Digital Citizenship

It is no secret that technology is an integral part of everyone’s lives. Technology is a global, interactive and collaborative tool that is used at home, the workplace, school and endless other outlets. It is our responsibility as teachers to model and teach students on how to be digitally competent to succeed and thrive in our digital world.

In order to be a positive digital citizen, one must create and consume content and communicate to contribute to a better world. As a digital citizen, we are apart of a much broader community made up of people from various cultures, religions, genders, ages and ability levels. When students and all people participate in a global, online community, it is important to be aware, open-minded and respectful of other’s beliefs and values. It is important to question the information you come across on the web and think critically and analytically.

Unfortunately, not all individuals contribute positively to our digital community. Hate speech and misinformation and spread quickly and efficiently. A study conducted by researchers at MIT found that falsehoods on Twitter were 70% more likely to be shared than accurate news. Facebook also reported that only 38% of hate speech was flagged in the past year.

In is our job as teachers to teach students on how to be digital and global citizens. Telling students to “put their phone away” is unrealistic. Instead, we must embrace that technology is here to stay and change our future. As teachers, we can model how to be empathetic and responsible adults. Students may spread hate speech on social media and use slurs in class to see how you as a teacher will react. If we model respectful and appropriate conversations, our students will follow. It is often easy to take the path of least resistance, to turn your ear when you hear a student make a joke at the expense of another, to scroll past a derogatory post on your Twitter or Facebook feed. However, if we don’t follow the path of least resistance, if we become up-standers and encourage our students to do the same, we might see a decrease in the spread of hate crime. Or if we teach our students to not accept everything on the internet as fact, and to think critically and question information, derogatory content may stop being accepted as true and spread around. In my physics class, we came up with a web search strategy to determine the validity and reputation of websites and their content. Students evaluated the authority, accuracy, currency, objectivity, documentation and purpose of the websites. Perhaps I can spread this to an even larger scale and include social media to better prepare students to be effective and positive digital citizens.

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