. We may even invite law enforcement professionals to give a presentation on the grim realities of internet safety and the dangers and consequences of texting and social networking. Sometimes, showing our students these realities may be the only way they will commit to following online safety rules.
In addition to educating our students on digital citizenship as it pertains to their mobile devices, as a school, there are certain boundaries that we can put on the devices to help eliminate certain enticements. With the proper Mobile Device Management System implementation at schools, you can disable apps like iMessaging, Youtube, cameras and videos.
By empowering our students with knowledge in their use of social media, we can guide our students to become better digital citizens, who create a positive and productive digital presence. They will, in turn, shape their online identities, create successful and authentic online experiences that they will be proud of and then...they might thank you for it!