Prior to this class, I knew what it meant to be a digital citizen. I knew how to access my school divisions resources in order to teach lessons on digital citizenship in order to allow my students to make use of their personal devices in our classroom (in agreement with our BYOT policy). However, this course has transformed my views around digital citizenship. Digital citizenship needs to be more than a mini-unit taught at the beginning of the year. It is so important that educators immerse digital citizenship into their daily teaching.
I strongly believe my job as an educator, is to provide my students with the skills they need to be contributing members of society. As we move forward in our digital world I feel that sheltering my students from media would be doing a disservice to them and set them up for failure. Instead I believe it is important to teach them to navigate our digital world successfully. Access to the internet has given a voice to our students and an avenue to express themselves and promote change in our world. Let’s empower them to make positive change.
The Digital Citizenship Continuum from the Government of Saskatchewan provides a frame work for educators to begin covering this material in their classroom. Branelle Zenuk and I have thoroughly engaged in this document and hope that very soon we can share our website with ready-to-go lessons or grades 6-9 that can be easily infused into the content teachers already have planned. We hope teachers will find value in our lessons and it will help them to build their resources in the area of digital citizenship.
As a grade 7/8 teacher, my students lives are greatly affected by social media. On occasion, incidents that have taken place on social media outside of school time have impacted dynamics in the classroom. These incidents can strain relationships in the classroom and cause disruptions in student learning. To simply say it didn’t happen at school is not enough acceptable. Through digital citizenship lessons we can teach the importance of respect at all times. While this is a complex issue, it can be summed up with the key message in this video, “If you wouldn’t say in in person, why say it online?”.
I feel the need to share a wonderful experience I had in my own classroom this year. We participated in the 2015 Student First Anti-bullying Forum. This event was extremely well organized and even teachers with limited tech skills could easily participate.
This event created meaningful opportunities for our students to practice the skills they have learned through explicit teaching of digital citizenship in a mediated forum. The LiveCube forum allowed students to practice acting appropriately online while connecting with thousands of students from across the province.
As a teacher, I signed up online. There was an information hour after school one day. The great thing about it is I didn’t have to run out after school to make it on time for a meeting. The session was broadcasted live over the internet. This not only made me feel prepared to facilitate the session with my students the following week but gave me the opportunity to test out the technology, test the site we would be using and work out any possible glitches in advance.
On the morning of the 17th, with the help of Jennifer Stewart Mitchell we set the classroom up like a conference with treats and prepared to lead grade 7/8s through the live broadcast. The broadcast was projected on the whiteboard. Opening remarks were delivered by the Honorable Don Morgan. This was followed by keynote Alec Couros. There was very little need to manage student behaviours that morning as the students were so engaged by Alec’s presentation. Alec used a variety of media clips that the students could relate to. There are several grants available to groups of students who want to start projects for anti-bullying. Several realistic examples were shared that inspired our kids to take action in our own school. Additionally, students were shown how to use the online bullying reporting tool.
While the live broadcast was on, students had the opportunity to engage in discussion with other students across the province who were participating through the use of LiveCube. Below is ascreen shot of the LiveCube platform. Much like Twitter students/small groups/classes have the opportunity to make posts of 140 characters or less.
I have come across the term “gamify” several times this semester. Jessica Sanders, in her blog post defines gamification as, “noun: the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task), so as to encourage participation”. In my classroom I use Classcraft which essentially turns the classroom into a game with the use of positive behavior reinforcement. Students earn points for demonstrating positive behaviours that can be used to buy powers and redeem rewards in this classroom. The game is all online and students can change their characters and manage their profiles independently. Minecraft is also increasingly being used in classrooms in an effort to improve student learning outcomes. In Jessica’s blog she explains how teachers have been using gamification to improve their students reading. LiveCube encouraged student participation through it’s gamification features. An exciting part for students was the ability to complete challenges and earn points and earn prizes.
A couple days after the Student First Live Broadcast there was an online student chat. This once again took place on Live Cube. I arranged my students in small groups and they gathered around a laptop to show that they have learned. This LiveCube chat was closed to the public. Only registered classrooms could participate. As mentioned above, this provided an opportunity to engage with others on social media. However, it was a closed forum. It was mediated by professionals and class content was monitored by their teachers. It was a SAFE place to practice digitial citizenship temporarily but we hope the lessons learned will last a life time.
Through course content we have seen that people are not always very forgiving and the consequences of what we post online can last a life time. Moving forward, I hope to provide my students with the skills to act appropriately online and make good decisions on their own when I’m not watching them in a closed environment. I believe we can prepare them for this through including digital citizenship in all subject areas. After providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful we need to allow them opportunities to make informed digital footprints.