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Beyond Technology and into Citizenship

April 24, 2012
By
Back of Beyond

Some rights reserved by violscraper

I have been talking to colleagues and  thinking and reading about digital citizenship lately, starting with asking people for their definitions and then getting into more specific understandings.

The digital part of the term digital citizenship refers to a community in which the children that we teach are living a large and important part of their lives. This digital community, which is a very particular community, needs to be understood before we can determine what citizenship entails.

The digital community appears to be so particular because it has not been around for a very long time, and perhaps more importantly, it has been evolving at an ever increasing rate since its first days.   It is a community that has defied most efforts at regulation.  Transferring the ways of doing things from the analogue world over to the digital world has not been a successful endeavor, as a whole.  It is, for want of a better analogy, still the wild west out in the digital landscape.  If you are a fan of Deadwood, we are in Season 1 right now in the digital world. Efforts at establishing a blueprint for what citizenship might look like are many and contrasting.  People and organizations are staking out their territory, all following differing sets of motivations.  Big players ($$$ speaking) from pre-digital times have made their positions clear, and on the other end of the spectrum movements such as Creative Commons have attempted to establish their own vision of what digital citizenship might look like. Information and creations can be disseminated, shared, stolen, borrowed, remixed and resold in virtual anonymity in the digital world.  This anonymity represents one of the very important reasons that it is so important that our children do have a code of ethics, a blueprint for citizenship, that they can respect, be a part of, and help to perpetuate.

So what might that code look like?  What are the behaviors that we can look for when searching for a model of good digital citizenship? We each have our own personal slants on these questions, which are also colored by the vision and philosophies of the schools that we work at.  Lawrence Lessig gives a talk that looks deeply into the ethical condition of the digital world, and where he thinks that it should go. Ultimately, we as schools have to draw up a code of conduct that matches who we are and what we expect from our students.  My concern is this:

Helping students to learn how to manage their presence in the digital world may be the single the most important aspect of teaching with technology, and we are not treating it as such.

My next post will be about taking the current Acceptable Use Policy of my school and examining it through my own very personal lens.  I will suggest changes that I think will allow that important document to serve our school community better.

One Response to Beyond Technology and into Citizenship

  1. Avatar of Diana Beabout
    Diana Beabout on May 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    You bring up some great points in this post and I really like your analogy to Deadwood and the Wild West. How do we maintain our morals and principles in such a chaotic environment? I think digital citizenship has been taught as a separate lesson on many occasions (or glossed over when students sign their AUP) when it should be the overarching goal or basis of what we do with technology (as you state in your post). Ultimately, I think it should be integrated into our general expectations for our students and teachers and not treated as a separate set of expectations to be taught (and modeled and enforced) by a select group of adults or only in relation to a single project or class.

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