10 March 2013

Digital Citizenship: Individual Awareness

A Quadblog assignment for Flat Classroom Teacher Certification. Composed collaboratively by Holly, Dottie, Kerry, and Penny.

Five areas of awareness - use these five areas of awareness as a lens for viewing digital citizenship choices:
  • Technical Awareness
  • Individual Awareness
  • Social Awareness
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Global Awareness 
The focus of this Quad-Blog will be on Individual Awareness

Individual awareness is a person’s understanding of online behavior and how he/she chooses to behave online. Some factors that play into individual awareness are healthy lifestyle choices, balance, and a person’s individual goals.

Major Topics:

Safety, Privacy, Copyright, Fair Use, and Legal Compliance
Etiquette and Respect
Habits of Learning: Reliable, Responsible, Management of Online Activity
Understanding Literacy and Fluency

Safety, Privacy, Copyright, Fair Use, and Legal Compliance
What is it?
In basic terms Safety, Privacy, Copyright, Fair Use and Legal Compliance are the rules that guide schools and organisations into how digital citizenship will look.

What does it mean?
When students are ‘online’ at school they are operating under the terms and conditions set by that school. In most cases schools will be guided by their educational ministries and the rules of their state or country.

Schools enforce these rules to protect a student's’ intellectual property and to protect the school from illegal or compromising activity. Schools are legally responsible for the content both downloaded and uploaded by students. In maintaining privacy and safety many schools use web filtering software. When students try to enter websites or applications that are deemed ‘harmful’ they receive a message ‘ This blog sites that may cause ‘harmful’ exposure’.

Some filtering systems electronically scan incoming and outgoing messages to check for explicit language. These messages are not delivered and are sent to the ICT manager for review.

This makes sense as schools need to protect themselves from legal infringements and parental concerns but does little to empower and teach students about why these rules are in place.

A challenge also arises when students leave educational settings and do not apply those same rules at home. We need to make sure that children understand the importance of following these rules wherever they are and who ever they are with.

What do schools need to do?
As educators we need to teach students about being safe and protecting their privacy. In many cases we also need to teach and empower parents to not only protect themselves but actively monitor their children. Kevin Honeycutt talks about parents having an obligation to be aware of what their children are doing online and the footprints they are leaving for others to walk beside.

The Flat Classroom book (103) provides some questions that students can ask themselves as they develop an awareness of Understanding Safety, Privacy, and Copyright, Fair Use, and Legal Compliance.

Safety: How can I be a self-confident advocate for myself and others when safety is a concer?

Am I aware of Geo-tagging in my photographs and if that compromises my safety and

Privacy: Do I understand the long-term implications of inappropriate photos and have I made
a decision about the type of photos that are acceptable in my online spaces?

Do I know how to purchase safely online?

Copyright: Do I know the kind of licensing I prefer for my work depending on where it is and how it is being used?
Fair Use: Will I adhere to fair use?

Legal: Can I self-confidently resist peer pressure to pirate music or videos? Am I able to resist texting while driving?

Schools need to be explicitly teaching children skills in answer to the questions above, ensuring their awareness and personal responsibility. It is important for students to understand the consequences of what will happen if they upload copyrighted material, or compromise their privacy and that of their friends.

Schools need to rethink their filtering software and instead spend time on education what safety looks likes and what to do when it goes wrong.

“Educated digital citizens are an army prepared to protect themselves from the vagrants who want to steal their future” (102)

As a school, as an educator, as a parent, as a friend are you helping to prepare an army?
Lindsay, Julie, and Vicki A. . Davis. "Chapter 5: Citizenship”. Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time. Boston: Pearson, 2013. N. pag. Print.

Etiquette and Respect

Individual Awareness with regards to etiquette and respect begins with choices that the global citizen will make about how they will treat others and how they will be tuned in to their own personal needs. Good manners can and must be taught. Some good options to help teach this are PBS Kids, The Growing Up Online series, the information from Flat Classroom Projects, and Common Sense Media (116). Using these sources while a project is going on, is the best method.
Students need to treat themselves and others with respect regardless of whether or not they are online. Some rules and guidelines for online netiquette would include:

Identify yourself
Avoid sarcasm
Don’t type in all caps
Avoid IM speak
Respect other’s privacy
Tell the truth
Be yourself

In addition to these basic guidelines, it is important for students to be aware of cultural disconnects that can occur in the global community. By communicating cultural norms, or manners of a society, they will be able to remain open even if an offense has occurred (106).

A couple of simple but key guidelines for etiquette and respect are that the student should be in tuned to their emotional state before communicating online. This would involve the student being aware that when they are tired, angry, frustrated about something, then it is probably not a good time to begin communicating online. The person on the other end can’t see their facial expressions or know what is going on at that moment and the wrong message could be sent. A second key guideline involves the student respecting their personal need to disconnect from technology and rest (106).

Habits of Learning: Responsible, Reliable Management of Online Activity

"Our future as a planet relies on our ability to use incredible technological advances for good and that begins with being able to relate to one another and prevent cultural disconnects from happening (98)"
Digital citizenship needs to concern itself much more with social responsibility and social learning (95); building a responsible habit of mind when it comes to being a digital citizen means "having a professional approach to all things digital" (107). The main questions individuals must ask themselves are:
  • do I have personal habits that facilitate lifelong learning?
  • do I share with others and understand their own value of education? (107)
These are questions we must ask ourselves as educators as well as of our learners - we must model individual awareness and let them see it in action; we must make it a habit of mind in order that it becomes entrenched in our teaching and learning and is automatically instilled into our approaches.

