How NOT to teach digital citizenship


To paraphrase Steven Wheeler:

If you are alive in the 21st century, you are a global digital citizen.

image byLisa Stevens from CC BY-SA 2.0

What does that mean to me?


Participating in ETL523 through reading, viewing, reflecting, communicating via discussion forums, blog posts, Flipboards and Adobe Connect sessions, and connecting through #etl523 on Twitter and Diigo has meant that I have reflected on what it means to be a digital citizen as I was DOING digital citizenship.   One of the things that I love about M Ed (KNDI) is that as we “talk” about contemporary learning theories and practices, we “walk the walk”, which has given me the confidence and capacity to try some of the things I have been doing and learning about with my colleagues and our students.

Working collaboratively on the wiki about digital leadership in DLEs was one of the biggest challenges of ETL523 for me, which I wrote about in a previous post.  However, the process was so valuable as it forced me to walk in my students’ shoes for an extended period of time as a collaborative, connected learner as I:

  • navigated group work with colleagues who I had never met face to face, who I was not always on the same page as (literally and figuratively!)
  • collaboratively created a wiki for the first time
  • communicated synchronously and asynchronously, being sensitive to how written communication could be interpreted in different ways
  • compromised, negotiated and tried being flexible about the content we included in our project
  • tried to be a critical friend, rather than a dominating bossy boots,
  • looked at my work from someone else’s perspective, by giving, seeking and receiving feedback
  • used back-channels to support collaboration in virtual space.

I grew as a digital citizen and am now able to take that with me into my future practice.


At the beginning of this year, I was tasked with developing a Digital Citizenship program for Years 7-12 through our Pastoral Care and Service Education (PC&SE) program.  My challenge was to design 2 x 20 min, stand-alone sessions per term, which would be presented to groups of 14-25 students, sometimes by the PC&SE tutor (with no preparation, and perhaps little understanding themselves of the skills and knowledge included in the learning modules I had prepared), sometimes co-teaching alongside a teacher from the ICT Integrator or Library team (who were assumed to have the expertise and skillset to lead the sessions).  Students have also been asked to complete a Digital Passport this year in their own time (Yrs 7-9 through a school-paid subscription to; Yr 10 through commonsensemedia’s free interactive assessments), as evidence of their basic understanding of information and skills relating to digital citizenship that they and we assume they have.


The design of the program flies in the face of all we have learnt through ETL523.  Its a top-down approach that students and staff have had little say in so far; students are learning ABOUT digital citizenship, out of context, from people who themselves may not be digitally literate, who have no investment in the program they are presenting; the self-directed learning modules have been designed as interactive powerpoints that students can work their way through by taking different pathways based on their existing knowledge, but they have to do that in 20 min sessions; and finally, the program is presented in a 20 min timeslot before lunch that is usually spent relaxing and chatting with each other, so students and staff are resentful of losing this time.


On the positive side, the program has raised awareness about digital technologies’ influence on the way we learn, work, play and communicate, and the importance of having digital fluency so that you do not exclude yourself from safely, productively and ethically contributing to society.  I believe some staff are recognising that it is time they take action to become more digitally literate.  I will collect feedback from staff and students at the end of this term (to help inform the design of the next two terms’ programs) and the end of the year to inform future directions.  My second assignment in ETL523 discussed building teacher capacity in digital leadership, and I am hopeful that by focusing on developing teachers who are digital citizens themselves, will see digital citizenship theories and practices embedded in the context of authentic learning experiences, rather than as a stand-alone, tokenistic offering.

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