The Role Schools Should Play in Teaching Digital Citizenship

This week we worked on an activity that had groups choose a student of a specific age and then decided what key attributes as a digital citizen we believe they should possess. My group group decided on a student in kindergarten. At first, we all felt a kindergarten student might be a challenging task but as we discussed and shared experiences as teachers and as parents it was fairly easy to identify characteristics. Listening to the other groups present their students it was clear that while we all choose different grades, we were all able to come up with definite attributes. Within a fairly short amount of time all the groups easily identified attributes, characteristics, or competencies of digital citizenship that students should possess. Digital citizenship plays a very important role in the lives of our students and therefore I believe schools need to be the place to teach about, foster, and develop digital citizens.

In 2014, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education published Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools: A Policy Guide for School Divisions and Schools to Implement Digital Citizenship Education from Kindergarten to Grade 12. On page six of this document the following appears:

While I hope we are past the days of having to convince people that digital citizenship should be taught in schools I believe we are still addressing how it should be done. My experiences with teaching about digital citizenship included using resources such as MediaSmarts and Common Sense Media. These sites provided me with lesson plans and activities to explore digital citizenship with my students. This was a over five years ago and I relied on the direction the websites went in terms of topics to use at each grade. In Saskatchewan, we now have the Digital Citizenship Continuum from Grades K-12. This continuum was developed using Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship and provides a focus for what students in each grade should understand and be able to do in relation to the elements of digital etiquette, digital access, digital law, digital communication, digital literacy, digital commerce, digital rights and responsibilities, digital safety and security, and digital health and wellness.

I think it is important to note that at the top of this continuum it reads, “this digital citizenship continuum is intended to support professionals as they infuse these concepts and skills into their teaching“. The Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools Policy Guide states, “digital citizenship education is not intended to be a stand-alone unit, course or lesson, rather it is best learned and under-stood when taught in context through supported online practice and real-life examples and experiences“. Both statements are acknowledging that digital citizenship should not be taught in isolation. While I agree with these statements and hope that we get to that point, I don’t think everyone is there yet. I see both isolation and integration happening in schools. I would rather see it being taught in isolation than not at all. I hope that as teachers become more familiar and comfortable, the isolated units begin to become integrated in all that they teach.

I remember hearing about the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools Policy Guide when it first came out and looking at the Continuum thinking how great it was to provide some specific direction. But to be honest, I haven’t used them or looked closely at them until this class began. While my role no longer includes having a classroom of my own, I know my role needs to include supporting and encouraging teachers to explore digital citizenship education.

Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools page 5

5 thoughts on “The Role Schools Should Play in Teaching Digital Citizenship

  1. mattbresciani March 10, 2020 / 2:37 pm

    Thanks for a great post Laurie. I completely agree with you! I thank many educators in our province (and around the world) are at many different levels when it comes to their understanding and implementation of digital citizenship. As you mentioned, it is definitely important that we work to integrate digital citizenship into multiple subject areas and while some teachers are still teaching it in isolation, it is definitely a start. Hopefully, as educators become more familiar with the concept of digital citizenship – just as you and I have – we will see it being taught to its full potential in all schools.

    Thanks again,

    Matt

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  2. haubdain March 10, 2020 / 4:02 pm

    I agree with you that you would rather see it taught in isolation than not being taught at all. I think this would allow for a better understanding of the digital literacies for teachers for which they can then understand how it can be woven into what they are already teaching. I also feel that it’s important to make it a focus in each school by having a team of teachers dedicated to taking the lead on helping other teachers implement digital literacy into a least one subject area. It’ll take years for teachers to feel comfortable with integrating this into their practice, but schools need to change with the times and teaching/instruction needs to be inclusionary within a digital context. I’m in a support role as well and perhaps this is something that I could address going foward in my own schools. Thanks for your post as it made me reflect on my own actions!

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  3. bradraes7578 March 10, 2020 / 4:04 pm

    I agree that we are past the point of acknowledgment… but still in a weird place of limbo when it comes to resources or curriculum…

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  4. Dean Vendramin March 15, 2020 / 11:51 pm

    Great post. You tied together many important points about the importance of teaching digital citizenship in schools. I’m pretty sure many unfortunately do not even know this policy guide exists let alone understand the important work that needs to be addressed in this area … how does it become a priority?

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