Friday, January 05, 2007

Digital Citizenship... Ranting Away

I originally wrote this as a comment on David Warlick's blog. His post on "The Collision" got me a little fired up, so I had to comment. 30 minutes later I was still going....Ranting Away. I wish I had the comedic and quick wit of Dennis Miller, prior to his current status as a President Bush lackey, when he would rant on the topics of the day a few years back,

What is the role of teachers regarding Digital Citizenship in our classrooms?

This is the conversation that needs to take place and part of our role as educators is to push it out infront of everyone’s face. We have this great tool, with no real instruction book/manual. We need to have the conversation, because we, as teachers, become the conduit by which this makes sense to the society as a whole. We have connected teenagers and young adults, who have 24/7/365 access to more information than can be contained in any High School or College Library. Yet, we also have administrators and others in the educational profession, who see the information explosion we are experiencing like the parents of the 1950’s saw Rock and Roll music. They didn’t understand it, it brought out in youth issues and topics that most adults felt uncomfortable about and in the end they realized they couldn’t control it, but only hope to make sense of it.

We are the people within our society that become the ‘connectors.’ The one’s that facilitate the conversation between the movement forward and the status quo. In the 1950’s and onward there were certain ‘protections’ that were instituted to attempt to contain the behavior of teens. Remember dances where there was a rule about how close a boy and a girl could be to eachother? “You had to have a foot between,” or a teacher had to be able to see ‘light’ between a boy and girl. We are at the same place when talking about technology and our teens. We already have rules establishing ‘appropriate use’ and which devices can be used on school grounds. But these ‘rules’ are all reactive, they are not ‘proactive.’ This is where we come in… We are the one’s who must be ‘proactive’ in the use of technology and bridge the gap between the connected teens and disconnected adults. While this looks like more of Marc Prensky’s “Digital Native and Digital Immigrant” premise, it has a slightly different flavor since it has permeated the roots of our society.

So, as I finish this ‘rant’ and I apologize for that… I think we need to become even more vigilant and proactive in teaching ‘digital citizenship,’ since it will the digital medium by which social and political discourse will take place. It will become necessary for all to be able to communicate using these tools to function within the societies of the future.

End Note:
As part of our Global Communications class we are teaching Digital Citizenship skills to the students. One of the best resources I have found is the work of Bailey and Ribble from Kansas State University. The thing I like best about their work is that they have drifted away from absolutes and more toward treating each instance as a separate event where there are judgements that students need to make.

1 comment:

Wesley Fryer said...

I agree 100%. Digital citizenship is a better context for discussing the multitude of issues present here than just "internet safety," which is more narrow and tends to produce recommendations that are more fear-driven and less comprehensive in their understanding of the information environment: its opportunities as well as its challenges. Digital ethics also need to be addressed in the context of digital citizenship. I think too many schools are shying away from these discussions rather than adopting the proactive stance you are advocating for here.