Critical Reflection #ETL523

An Exploration of Digital Citizenship in Schools.

I thought I would start by writing briefly about readings I have completed in the last few days… at the end of this  #ETL523 journey,  regarding sustainable curriculum change in schools and the barriers that inhibit successful uptake of innovations in schools:

the paradox of innovation without change (Priestly, Miller, Barrett & Wallace, 2011)

This idea is an extremely important notion to reflect on, particularly in the context of coming to the end of an intense exploration of digital citizenship in schools and working to improve the digital learning environments that are being built in our schools. The professional risk is to fall back into familiar routines and practice and not really take heed of the messages we have been probing over the last few months, that relate to digital learning environments and digital citizenship.

My challenge is not only to look for ways to innovate in the classroom but to also influence the broader agenda. I feel a strong synergy with the idea of promoting digital citizenship by showing, not telling. In essence, this is good pedagogy. At present, I have a new class of students who I have very recently introduced to twitter (@MLC8S), Flipboard and google drive. In a short while I intend to explore wiki authorship with them.   These activities will create a scenario where we can engage in issues of digital citizenship: digital footprints,  information fluency; even perhaps the concept of connectivism;  even if I do not use the exact terminology; my students will understand.

A goal is to begin to develop in my students a global perspective of their online citizenship. I might achieve this by exploring collaborative programs through wiki authorship. My job is to build an engaging DLE and support the digital learners in my classroom. The reality though is that at first we need to develop good digital citizenship in the classroom. If ignored digital citizenship becomes a bit shoddy.

Technology has revolutionised their learning experience and yet change is slow. Yes, technology has poured into our classrooms at a rapid rate but some pedagogical practices remain the same. I suggest that this hints at teacher resistance to change (or institutional resistance to change), as they struggle to overcome internalised opinions about schools, pedagogy and even digital citizenship in schools. Student opinions and worldviews are also difficult to change, that is where digital citizenship embedded into the curriculum becomes important, so that whole school approaches can be developed in a collegial manner.

At the start of this course I was unsure about the concept of a digital learning environment but now I am at ease with the idea. I am thinking that over the next few weeks I would begin explaining this concept to my students, perhaps by building a classroom display that we all add to over time. The aim here would be to build an awareness of a DLE as being made up of tools, skills, attitudes and habits for learning while using technology.  When teaching within a digital learning environment the difficult concept to communicate is attitudes and habits. However, once again this can be achieved by good modeling.

I experienced authentic learning by collaboratively building  a wiki that taught me a lot about collaborative and participatory cultures and how peoples differing attitudes to learning impact on the process, as well as their skill set regarding technology. An important factor to consider in digital citizenship is peoples beliefs and attitudes to learning and their awareness of knowledge networks. Importantly approaches to participatory cultures is something to reflect on deeply. I teach middle years students and an impression I have gained over time, is that they are not adept at participating in structured learning, and yet they participate in, with high levels of engagement, their own social networks. The challenge is to modify their beliefs about learning and create a sense of ownership and participation.

Three concepts that I have enjoyed  exploring are:

  • The 21st Century Learner
  • Information literacy and digital fluency
  • Content Curation

These sections of #ETL523 relate directly to classroom practice and with a focus on activities of the learner. And herein lies a challenge. Within the Digital Learning Environment that I teach in, how do I indeed allow my students to be 21st Century Learners? To participate actively rather than be passive consumers of knowledge. Again, I think this is best done by immersing students into a culture of communication, collaboration and creation whilst putting them at the centre of their learning. I will attempt to develop their digital fluencies and guide then in becoming expert curators as this, they will soon realise, is a lifelong skill.  This I have learnt first hand by undertaking this online course. I already use the term ‘curate’ in my classrooms. Here, I think activities such as digital storytelling will come into play, so as to inspire students to communicate and collaborate when building digital artefacts. This is exciting stuff! However, what these activities call for are very student centred classrooms. What intrigues me here is that some students do not cope in a student centred classroom as their, often reinforced, worldview puts the teacher at the epicentre of the classroom. Students attitudes often act as a barrier to engagement and good learning, so the focus is to reinforce an attitude of ownership within the DLE’s that I connect with students.

The concept of a 21st Century learning is exciting indeed. My students are connected via their BYO devices and have the potential to communicate, collaborate and ultimately create digital artefacts for contributing to the so-called global narrative. If I need to think about how ubiquitous digital learning environments have impacted what we as educators do, in terms of digital citizenship and new approaches to pedagogy then the answer is right in front of me.   Over the last few months I have experienced what it means to be a 21st century learner, collaborating, communicating, curating and creating while experiencing deeply the connectivist notion of knowledge networks. My PLN has flourished and without it I would have not experienced such rich learning.  My learning has been inextricably bound up in the digital world and I am thankful that I have been able to strengthen my digital skills to explore this realm with confidence.  These are experiences that will not doubt enrich my teaching experience as I encourage my students to become active citizens in a digitally rich world.


Priestly, M., Miller K., Barrett L., Wallace C. (2011) Teacher learning communities and educational change in Scotland: the Highland experience. British Educational Research Journal. 37(2) pp. 265-284

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