I recently took part in a virtual book club about taking control of your own learning, very much concerned with creating sound habits of learning that support our professional learning in a digital age. Kristen Swanson, author of Professional Learning in the Digital Age, advocates three main steps to creating a habit of user-generated learning - curation, reflection and contribution.

In the Flat Classroom book, Vicki Davies and Julie Lindsay suggest that "reliability is shown by having an online presence, often called "digital footprint", that is proliferated through sensible actions and responses while using digital tools" (107). In addressing question 1) do I have personal habits that facilitate lifelong learning?, Swanson's chapters on Curation and Reflection will help to build solid foundations that allow you to get out there, manage what you find and reflect on it's use. My blog post 'Pearls of Wisdom', discusses the awesome Pearltrees as a great curation tool, and the post 'Bare your Soul' advocates how "the act of finding resources and thinking about them changes your practice. The more exploring [you] do, the more [you] try, and the more [you] learn", Richard Byrne, quoted in 'Reflection', 'Professional Learning in a Digital Age' by Kristen Swanson.

One way I have approached this with my learners is through a project called 'Snapshots' that I wrote to ask learners to think about the question, 'How do I want to present myself to the world?'. This project ran from G6-10 and began with an exploration, through poetry, of who they think they are - and more importantly, who do they want to be seen as to people who don't know them. To establish the habit of learning about responsibility, we moved on to a 'Paper Blogging Project' that had learners post blog post simulations, on paper, on the outside of my classroom walls. The school community was informed and invited to contribute and learners used sticky notes to 'post' comments on each others’ writing. We took time to review these posts and then discussed what was appropriate, kind, critical commenting as well as how to take responsibility and remove inappropriate or unhelpful comments. We signed up to Quadblogs, with the agreement that we would go last, and spent three weeks looking at our assigned school blogs to to see their organisation and discussed how to organise our own. We drew up and signed an agreement with parents before launching them online.

In addressing question 2) do I share with others and understand their own value of education?, my blog post about contribution, quotes Vicki Davis in 'Global Education by Design' stating that we "must leave digital footprints so people know you’re treading among them and part of the community." It is our responsibility to do that safely, responsibly and build this in our learners. Having the chance to practise blogging safely and see others doing it before going 'live' I believe built in some great habits of responsible and reliable behaviours; it made learners very aware of the language being used and they started pointing out non-standard English immediately - I hope that my reinforcement of the need to have a "professional approach to all things digital" particularly in terms of language is affecting their communication in all areas.

Common Sense Media is a great place for digital citizenship sources; I want to develop the 'Snapshots' unit into a more detailed exploration of digital citizenship that all Grade 6s must complete at the start of secondary school. Their Digital Passport site looks like a really interesting place to start. I also want to build in more consideration of Digital Culture from my current learning through a Coursera MOOC I am just completing on E-Learning & Digital Cultures with the older grades. I also want to approach the administration at school about building in some of the projects offered by Vicky and Julie: the Digiteen Project, the Flat Classroom Project and the NetGenEd Project to allow all learners at all levels develop strong habits and exposure to online, global citizenship.

If, as is suggested in Flat Classroom's Chapter 3: Connection, "ninety-five percent of [we] accomplish is due to our habits" (Tracy, 35) then I recommend Kirsten Swanson's book; it ties in really well with the Flat Classroom book and will guide you into building solid habits of learning, especially those new to online networking and managing a digital footprint - it could really help you develop strong habits to ensure your footsteps are smooth, safe and steady so you are ready to help learners. Our own individual awareness needs to be established; individual awareness about habits of mind will allow us to act with responsibility and reliability; it will ensure our footprints are positive and sure, it will help prevent us slipping off the path into danger, it will help stop us tripping ourselves up!
Lindsay, Julie, and Vicki A. . Davis. "Chapter 3: Connection, Chapter 5: Citizenship. Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time. Boston: Pearson, 2013. N. pag. Print.

Swanson, Kristen. Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator's Guide to User-generated Learning. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, 2013. Print.

Understanding Literacy and Fluency

An individual awareness of literacy with regards to digital citizenship involves an understanding of and appreciation for the many different communication tools available to make connections with others around the world. As educators we must explore as many of these tools as possible so we can guide students in both their choice and use of these tools. To do this effectively we need to keep in mind that not everybody with whom we hope to communicate with around the world will have the same level of access to technology with regards to both hardware and software. Guiding students through the process of selecting which tools to use will provide valuable learning experiences as cultural, economic and social considerations will be fundamental to this decision making process. Encouraging our students to put themselves in the shoes of those with whom they are connecting with will help them to be empathetic global citizens.

Understanding fluency as a global citizen involves the skills of self analysis. Both teachers and students need to be aware of their own abilities and have confidence to ask themselves where gaps in their abilities lay and what measures can be taken in order to fill these gaps. Whilst some of the skills needed to analyse one’s abilities can be explicitly taught, a teacher role modelling how they determine where the gaps in their abilities lay will provide a wonderful learning opportunity for their students. This role modelling may also encourage students to be confident of their ability to take risks and solve problems. From my experience of working with adolescents, when a good relationship is formed between student and teacher and the teacher works alongside of their students facilitating the learning process and modelling their own learning, the positive environment this creates encourages students to take risks and have the confidence to tackle problems.


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