The digital age is a time that has begun and transformed faster than it was established. In other words, technology has come about and is developing at an unforeseen rate. Therefore, younger generations are born into a digital world, and most have a difficult time imagining their lives without such technologies. As educators, it is imperative that we begin to evolve education with the transforming digital world around us.
Although the way in which we communicate is evolving, that does not mean the communication itself is changing. If anything, it has become increasingly easier to open discussions around kindness, just as it has become easier to spread hate. Technology has not brought hate into the world, rather it has changed the platform for which it is spread. Teaching children empathy is not a new concept, however, the way in which we teach empathy has changed. It is imperative for educators to inform their students on digital responsibility and teach them empathy as well as kindness, through a new context. Specifically, we are teaching students the same ethical values and behaviors we want to see in a citizen, that we also want to see in a digital citizen.
One teacher shares their view in a blog post on “The Teaching Factor,”
“Digital citizenship is an ongoing lesson that needs to be addressed every year with every student. Social media is not going away, blocking websites in schools or telling students they cannot use phones is not a realistic solution. These events have helped me to look more closely at the role that social media plays in our lives and how I can promote positive digital behavior in my classroom, so all of my students use their digital powers for good.”
With consideration to technology being a worldwide connection, the current practices in teaching digital citizenship vary and there are several issues with digital citizenship which complicate the topic. However, I believe just as any other subject students are learning, it is important to build on prior knowledge and previous experiences. For example, students cannot understand how to be safe online, without first understanding the violence or potential dangers that they may encounter. Since the issues with digital citizenship are branched around the same idea, they may be taught in a manner that connects the ideas and provides students with opportunity for in depth learning (Infographic). The current framework for such curriculum in the United States follows the ISTE standards and was designed to “empower students to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world.” Overall, the digital world is a fast evolving and complicated universe but given the appropriate tools our students will be able to engage in digital affairs just as they would in the physical world.
O’Neill, B., Council of Europe, Soriani, A., Tomé, V., & Frau-Meigs, D. (2017). Digital Citizenship Education: Volume 1: Overview and New Perspectives. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
Unknown. (2018). Teaching Digital Responsibility in the Age of Online Hate. The Teaching Factor.
Infographic. Issues with Digital Citizenship.