Digital irony

Last night on Twitter I saw a couple of tweets with our subject hashtag, #ETL523, that made me stop and wonder.

A bit of exploring and I discovered:

@LizzyLegsEllis is Liz Ellis the former Australian netballer (who is not, as far as I’m aware, a student of ETL523).

@LizzyLegsEllis has been retweeting tweets from @KathEllis74 (who is).

I might be making a huge assumption, but I suspect Liz and Kath might be related. That’s nice, I thought, showing support for your sibling/cousin/?’s studies by retweeting.

Clearly not, according to Emma the egg (who won’t be taken seriously, according to SocialTimes). Here’s the tweet that preceded the first one:

I thought (fleetingly) about replying to Emma and that damn julia, but no, on their current form that could easily turn ugly and I am a better digital citizen than that. But gee, doesn’t what these two have tweeted just sum up why we need to teach digital citizenship, and isn’t it funny/sad/ironic that it’s turned up in the #ETL523 feed?

Here are some things I’d like Emma and Julia to know:

  • It’s the nature of Twitter that not everything tweeted by the people you follow will interest you. This is not rudeness. Move on, get over it, you are their follower, not their master.
  • If you see tweets that don’t interest you…<<drumroll>>…ignore them. There’s no excuse for rudeness in response to perfectly polite retweets.
  • If you don’t like much of what someone tweets it is entirely your choice to unfollow them. They probably won’t even know (unless you tell them) and most likely won’t be hurt or care if you do – it’s your Twitter feed, make it what you want it to be. But tweeting them with #unfollow is just a bit off.
  • If you are really worried that you will hurt someone’s feelings by unfollowing (I suspect you’re not, though) you can mute someone you follow, either temporarily or permanently.
  • Using certain Twitter clients it’s easy to mute a particular hashtag or keyword. That pesky #ETL523 problem can simply disappear using Tweetdeck, Tweetbot or Twitterific.

I guess what surprised me the most about these tweets is just how some people must think it is ok to be rude. Of course, I’ve read and heard about trolls and all sorts of nasty commenting that goes on but I’ve never really come face to face with it, either personally or in a hashtag that I’m particularly invested in. I’ve had plenty of lively conversations in Twitter and there’s certainly nothing wrong with disagreeing or expressing opinions…politely. Why is that so hard for some people?



Digital Citizenship. #ETL523 starts here

GlobeI like Edna Sackson’s simple definition of digital citizenship – the ability to participate in society online (Whatedsaid, 2014). Much more complex and comprehensive is Ribble, Bailey and Ross’s nine elements of digital citizenship (Greenhow, 2010):

  • digital etiquette,
  • digital communication,
  • digital access,
  • digital literacy,
  • digital commerce,
  • digital law,
  • digital rights and responsibilities,
  • digital health and wellness,
  • digital security.

To me this comes together to mean the capacity to access and interact with information and people productively, safely and ethically using digital technologies.

There can be no denying that digital citizenship is important. Few people can live their lives removed from ICT, even if they want to. Very few jobs do not require the use of some form of digital technology; most people use online banking; online interactions with government authorities are increasingly preferred; we rely on access to essential information like weather and warnings, for example, on days of fire danger. But we can’t assume that the so-called “digital natives” are by default good digital citizens – the natives might, in fact, be uncivilised. Learning the skills and behaviours of digital citizenship should be incorporated into the curriculum throughout primary and secondary schooling (and even tertiary), but even more importantly, it must be effectively modelled by teachers and other adults. This is my main area of concern. How can we expect students, for example, to use information ethically when (some of) their teachers do not?

An informed, publicly engaged digital citizen practices ethical behaviour, respects diverse points of view and is socially aware, using digital technologies like social media to support and advocate. They share their knowledge freely and support others’ learning. They are globally aware, collaborating across time zones and borders. Their interactions inform understanding and empathy for others. They can access and navigate information required to conduct their work and personal affairs. They are in control of their privacy and ensure important information is used securely.

This year my school has embarked on a BYOD program for years 6-12. This has already brought up issues like students messaging each other during class time and when and where the devices should be used. In our new building (ready for term 2) we will have a wireless technology for connecting devices to classroom screens. Students and teachers install a program or download an app in order to use the system. A feature is the ability of a viewer to capture a screenshot of what is currently displaying. This immediately brought up a concern for one teacher who wants her students to write (type) notes, not take the shortcut of screenshots (devices off is not an option). Who is right and who is wrong here? Is the teacher trying to use new methods to continue teaching in the same way (the S of SAMR) or is there a valid pedagogical reason for typing notes? Might not the screenshot give the student context when reviewing his notes later?

I’m sure many similar issues will arise and it will be interesting to see if our teachers are ready to allow the available technology to transform their pedagogy. Will our students be given the right scaffolding to develop into good digital citizens?



Greenhow, C. (2010). New concept of citizenship for the digital age. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37(6), 24-25.

Whatedsaid. (2014, April 25). 10 understandings about digital citizenship… [Blogpost]. Retrieved from

Image credit

Globe. Free for commercial use, no attribution required image from Pixabay