To formalize my rationale for wanting to integrate a digital citizenship program into the grade 8 program at my school, I revisited the literature review that I did for blog posts 2 and 3 in this course. All of the articles that I read provided solid evidence to support the need for digital citizenship education in schools. Two of the articles that I found referenced a recent Canadian research study called Young Canadians in a Wired World that “highlighted the gap between what teachers and parents thought children were doing online and what actually were doing” (McRae, 2012, para. 2). Technology use has increased a lot in the last few decades. I would argue that parents, students, and educators struggle to keep up with the issues that arise in the digital world, such as cyber-bullying, sexting, online advertising, hate sites, appropriate use of technology, the ethical ramifications of what we do online, safety, privacy, etc. Johnson’s (2012) article advocates for teaching digital literacy stating, “Today’s students are not just users of digital media, they are citizens of the online world; young Canadians need to learn digital literacy and digital citizenship in their schools, and librarians and teachers need to be provided with the tools, support and learning opportunities to be ready to teach them those skills” (p. 22). Johnson (2012) points out how teachers and parents often “mistake fluency for literacy. While it’s true that young people are avid consumers of media and often display a tremendous degree of comfort with digital technology, this does not necessarily translate to a critical understanding of what they read, see, and hear, or to their being skilled in using the Internet ethically and effectively” ( p. 19).
Clearly, there is a growing body of evidence to support why we need to teach our students digital citizenship, but who should be teaching these skills, when, and how? McRae’s (2012) article discusses the five road blocks to teaching digital citizenship in schools, including the pressure to teach technology skills rather than digital literacy, drill and kill teaching methods, the potential for disruptions in the classroom, a shortage of PD opportunities for teachers to learn about technology, and strict internet filters, bans, and firewalls that prevent students and staff from accessing the internet. I think that many educators and administrators are aware of their students’ digital citizenship needs, however, lack the resources, time, or materials to make it happen. Johnson (2012) points out how many “librarians have taken a lead in promoting digital and media literacy by disseminating our materials to teachers, parents, and youth as well as acting as mentors to students and colleagues” (p. 19).
As the librarian and 21st Century Technology Teacher Coordinator at my school, I would like to help bring a digital citizenship program to my secondary school, starting small with a group of grade 8s and perhaps growing from there to include all grade 8s. Several of the articles discussed resources provided by a Canadian not-for-profit group called MediaSmarts (formerly Media Awareness Network) that focuses on digital and media literacy (Johnson, 2012; McRae, 2012). Their online resource called Passport to the Internet for grades 4 to 8 teaches digital literacy through a series of interactive games and videos that simulate difference online environments to present students with challenges to test their internet literacy skills. I plan to pilot this program on a group of grade 8 students. I will develop handouts, surveys, lesson plans, etc as I cater the program to the students’ and their teacher’s needs and time constraints. I plan to share this unit plan resource with other librarians in LIBE 477, the other teachers in the grade 8 team at my school (with the hopes of expanding the program to all grade 8s next year), and my administrator (as part of my 5 year growth plan).
To gather initial feedback, I had a group of grade 8s at my school complete an online survey of their digital citizenship. Here are some of the results from the survey that further support the need for digital citizenship education in our school:
Of the 42-43 grade 8 students from my school that were surveyed anonymously:
- 53.4% (23) are online more than 21 hours per week
- 76.7% (33) have a mobile device that can access the internet
- 75% (30) have Facebook accounts, 75% (30) have Instagram accounts, and 70% (28) have Snap Chat accounts
- 76.2% (32) use the internet regularly to text/online chat, 54.8% (23) find information for school, 45.2% (19) share photos/video of themselves, 40.5% (17) find information for personal use, and only 16.7% (7) use email regularly.
- 31% (13) have social media accounts that they keep secret from the family & friends
- 46.5% (20) send more than 30 text messages per day
- 23.8% (10) report being bullied, harassed, or shamed online
- 23.8% (10) report interacting with strangers online every week or more
- 18.6% (8) have tried “sexting”
- 26.8% (11) have used a credit card online
- 20.9% (9) report having never talked with their parents/guardians about online safety and respectful behaviour
- 37.2% (16) report having no rules at home regarding using the internet/mobile devices
- 76% (19) report having used vulgar or inappropriate language (swear words, racial insults, homophobic comments, etc) in public spaces online (spaces other than a personal email or messages)
- 24% (6) report having used the internet to insult, embarrass, or shame someone
- 12% (3) report that others have shared or posted images or video of themselves engaging in illegal, sexual, or inappropriate behaviour
- 12% (3) report that they have shared or posted images or video of friends engaging in illegal, sexual, or inappropriate behaviour
- 25.6% (11) believe that they are 100% safe and respectful online, 53.5% (23) believe that they are safe and respectful online most of the time , 11.6% (5) say they sometimes take risks or are not respectful online, and 1 students stated I am NOT safe and respectful online, 3 students said I do not know if I am being safe and respectful online
In Ribble’s (2008) article about digital citizenship, he points out that “following awareness activities, educators need to provide their students with opportunities to use technology in an atmosphere where exploration and risk taking are promoted…The school needs to become a place where students can investigate with technologies they use every day” (p.16). My hope is that by using a combination of interactive games, online simulations, discussion, brainstorming worksheets, and feedback surveys, students will have the opportunity to learn and share about their digital citizenship, take risks, and explore technology in a safe and guided environment.
Johnson, M. (2012). Shaping Digital Citizens: preparing students to work and play in the online world. School Libraries In Canada (17108535), 30(3), 19-22
McRae, P. (2012, March 27). Digital citizenship, firewalls and the moral compass. ATA News, 46(14), 4. Retrieved January 24, 2015, from CBCA Complete.
Ribble, M. (2008). Passport to Digital Citizenship: Journey Toward Appropriate Technology Use at School and at Home. Learning & Leading With Technology, 36(4), 14-17.